Champagne village profile: Ambonnay in the Grande Montagne de Reims, a grand cru village

Diagram Ambonnay 201504Key facts

Located in: Montagne & Val de Reims: Grande Montagne de Reims
Vineyards and grape varieties: 387.1 hectares (956.5 acres), of which 81% Pinot Noir and 19% Chardonnay.
Classification: Grand cru (100%)
Noted for: good Pinot Noir from vineyards from rather high elevations.

Map

The map is linked from Wikimedia Commons, and the geographical information originates from OpenStreetMap. The dotted white area corresponds to the vineyards, light yellow indicates other open terrain, and green indicates forest.

Neighbouring villages

West: Bouzy (grand cru)
North: Trépail (premier cru)
Eastnortheast: Vaudemagne (premier cru)
Southwest: Tours-sur-Marne (grand cru cru)

The village

Ambonnay is situated in a very favourable location on the south side of the Montagne de Reims hill. This location is shared with the neighbouring village, Bouzy. From the easternmost houses of Bouzy to the westernmost in Ambonnay the distance is just about 700 meters.

The Ambonnay commune covers 1180 hectares and counts 941 inhabitants (as of 2012), referred to as Ambonnagéen.

The church of Ambonnay, Église Saint-Réol d’Ambonnay. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Jean-Charles Lelong, 2012).

Vineyards

The vineyards consist almost exclusively of purely south-facing slopes on the Montagne de Reims, mostly with Pinot Noir. The vineyards of Ambonnay, together with those of Aÿ and the neighbour Ambonnay, are the source of some of the most powerful Pinot Noir wines of Champagne, thanks to these south-facing slopes. On the now-defunct échelle des crus, Ambonnay was rated 100%, which made it a grand cru village.

The current vineyard surface in the Ambonnay commune is 387.1 hectares (956.5 acres). There are 312.2 ha Pinot Noir (80.7%), 74.2 ha Chardonnay (19.2%), and 0.7 ha others (0.2%). Numbers from CIVC, as of 2013. In 1997, the vineyard surface was 381 ha. There are 184 vineyard owners (exploitants) in the commune.

Champagne houses that control vineyards in the village include Duval Leroy, Moët & Chandon, Mumm, Piper Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Roederer, and Taittinger.

Ambonnay Rouge

The south-facing slopes have meant that Ambonnay is one of a few Champagne villages with a strong tradition of also producing red wines. They are called Ambonnay Rouge, but their appellation is Coteaux Champenois.

Single vineyard sites

  • Clos d’Ambonnay is a vineyard of 0.68 ha (1.68 acres), with only Pinot Noir, and owned by Krug in Reims. The first vintage of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay was 1995, and it is the most expensive Champagne in the Krug range by a wide margin. In the video below, the Krug winemaker Eric Lebel presents it:

  • La Grande Rouelle. Marguet Père & Fils produces a vineyard-designated Champagne from this vineyard, the first vintage was possibly 2011.
  • Le Bout du Clos is the source of one of vineyard-designated Champagnes (lieux-dits) from Jacques Selosses (of Avize). It receives an oxidative oak treatment in solera, and is non-vintage. The first release under this name was disgorged in 2011, and the base vintage for that release was 2004. The vineyard consists of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.
  • Les Bermonts. Marguet Père & Fils produces a vineyard-designated Champagne from this vineyard, the first vintage was possibly 2010.
  • Les Crayères is a vineyard site with several owners. Egly-Ouriet produces a non-vintage Blanc de Noirs  (100% Pinot Noir) from old vines from this vineyard, a plot planted in 1947. Marguet Père & Fils produces (since the 2008 vintage?) a vintage Champagne from grapes from this vineyard with the composition 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir.
    Comment: since the word “crayère” means chalk pit and is used for those old hollowed-out spaces in the chalk that have later been made into Champagne cellars, in particular in Reims, this is a common term in Champagne. Different variations of “crayères” is therefore common in cuvée names of Champagnes not sourced from this vineyard.
  • Le Parc. Marguet Père & Fils produces a vineyard-designated Champagne from this vineyard, the first vintage was possibly 2011.

Champagne producers

Champagne houses/négociants, members of Union des Maisons de Champagne

  • Soutiran (also Alain Soutiran), a négociant with 6 ha of their own vineyards, that supplement this with bought-in grapes.

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.

  • Marguet Père & Fils, a smaller négociant with 8 ha of their own vineyards under biodynamic cultivation, of which 7.3 ha in Ambonnay and 0.7 ha in Bouzy. It is run by Benoît Marguet-Bonnerave. Most Champagnes have a village or vineyard designation, and the range also includes those made from bought-in grapes from other villages. They have started to bottle several Ambonnay vineyards separately: Les Crayères (at least from the 2008 vintage), Les Bermonts (at least from the 2010 vintage), Le Parc (at least from the 2011 vintage), and La Grande Rouelle (at least from the 2011 vintage).

Champagne growers

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. All small producers are placed under this heading when there is no other information.

