Located in: Vallée de la Marne: Grande Vallée de la Marne
Vineyards and grape varieties: 291.2 hectares (719.6 acres), of which 83% Pinot Noir, 9% Chardonnay, and 7% Pinot Meunier.
Classification: Premier cru (99%)
Noted for: powerful Pinot Noir from southern slopes, neighbour to Aÿ and with wines of the same quality, home village of Philipponnat and Billecart-Salmon.
West: Aÿ (grand cru)
Northnorthwest: Mutigny (premier cru)
Nortnortheast: Avenay-Val-d’Or (premier cru)
East: Bisseuil (premier cru)
South: Oiry (grand cru), part of Côte des Blancs
Southwest: Chouilly (grand cru), part of Côte des Blancs
The Mareuil-sur-Aÿ commune covers 1148 ha and counts 1229 inhabitants (as of 2012), known as marotiers and marotières respectively. As the name indicates, it is a neighbour of Aÿ (four times as many inhabitants), and the built-up area in Mareuil is continuous with that of Aÿ across the commune border.
The village Mareuil-sur-Aÿ is located directly at the Marne river, or rather at the straight and navigable Marne canal (canal latéral à la Marne), with the more undulating Marne river just beyond the canal. Behind the village, to the north, the southern part of the Montagne de Reims rises. Before the days of railroad, river transport on Marne played an important role in transporting the wines of Champagne in the direction of Paris.
The vineyards in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ are dominated by south-facing slopes, consisting mostly of Pinot Noir, which is the case with all of the Grande Vallée de la Marne – the eastern part of the Marne Valley. This village yields powerful wines, thanks to the south-facing vineyards.
The current vineyard surface in the village is 291.2 hectares (719.6 acres). There are 242.3 ha Pinot Noir (83.2%), 27.3 ha Chardonnay (9.4%), and 21.6 ha Pinot Meunier (7.4%). Numbers from CIVC, as of 2013. In 1997, the vineyard surface was 285 ha. There are 114 vineyard owners (exploitants) in the commune.
Champagne houses that use vineyards in this village include Bollinger, Moët & Chandon, Roederer, Philipponnat, and Piper Heidsieck.
The premier cru status – the very best premier cru village?
While there are 17 Champagne villages classified grand cru, which means that they were rated 100% on the échelle des crus scale (it has been phased out, but the villages can still keep their grand cru status), there were two villages rated 99%: Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Tauxières-Mutry. All 44 villages being rated 90%-99% are classified premier cru, but all the other 42 are rated 90%-95%, and no villages are at 96%-98%. So Mareuil and Tauxières just missed out on being classified grand cru. Mareuil may therefore very well be the best premier cru village, and is also where one of Champagne’s most well-known vineyards, Clos des Goisses, is located.
The fact that the larger and grand cru-classified Aÿ receives more attention, although the Champagnes are rather similar, has led to a local expression: “Aÿ le nom, Mareuil le bon”.
Specific vineyards and single-vineyard wines
- Clos des Goisses is a rather steep and even south-facing slope to the east of the village, just above the Marne canal and the D111 road, stretching in the east-west direction. It is a monopole site owned by Philipponnat since 1935, when they bought it from Société Générale de Champagne, that had gone bankrupt. The size is 5.5 ha (13.6 acres), which is big for a top-class single vineyard site and a monopole site in Champagne. Today, it consists of about 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Since the purchase in 1935, a single-vineyard Champagne has been produced from here, initially under the designation Vin de Goisses or Les Goisses, and this makes it the original vineyard-designated Champagne. (Monocru Champagne carrying a village name as opposed to a single vineyard name, existed before.) In 1956, the name was changed to Clos des Goisses. Although there is a wall at the foot of the vineyard, it isn’t really a clos, because it is not enclosed by a vineyard wall all around. The earlier names was “Les Goisses”. Clos des Goisses is big enough to actually be formally subdivided into 11 named plots of land (liuex-dits), but Philipponnat has divided it into 14 plots. Clos des Goisses Champagne is produced in basically every vintage (as of the 2005 vintage release, the most recent vintage not produced was 1987), but the amounts are smaller in lesser vintages. Depeding on the quality, all plots don’t make it into the Clos des Goisses bottles every vintage, and may instead end up in other Philipponnat cuvées. The explanation why it can be produced so regularly is the pure south-facing exposure, which means that ripe grapes can always be harvested here even when that’s difficult elsewhere. With its rather noticeable oak notes, Clos des Goisses is considered to be a Champagne that should ideally be cellared.
