01 February 2011

still relevant: didier gimmonet at caves augé, 75008

In the run-up to Christmas last year, as cavistes all over Paris were engaged in the annual delirious Champagne salesmanship, my patient friend S and I crossed town in the snow to attend a grower-Champagne tasting at Caves Augé, in the hopes of tasting the acclaimed, near-mythical wines of Anselme Selosse, a famous natural vigneron who was, in the end, not present at said grower-Champagne tasting.

It was a let-down. Most of the other barrels outside Caves Augé were manned by vignerons whose wines were already pretty familiar to me. And it was face-crackingly cold and our toes were little ice marbles. But, you know, we'd come all that way, and we had a few hours to kill before dinner, it seemed a shame to just wander off, defeated...

Anyway, these vaguely alcoholic rationalizations yielded the day's most enjoyable discovery: the consumately well-crafted, Chardonnay-driven Champagnes of Didier Gimmonet

My excuse for not knowing about these wines already is simple hipster thrift. I just don't buy a lot of Champagne, even here in France, where it's a mite cheaper, because I can usually find sparkling wine just as pleasurable and engaging at half the price from Alsace, the Jura, or the Loire. When I do buy Champagne, experimenting with unknown producers is too high stakes, usually; I'll stick with the familiar Jacquesson or Drappier and consider the gesture made. (For it is almost invariably a gesture, buying Champagne. One just borrows the rights to the word for the evening, and that is enough for most occasions.) So it seems important to mention that one of the reasons I was so thrilled by Gimmonet's range, and so surprised to be so thrilled, was the price point: his entry-level non-millisième "Cuis" Premier Cru was something like 22€ that day. This is about as little as it's possible to pay for Champagne that is not poison; it's roughly the cost of many a semi-anonymous house-labeled Champagne at the Paris caves that do that sort of thing. (E.g. Le Verre Volé, Spring, etc.)

The "Cuis" Premier Cru is a blanc de blancs sourced from Gimmonet's 14ha in the vineyard of same name in the Côtes des Blancs, northwest of Avize. It's got a vivid, direct, white-floral nose, followed by a perfectly harmonious palate of citrus and biscuit. Not a note is out of place. It's like an early Brian Wilson arrangement, in which meticulous genius labor has resulted in a product totally attuned to mass adoration.

In the line-up Gimmonet presented that day there were more impactful, grander wines - an obscure blanc de noirs called "Paradoxe" was rosy, acid, and complex - but the non-milisième "Cuis" struck me was the most immediately applicable to daily life, and therefore the most relevant. What I detest about Champagne, after all, is the knee-jerk association of these wines with luxury and special occasions: a silly, limiting marketing idea, against which a superb, accessible Champagne is the ultimate counter-argument.

116 Boulevard Haussmann
75008 PARIS
Metro: Saint Augustin
Tel: 01 45 22 16 97

Pounding down a bottle of Drappier's brilliant "Sans Soufre" Brut Zero bottling near the Centre Pompidou
Champagne 101 tasting at Julhès Paris, 75010
The Sacred Monsters of Champagne at Julès Paris, 75010

Eric Asimov's very helpful blog post on grower Champagnes @ NYTimes
A good informative profile of the Gimmonet house @ TheWineDoctor
A short intro to Gimmonet @ MichaelSkurnik


  1. These are well priced in the USA as well.

  2. Good to know! Thanks for reading.

  3. Benoît Lahaye is another producer you might want to look up. He makes makes excellent Pinot driven wines in the Montagne de Reïms(Bouzy) and his basic bottlings shouldn't be more than 25€ in Paris (that's what I paid for the wine in Barcelona.

  4. @César: thanks for the tip! i think i read about him on Peter Liem's blog at one point. i'll keep eyes peeled for it around paris. how's availability of natural wine in barcelona?

  5. Aaron. I'm no longer in Barcelona, but the availability of real wine (I'd rather call it that than natural because of the SO2 connotations) is actually pretty good, obviously it's no Paris but in Lavinia or some of the other big stores(www.vilaviniteca.es) you do get interesting stuff also there's a couple of french importers that are doing a phenomenal job keeping the drinking interesting (Julien Steinhauser at La Part dels Angels (www.lapartdelsangels.com) and Benoît Valée in L'Anima del Vi(www.lanimadelvi.com)). Some places don't have a clear philosophical view of what wine should be or what style they want to represent but you still find stuff worth your while, that said, those places are still mostly minefields especially with respect to Spanish wine. The most interesting Spanish wines I've tasted lately are from US importer José Pastor (www.josepastorselections.com) he is truly showing a side of Spanish wine I didn't know existed.

    There isn't a big wine bar scene though, Monvinic (www.monvinic.com) is a great place to go drink at very decent prices but they don't focus on any category in particular, the great thing about them is that their selection is so vast that you´ll find wines that suit your interest whatever that may be.

    Come to think of it I miss Barcelona quite a bit.