In May, I tasted some Champagnes from Pehu Simonet chez Swedish-French online merchant Caviste. Last time I wrote about a Pehu Simonet release was in 2015. Pehu Simonet is a smaller producer locate in Verzenay, which is a Pinot Noir-dominated grand cru village in the Grande Montagne de Reims area. Some of Pehu Simonets vineyards are in the neighbouring villages Verzy, Sillery, and Mailly, but also in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, a Chardonnay-dominated grand cru village in the Côte des Blancs. The non-vintage Champagnes of the range are called Face Nord, which means northern face, as in north-facing slope. The explanation for this name is that their home village Verzenay is located on the northern side of the Montagne de Reims hill, unlike many other Pinot Noir-dominated grand cru villges in south-facing slopes.
Some years ago, Pehu Simonet changed the look of their labels and introduced a number of vintage Champagnes (currently five) from selected vineyards or villages/crus under the name Fins Lieux, ”fine places”. The changes in labels and names have also been followed by a bit of firming up of the style and improving of the quality in the direction of a typical “modern small grower style”, which e.g. has meant a little lower dosage. This notwithstanding, I’d say that they are still in a fruity and accessible style, especially in the context of typical “Caviste producers”, with a rather cool Pinot character in most of he Champagnes. This also was the best release from Pehu Simonet I’ve tasted so far, primarily because I really liked the vintage Verzenay.
Face Nord Brut Grand Cru NV
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, base vintage 2014 (70%) + 30% reserve wine from a solera started in 1985. Disgorged February 2018.
A fruity and apply nose with red apples and well-waxed ripe green apples, an impression of ripe fruit and light flowery notes. A nose characteristic of Pinot Noir, but not of the heavy red berry type. Palate with ripe apples, mostly ripe green apples together with some red apples, mineral, good acidity, and an apply aftertaste. A fresh style, young but drinks well already, 89 p.
I’d say that this Champagne is at a somewhat higher quality level compared to the white non-vintage Pehu Simonet some years ago. Staying within the Caviste range, it somewhat reminded me of Savart Ouverture in the first releases sold by Caviste (apply but a cool and pure Pinot style), although probably with a little less “acid bite” here.
Face Nord Rosé Grand Cru NV
About 75% Pinot Noir of which 6% red wine, about 25% Chardonnay, base vintage 2015.
A generous and fruity nose with wild strawberries, ripe red apple, some ripe citrus fruit, and slightly flowery. Palate with wild strawberries, red apples, generous berry notes, good concentration, mineral, good acidity, berry- and apple-dominated aftertaste. Young but approachable now, may gain from cellaring, 89(+) p.
Despite the base vintage being the more ripe 2015 (which is considered a very good vintage), the similarity to the white version (with base 2014) is great. The rosé is a bit more generous, but there is nothing in the style which says “too hot”. Interesting enough, I get the impression that it could gain a bit more from cellaring, compared to the white version.
A big nose with ripe red apples, some peach, flowery notes, minerality of the somewhat bass-noted kind, hints of oak barrels and spice notes. A lot of fruity notes and more heavy and “low frequency” in style compared to the Face Nord. Palate with ripe red apples, some peach, definitely a good concentration of fruit, mineral, good acidity, hints of spice notes. A fresh aftertaste with red apples and peaches. Young, reasonably approachable already, will develop, 91+/92(+) p.
The nose indicates a heavy Pinot style, and could be something from Aÿ or thereabouts, but on the palate it is a little cooler and lighter than the nose indicates (but still concentrated and generous, if that makes sense), i.e., the more north-facing site shows itself. This Champagne and that combination was definitely to my taste and I do believe that the quality of the excellent 2012 vintage plays a role here!