- A long and very good article on Clos des Goisses by Tom Stevenson in World of Fine Wine (2008), together with a tasting of the 1951-1998 vintages.
Clos Saint-Hilaire – a plot of 1 ha (2.5 acres) located next to the house of Billecart-Salmon. It was formerly a garden, but the realised it would make an excellent vineyard, and it was therefore planted with Pinot Noir in 1964. The exposure is southsoutheast, and the soil is tufa. Initially, the grapes were used to produce red wine for the rosé Champagnes, but later they started to produce oaked white base wine instead. The first vintage of Clos Saint-Hilaire sold as its own cuvée was 1995. The production is 3500-7000 bottles per year, and it is 100% Pinot Noir. The name has been taken from the village church, Église Saint-Hilaire.
- Sous le Mont is a vineyard that is the source of one of vineyard-designated Champagnes (lieux-dits) from Avize-based Jacques Selosses, produced from 100% Pinot Noir. (I haven’t been able to figure out where in the village the vineyard is located, but the name translates as “below the hill”.) Similar to the other Selosse lieux-dits, it receives an oxidative oak treatment in solera, and is non-vintage. The first release was disgorged in 2012, and the base vintage was 2005.
Other vineyard sites in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ include Carrière d’Athis, Les Cintres, Les Côtes, Croix Blanche, Montin, and Valofroy, of which some are part of Clos des Goisses.
Larger Champagne houses, members of Union des Maisons de Champagne
- Billecart-Salmon (NM) – a high-class, medium-sized Champagne house founded in 1818 by Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon (who got married) and still majority-owned by the same family. Groupe Frey (owners of Châtea La Lagune in Bordeaux and Jaboulet in Rhône) owns another 45% since 2005. The house has 100 ha (247 acres) of their own vineyards, and including purchased-in grapes they use a total of 220 ha (544 acres) in 40 villages for their production. The vintage Champagnes are produced with some oak. The prestige Champagne is called Clos Saint-Hilaire, and is produced from a vineyard next to their buildings (see above).
- Philipponnat (NM) – a good Champagne house that has been located in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ sedan 1912. The count their prehistory back to 1522, when a certain Apvril de Philipponnat owned a vineyard between Aÿ och Dizy, but the more continuous history of the house dates back to the mid-19th century, when they were located in Aÿ. In 1935, 6 ha of vineyards were purchased in Mareuil, including the Clos des Goisses. The company stayed family-owned until 1980, then in the hands of a Collard who had married a Philipponnat daughter. In 1980, Gosset took over as owner, but Collard continued to run the business until 1989. Marie Brizard bought the house in 1987, but had to sell in 1997 due to financial difficulties. The buyer was BCC, Boizel Chanoine Champagne (with Bruno Paillard as chairman), and the take-over was a bit messy since BCC needed to halve the size of the staff to make Philipponnat profitable, which the trade unions disagreed with. (Abel Lepitre was also part of the purchase, but their facilities was soon sold on.) After the purchase, BCC appointed Charles Philipponnat to lead the house. At this time he had a managerial position at Moët & Chandon. So today, Philipponnat is led by a Philipponnat, but it isn’t family-owned. Their own vineyards consist of 17 ha (42 acres), of which 5.5 is the crown jewel, Clos des Goisses. The Champagnes are generally Pinot-dominated, see some oak, and are in powerful and vinous style. There are two levels of “regular” vintage Champagnes in the range, where the upper one (white and rosé) is called Cuvée 1522, and consists of about 70% Pinot Noir from Le Léon in Aÿ and about 30% Chardonnay from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. The rosé version also consist of 8% red Pinot Noir from Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. The prestige cuvée is Clos de Goisses, which also exists in an unusual rosé version by the name of Clos de Goisses Juste Rosé. From the 2006 vintage, Philipponnat has also produced three (more or less) vineyard-designated vineyard Pinot Noir Champagnes: Le Léon from Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (the 2006 vintage originated from Valofroy, Les Côtes, Montin, Carrière d’Athis, and Croix Blanche and also consisted of a small proportion of Chardonnay) and the not yet released Les Cintres, which is a part of Clos des Goisses.
