There’s a slope in Champagne that produces magic. Spanning 12 miles of chalk-rich soils, the Côte de Blancs is home to magnificent Chardonnay vineyards. The grapes grown here are used to make some of the region’s finest Champagnes. Called blanc de blancs, meaning “white of whites,” these are Champagnes made exclusively from white grapes—in this case, Chardonnay.
What makes this slope and these vines so special? Champagne is the coolest vine-growing region in France, one that sees bitterly cold winters and mild summers. Chardonnay generally loves such cool-climate conditions, but these vineyards excel particularly well thanks to chalk-heavy subsoil and the east-facing vines that capture ample warmth from the morning sun.
But it’s more than that: The chalk soil was once ancient seabed, and now it contains millions of small, fossilized creatures. The minerality and saltiness it imparts on Chardonnay translates into crisp, tight, well-balanced Champagnes with a pure and elegant aromatic intensity.
That link between terroir and taste is essential for Didier Gimonnet, the second generation of growers to direct his family winery, Pierre Gimonnet et Fils. Based in the Côte des Blancs Premier Cru village of Cuis, where the family has been growing grapes since 1750 and bottling estate wines since 1935, Gimonnet only produces blanc de blancs Champagnes.
“You can’t reduce a Champagne just to its grape variety,” says Gimonnet. “Great blanc de blancs is not just a Chardonnay Champagne, but a Champagne from a great vineyard.”
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