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The ultimate guide to Champagne clos: The must-haves

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In the sumptuous landscape of wine, Champagne's clos emerge like crown jewels, symbolizing the excellence and tradition of French winemaking. These walled vineyards are not only the cradle of some of the world's most exclusive and sought-after champagnes, they also contain fascinating stories of terroir, know-how and passion handed down through the generations. The importance of Champagne clos to the champagne industry cannot be underestimated, representing both a legacy and a continual innovation in the quest for oenological perfection.

This article will explore in detail the history and unique characteristics of clos in Champagne, offering an overview of some of the most famous clos that have left their mark on the region's viticultural landscape. As we delve into these iconic vineyard enclosures, we'll discover what makes them so special and why champagnes produced in these controlled environments are so prized by connoisseurs the world over. From the complexity of their terroir to the finesse of their production, followed by recommendations for a tasting that will highlight the subtle nuances of these exceptional champagnes, this article is intended as the ultimate guide for those seeking to deepen their knowledge of clos en Champagne.

The history of Clos en Champagne

Clos in Champagne, vineyards surrounded by walls or hedges, have a rich and profound history, intimately linked to the viticultural evolution of the region. The term "clos" originated in the Cistercian abbeys where monks, seeking to protect and isolate their vines, surrounded them with high stone walls. This practice, which modified the microclimate of the plots, helped preserve the quality of the grapes. After the French Revolution, the term was extended to all parcels enclosed, not only by walls, but also by hedges or thick trees.

Over the centuries, clos became synonymous with exceptional wines. A 1921 decree regulated the use of the term on labels, requiring authorization from the INAO once the vineyard had been confirmed as a "clos". Today, there are 39 recognized clos in Champagne, each offering a unique climate and top-quality wines, making clos a symbol of prestige in the world of champagne.

The most famous Clos

Among the clos in Champagne, Clos des Goisses is notable for its extreme slope and unique microclimate, reinforced by walls surrounding the vineyard. Clos du Mesnil, acquired by Krug in 1971, illustrates the singularity of Chardonnay from a single terroir. Similarly, Clos d'Ambonnay is renowned for its exceptional Pinot Noir, fully expressing the Ambonnay terroir. Le Clos Cazals, with its Chardonnay vines, and Le Clos des Bouveries, highlight the importance of location and meticulous plot management. Champagne Jestin's Clos de Cumières is a historic vineyard, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, and is probably one of the oldest clos in Champagne. Clos du Moulin and Clos des Faubourgs de Notre Dame show how historic clos continue to set the standard for superior quality in Champagne. Each of these clos illustrates a unique facet of Champagne expertise and tradition, offering champagnes of unrivalled quality and complexity.

Characteristics of Clos de Champagne

Definition and origin

A clos in Champagne is defined by a vineyard surrounded by walls or hedges, creating a unique and very special microclimate. Historically, these clos were enclosed vineyards, protected by structures that even a horse couldn't jump.

Different Production Styles

These clos produce exceptional champagnes, rarely selecting their vintages. When a vintage is declared, it represents an opportunity not to be missed, highlighting exceptional quality and remarkable complexity.

Impact du Terroir

Clos des Goisses illustrates the impact of terroir with a distinct microclimate, 1.5° C warmer than adjacent vineyards, favoring unique grape development on steep 45-degree slopes.

Exclusivity and rarity

With only 39 recognized clos, these vineyards represent the pinnacle of quality in Champagne. Each clos, with its unique climatic characteristics and terroir, produces champagnes that are not only exclusive but also among the rarest and most sought-after in the world.

Tasting and recommendations

Tasting tips

Champagne tasting begins by examining the cork, which should be slightly damp and evenly colored, a sign of good preservation. As you observe the champagne in the glass, note the color, clarity and activity of the bubbles. The aroma is released without agitation, revealing notes that can be fruity or floral. When tasting, let the champagne envelop your palate, appreciating the acidity, texture and evolving flavors, offering a rich, complex experience.

Vintage recommendations

Non-millesimé champagnes dominate production, but vintages express a unique character that improves with age. Recent vintages such as 2019 and 2018 are excellent, offering freshness and complexity. For the best experience, serve these champagnes at an appropriate temperature and enjoy their finesse and persistence on the palate, reflecting the quality and care taken in their production.

Conclusion

The clos in Champagne, with their distinct microclimates and exceptional grapes, form an almost isolated ecosystem, producing some of the most prestigious champagnes. These wines, often non-vintage, become must-haves when an exceptional year is declared. Clos des Goisses is a striking example, where terroir and history combine to offer an incomparable sensory experience, reminiscent of Burgundy's grand crus. These clos, limited to 39, symbolize the pinnacle of quality and exclusivity in Champagne, making each bottle a rare and sought-after treasure.

FAQ

What are the world's most recommended champagnes?: The world's most popular champagnes include Pol Roger, Krug,Louis Roederercharles Heidsieck, Bollinger, Billecart-Salmon, Jacquesson and Dom Perignon.

The Champagne vineyards are divided into four main regions: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs and Côte des Bar. It comprises some 281,000 parcels, each with an average surface area of 12 ares. Historically, 17 villages have received the "grand cru" designation and 44 villages have received the "premier cru" designation. The three key elements of the Champagne terroir - climate, soil and subsoil, and relief - form a unique combination, a mosaic of micro-terroirs with unique characteristics. The expertise of Champagne's 15,000 winegrowers makes the most of these characteristics.

The Champagne vineyards are divided into four main regions: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs and Côte des Bar. It comprises some 281,000 parcels, each with an average surface area of 12 ares. Historically, 17 villages have received the "grand cru" designation and 44 villages have received the "premier cru" designation. The three key elements of the Champagne terroir - climate, soil and subsoil, and relief - form a unique combination, a mosaic of micro-terroirs with unique characteristics. The expertise of Champagne's 15,000 winegrowers makes the most of these characteristics.

Which champagne cellar is the most impressive to visit: Moët & Chandon in Épernay is famous for its vast cellars, which stretch over 28 km. These cellars, dug into the chalk of the Champagne region, are among the largest and most renowned in the region.

What are the must-see cellars in Reims: In Reims, the must-see cellars are those of Maison Pommery, Maison Taittinger, Maison Veuve Clicquot, Maison Lanson and Maison Ruinart.

Which champagne houses are worth visiting in Reims: In Reims, we recommend visiting Champagne Lanson, Champagne Veuve Clicquot, Champagne Vranken Pommery, Champagne Ruinart and Champagne Taittinger.

 
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