Other Champagne houses/négociants
The producer status NM = négociant-manipulant means that purchased grapes can be included in the Champagnes. NM producers can be anything from small producers that supplement their own grapes with some that they buy in, to large Champagne houses that primarily rely on purchased grapes.
- Guy Charbaut (NM), a house founded in 1930, has just almost 20 ha of vineyards and an annual production of 200 000 bottles.
- Georges Clément (NM), a producer that is found both in Mutigny and in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (where the cellar is located) since 1996. Has access to vineyards in Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Mutigny, Avenay-Val-d’Or, Bisseuil, Hautvillers, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Tauxières, and Verzy, among others. The Champagnes are also sold under the brand:
- Henry de Valbert, also written de Valbert.
Producer status is indicated where known: RM = récoltant-manipulant, or grower-producers. RC = récoltant-coopérateur, growers that are cooperative members but sell Champagnes under their own name.
- Balourdeau Denis also has an address in Oiry.
- Philippe Bénard (RM), has 7.5 ha of vineyards of which 3.5 ha Pinot Noir, 2.5 ha Chardonnay, and 1.5 ha Pinot Meunier.
- L. Bénard-Pitois (RM), member of Vignerons Indépendants. Has 5 ha of vineyards in six villages in the Grande Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs. Partly uses oak barrels.
- Bénard Roland (RM)
- Guy Bouvet (RM)
- Danteny-Mangin (RM), member of Vignerons Indépendants. Has vineyards in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Avize.
- Roger De Sloovere
- Marc Hébrart (RM), a Special Club producer, in my view one of the best. Run by Jean-Paul Hébrart since 1997, and some bottles are sold under that name. Other than an excellent Special Club (without oak), an oaked prestige Champagne by the name Rive Gauche Rive Droite has been produced from the 2004 vintage, consisting of 50% Chardonnay (from the left bank of Marne) and 50% Pinot Noir (from the right bank). Has 14 ha of vineyards in the grand cru villages Aÿ, Avize, Oiry, and Chouilly, and the premier cru villages Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Bisseuil, Avenay-Val-d’Or, Dizy, and Hautvillers with 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Annual production is 110 000 bottles.
- Lheureux-Saintot (RM)
- Hervé Niceron (RM), member of Vignerons Indépendants
- R. Poullion & Fils (RM), has 15 ha of vineyards in 12 villages: Aÿ (grand cru), the premier cru villages Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Mutigny, Tauxières-Mutry, Avenay-Val-d’Or, Écueil, Sermiers, Chamery, and Sacy, as well as in Festigny, Épernay, and Faverolles.
Comment: the list may not be complete.
No longer existing Champagne producers
This list is not complete, but there is one historical producer that is worth mentioning in connection with Mareuil-sur-Aÿ:
Montebello was a Champagne house in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ that once was a recognised name. The history of this house goes back to when the Montebello brothers (Napoléon-Auguste, Alfred, and Gustave) bought the Château de Mareuil-sur-Aÿ (built in 1765) in 1830, together with its extensive vineyards. The company was founded in 1834 as Alfred de Montebello. Its business ceased in 1929, a time of economic difficulties. The château and the vineyards (“centaine d’hectares”) was bought by René Chayoux (1892-1969) of Reims. Under his ownership, the name was later changed Ayala-Montebello, after he bought Ayala, located in Aÿ, in 1937. Jean-Michel Ducellier (1918-2003) took over Ayala-Montebello after the widow of Chayoux (she lived 10 years after him, until 1979), but he was more active in Champagne organisations than in his own Champagne house. Jean-Jacques Frey bought Ayala and the château by the Alain Ducellier in 2000, but I don’t know if the Montebello brand was part of the purchase, or had been sold earlier. The Montebello brand is probably owned by another house, because Montebello Champagnes can still be found in France, although no larger quantities have been produced under this name for several decades.
- Wikipedia about this village in English, in French.
- The Mareuil-sur-Aÿ commune does not have a website.
- UMC’s village profile of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.
- Terroir Tracker: Mareuil-sur-Aÿ on the blog of Jiles Halling, “My man in Champagne”.
- The Swedish version of this blog post.
Here are two videos from Youtube consisting mostly of old postcards of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ from the early 20th century.
© Tomas Eriksson 2014-2015, last update 2015-11-27