Bon blanc de blanc

Winemaker Olivier Bonville of Champagne Franck Bonville. (Photo: Twitter @Champ_Bonville)

I’m a self-confessed Champagne tragic, and there’s a special place in my heart for blanc de blancs Champagnes. These are usually made 100% from chardonnay (although some contain pinot blanc), and tend to be concentrated on the Côte des Blancs, the area south of Epernay which is almost entirely planted to chardonnay because the intensely chalky soils best suit the chardonnay vine.

The Bonville family have been growing chardonnay grapes on the Côte des Blancs for four generations, bottling their own wines since 1947.

The house of Franck Bonville has been imported into Australia for several years by Western Australia’s Burch Family Wines (who produce Howard Park, Mad Fish and Jeté wines). Bonville is based in the Côte des Blancs village of Avize, where most of its vines are located.

Of the 17 grand cru villages in Champagne, six are in the Côte des Blancs, and Bonville has 77 plots of vines in three: Oger, Avize and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.

These holdings total 20 hectares – constituting an extremely rich asset.

The Bonville family have been growing chardonnay grapes on the Côte des Blancs for four generations, bottling their own wines since 1947. Today, Gilles and Ingrid Bonville and their son Olivier run the business.

Since 2011 they’ve stopped using herbicides and insecticides, and are working to promote biodiversity – including rebuilding the hedgerows to encourage the natural ecosystem and provide balance in the vineyards.

I’ve usually enjoyed their wines although they often show high levels of aldehydes – possibly associated with a low dosage and low sulfur dioxide regime. This may not be to everyone’s liking.

I recently tasted three mightily impressive single-cru blanc de blancs wines, which they bottled from the 2012 vintage: one each from Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. These were labelled Franck Bonville Pur Terroir and sold in wooden boxes of one bottle of each wine at AUD $420 – or AUD $140 each.

The best blocks of vines in each terroir were selected and the wines rested on their lees under cork (as opposed to crown seals for most Champagnes) for six years before disgorgement. Dosage levels were very low, at 2 grams per litre.

The Mesnil was probably my favourite, the finest and most tense, but I also loved the Oger for its richness and opulence.

These will no doubt be difficult to find in shops but the regular Bonville wines, less so. Try the Burch Family website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *