A Champagne discovery

Huon Hooke tasted seven Collet Champagnes and was impressed. (Photo: Champagne Collet)

As a card-carrying Champagne tragic, I’m always interested to taste new brands launching in the Australian market. Champagne Collet is my latest discovery.

The Collet brand runs to 600,000 bottles a year, which is quite small considering its origins in such a big organisation.

The Aussie market is ultra competitive and the big houses have most of it tied up, making it hard for new entrants. But Collet is already in Vintage Cellars stores, which sales director for South Asia Pacific, Antrim Dalton, said was unusual as Collet doesn’t usually engage with chain stores (apart from Nicolas in France).

Collet sprang out of the Champagne region’s first co-operative, Co-operative Général des Vignerons, founded immediately following the infamous Champagne Riots of 1911. The Collet brand was founded a decade later and was named after Raoul Collet, an early head of the co-op. Says Antrim:

“He was wealthy and had no children, and his house in Aÿ is now the home of Collet, with offices and a visitors’ centre. After the first fermentation, the wine is made in Aÿ.”

She said CGV is the third biggest co-op in Champagne, with about 780 growers and about 850 hectares of vines. It’s based in Oger on the Côte des Blancs.

The Collet brand runs to 600,000 bottles a year, which is quite small considering its origins in such a big organisation.

I tasted seven Collet Champagnes and was impressed, especially by the NV Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru (AUD $130) and 2008 Brut Millésime (AUD $149).

Last week it was announced that the Blanc de Blancs had won the trophy for the best sparkling wine at the 2019 Sydney International Wine Competition, which is a fair reward.

It is one of four Premier Cru wines that have been recently issued as part of an effort to raise the quality profile of the brand. The others are a Blanc de Noirs, Art Deco Brut and Extra Brut – all non-vintages.

A feature of the Collet wines is long ageing on lees, fairly low dosages and, in some wines, scaling back on malolactic, thus preserving more acidity.

“Our challenge is to encourage the growers to pick the grapes riper and not to take too much juice at pressing,” Ms Dalton said.

The Blanc de Blancs grapes come mainly from Vertus, on the Côte des Blancs, and the wine undergoes 70-80% malolactic, instead of the usual 100%. And it has a lengthy seven years on lees. Indeed, several of the wines have long ageing on lees: the NV Rosé has five years, the Brut NV has four, while the NV Premier Cru Blanc de Noirs has just three.

The Premier Cru Extra Brut NV ($95) has just 3 grams/litre liqueur d’expedition and benefits from older reserve wines as well as long ageing on lees.

More good news: all of the wines are sealed with Diam corks, except the 2008 Millésime, which has a one-piece cork.

Collet’s NV Brut & NV Rosé are available at Vintage Cellars and David Jones. Everyday retail at Vintage Cellars: Brut AUD $62.99, Rosé AUD $83.32.

Wholesale inquiries: Bacchus Wine Merchant.

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