  • André Beaufort, has 6.5 ha of vineyards consisting of a smaller part in Ambonnay and a larger part in Polisy (in Barséquanais, Côte des Bar) and produces separate, village-designated Champagnes from these two villages. Has earlier produced truly sweet (doux) vintage Champagnes, also rosées, which is very rare. Has practiced organic viticulture since 1971.
  • Benoit Beaufort, a cooperative member (RC, recoltant-coopérateur).
  • Jean-Marie Beaufort, member of Vignerons Indépendants.
  • H. Billiot Fils, a good producer with 4.7 ha of vineyards, all of it in Ambonnay, with 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. Annual production is 45 000-49 000 bottles. Has two non-vintage prestige cuvées, Cuvée Laetitia (a cuvée from old vintages) and Cuvée Julie (produced in oak).
  • Brémont et Fils, also Bernard Brémont, a member of Vignerons Indépendants that has 15 ha of vineyards, of which 12 ha Pinot Noir and 3 ha Chardonnay.
  • René-Henri Coutier (även R.H. Coutier), a cooperative member (RC, recoltant-coopérateur, i.e., no production facility of their own today) who started to produce their own Champagnes in 1901 (then René-Henri’s grandfather), and who has been run by René-Henri since 1971. Has 9 ha of vineyards, of which 2/3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Chardonnay. A part of the harvest is sold to other producers and the annual production under their own name is 25 000-50 000 bottles. The father of the present Coutier was apparently the first to have planted Chardonnay in Ambonnay in 1946, and Coutier sells a blanc de blancs produced only from Ambonnay Chardonnay. The cuvée Henri III, from 100% Pinot Noir, is produced in oak, but not the rest of the range.
  • Serge Demière, has vineyards in Bouzy and Ambonnay.
  • Paul Déthune (RM), member of Vignerons Indépendants, a well-regarded organic producer with 7 ha of vineyards, of which 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The style is firm considering the proportion of Pinot Noir, and elegant. Annual production is about 50 000 bottles, and oak barrels – either large or small – are used for all wines.
  • Egly-Ouriet, one of the very best Champagne growers and one of the leading producers of powerful Pinot Noir-based Champagne with oak. Makes it into most top ten lists of best Champagne growers champagne that have been drawn up, and this makes their Champagnes sought after. Today led by Francis Egly, and has about 12 ha of vineyards, most of it in Ambonnay and a smaller part in Vrigny. The two most ambitious Champagnes in the range is the vintage cuvée (about 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay) and a Blanc de Noirs (100% Pinot Noir), with the additional text Vieilles Vignes Les Crayères, sourced from a single vineyard planted in 1946. The separate bottling of this vineyard started in the 1989 vintage. A varietal Pinot Meunier from vineyards in Vrigny is produced under the name Les Vignes de Vrigny. Both disgorgement month and the length the bottle has been resting on the lees before disgorgement are indicated on all labels.
  • Fauvet Père et Fils
  • Dominique Foureur
  • Roger Gauthier
  • Charles Hubert et Fils
  • Daniel Hulin & Fils
  • Marie-Noëlle Ledru, has 2.5 ha of vineyards, of which 2 ha in Ambonnay and 0.5 ha in Bouzy. (Until some years ago the figure was 6 ha, of which 5 ha in Ambonnay and 1 ha in Bouzy, and included vineyards owned by other parts of the family and rented out.) Member of the “natural wines association” Terres et Vins de Champagne.
  • Marguet-Bonnerave (website not active in Aug 2014) – conflicting information indicates that Marguet-Bonnerave either has been merged into Marguet Père & Fils (see above), or exists in parallel.
  • Raymond Marlot
  • Jean Moreau
  • Ouriet-Pâture (RC)
  • J. Pérard & Fils, produces about 46 000 bottles annually.
  • Payelle Père et Fils
  • Th. Petit
  • Serge Pierlot
  • Claude Remy (website, not active in Aug 2014)
  • Eric Rodez, often called just Rodez. A good biodynamic producer with 6 ha vineyards. Is member of the organisation Terroirs & Talents de Champagne.
  • Thierry Rodez, has 3.4 ha of vineyards.
  • Secondé-Simon, has 6 ha of vineyards.
  • Patrick Soutiran, member of Vignerons Indépendants.

Comment: The list is probably not complete.

Cooperative

When bottles are sold directly by a cooperative the producer status is given as CM = coopérative de manipulation, as opposed to RC when sold by a cooperative member under their own name.

  • Coopérative Vinicole d’Ambonnay, that started their activities in 1962, is since 1973 a member of the major cooperative Union Champagne in Avize (with De Saint Gall as their most famous brand). The 150 members have 140 ha of vineyards. The Champagnes have formerly been sold under the brand Nectar des Noirs. The production is sold by négociants (50%), by the members of the cooperative (35%), directly by the cooperative (5%), or goes to the common production of Union Champagne (10%).
    • Saint-Réol is the own brand by the cooperative, and the annual production is about 100 000 bottles.

Video clip

A collage of pictures from the 2011 harvest in Ambonnay.

Links

P.S. Despite the fact that both Ambonnay and Bouzy are quite well-known grand cru villages, there wasn’t that many pictures of them at Wikimedia Commons, see Category:Ambonnay and Category:Bouzy. For example, I haven’t been able to find a single real vineyard view from either village, or from the southern part of Grande Montagne de Reims. Therefore, this profile is less well-illustrated than I’d prefer, since that’s were I source almost all my pictures from. If there’s anyone who has suitable pictures that you’d like to release under a free license  (Creative Commons), it’d be quite  useful and nice if they could be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.

© Tomas Eriksson 2014-2015, last update 2016-07-06

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