On a recent trip to Cramant in Champagne, we met with Richard and Karine Fouquet, proud growers and winemakers of Guiborat Fils.
Owners of 2.5 ha of chardonnay vines in the Côtes des Blancs lying south of Epernay, this is a grower-producer (Recolant Manipulant) couple who are carrying on a multi-generational craft. Richard’s family has been doing this for 5 generations – his grandmother still lives on the premises which were undergoing significant upgrades when we visited.
Having returned from jobs in Paris to Cramant in 1995, Richard and Karine set about perfecting their chardonnay-based Blanc de Blancs champagnes. They refocused, sold 4 ha of Pinot Meunier in Vallée de la Marne to Laurent Perrier and redoubled efforts to ensure their wines avoid malolactic fermentation. This encourages the additional acidity necessary in the face of global warming.
They have about 80,000 bottles in their extensive tuffeau caves located beneath the premises and produce about 22,000 bottles per year.
Karine is responsible for marketing and sales while Richard is in charge of the vines and winemaking, and he is one serious viti/viniculturalist. In 2012, he declined to make any champagne whatsoever with their yield; attacked by oidium, they sold the grapes to others who produced champagne unassociated with their brand.
Surprisingly, about 60% of sales occur outside France. For the US market, they have made bottles available to Jon Rimmerman in Seattle (Garagiste Wines) and this is how I found out about Guiborat Fils. A good friend who is also a wine geek and chef brought a bottle out at one of her legendary Table 1006 dinners which we enjoyed immensely.
The champagne was a stunner from Richard and Karine’s Les Caures vineyard. A brut Blanc de Blancs, Millésime 2005 Grand Cru, No. 0677/1300, Disgorged Sept. 3, 2013, US$59.80
One of the reasons the wine was so exciting was its traditional seal and tied cork. Moreover, it was a limited edition bottle number (number 677 of only 1300 produced) and its disgorgement date was marked. Only a hundred bottles were released to the US market. It was full of light brioche with apple, lime, lemon and grapefruit on the nose with green apple, lemon curd and baked bread on the palate.
Karine and Richard were as excited that I’d tasted their handiwork in Canada as I was to meet them in Cramant. Said Karine, ‘We sent our small child off into the world – and someone enjoyed it on the other side of the globe.’ Richard shared with us that the Les Caures vineyard is a place where he feels he can remember, connect to and pay homage to his grandfather. In Karine’s words, ‘We are so privileged that Richard is able to make these wines. It is an honour.’
The term, ‘passionate’ is one often over-used to describe winemakers, their craft and their product. In this case, it is the one true term that fits. No exaggeration; this is a couple committed to carrying on a trade, a history, a story told by fermenting grapes twice in bottle and sending it on a journey to eager recipients.