Where Is Gallimard Père & Fils?
Gallimard and its vineyards can be found in Les Riceys, a village renowned for its rich pinot noir grapes and the Rosé des Riceys still wine.
Meanwhile, Les Riceys is located in the Côtes des Bar or Aube Champagne sub-region, which is about an hour’s drive south from the historical city of Troyes.
Although often overlooked in favour of the more prestigious sub-regions in the north, Champagne’s southernmost territory is densely packed.
With 8,000 hectares worth of vineyards, the Côtes des Bar is the largest of all the sub-regions. Meanwhile, Les Riceys itself consists of a whopping 866 hectares and is the only village to host three appellations.
Aside from Champagne, Les Riceys is famed for its aforementioned rosé as well as Aube’s own Coteaux Champenois still wine.
Gallimard Père & Fils History
Positioned between Champagne in the North and Burgundy in the South, the Côtes des Bar has been producing wine for centuries. However, it was often considered a subsidiary territory for supplying grapes to the northern wineries in times of crisis.
In 1927, the region was finally recognised as an official member of the Champagne appellation after the winemakers rioted in 1911.
Although the Gallimard family had been growing grapes from their two-hectare vineyard for many years, legislation essentially undermined it from being commercialised.
However, Jules and Ernest Gallimard produced their first bottles in 1930 shortly after the Côtes des Bar became part of the appellation. The family’s territory grew as it passed down several generations and now consists of 12 hectares spread over the local area.
Gallimard is now run by Arnaud, the family’s sixth generation, and his father, Didier. Arnaud, who attended local wine-making colleges in both Avize and Reims before finishing his studies in New Zealand, enjoys the duality offered by their working relationship.
While Didier represents the old traditions and values of wine-making heritage, Arnaud strives to experiment with contemporary innovation.
Through hard work and avant-garde blending styles, their wines have been consistently selected by the Hachette wine guide since 1986.
Recently, they have been awarded a number of accolades. Their awards include medals from the Concours Agricole de Paris (Paris Agricultural Awards), the Concours Mondial Bruxelles (World Brussels Awards) and Concours Chardonnay du Monde (World Chardonnay Awards).
Of their annual production of 150,000 bottles, 80% is exported abroad with distributors in the USA, UK, Russia, Japan and Australia.
Furthermore, Arnaud refuses to sell to supermarkets and only caters to small merchants, restaurants, and private clients.
Recently, a major wine importer ordered 4,000 bottles of his 8,000-bottle vintage wine stock.
Consequently, the volume of vintage wine production has had to increase alongside additional plans to build a new cellar in 2019.
Faced with this increasing demand, Arnaud Gallimard made the transition from the Récolant Manipulant status to become a Négociant Manipulant.
Although the majority of the grapes are sourced from their own vineyards, this has provided them with the freedom to purchase more from other producers.
However, Gallimard is careful from where they are sourced and only relies on a small group of local producers with similar values as their own.
Nevertheless, only the house’s workforce only consists of 4 full-time team members. While Arnaud does look to expand the business in the future, it will only be achieved while preserving their core family values.
Viticulture & Fermentation Processes
Gallimard’s 12 hectares produce 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay pruned using the Guyot, Cordon de Royat and Chablis training techniques. Such quantity of Chardonnay is quite rare in the Côtes des Bar as the region is on the edge of the Kimmeridgian strip.
An Unofficially Organic Wine
Arnaud and his father don’t use any pesticides nor do they plough the land. In fact, their approach to viticulture embraces natural and sustainable farming. Meanwhile, only organic fertiliser is used on rare occasions after analysing the soil and its nutritional value.
While they could easily apply for an officially recognised organic label, Arnaud made the conscious decision not to follow it through.
As an independent family-run business, both Didier and Arnaud enjoy their freedom and don’t want to be dependent on legislation. Although Arnaud respects this legislation and what it represents, he believes that his independence is too valuable.
Reduced Sulphur & CO2
Gallimard is equipped with a single 8,000 kg pneumatic press, which can produce 4,100 litres of cuvée and 900 litres of taille in a single load. Positioned overlooking the steel tanks, the press’ juices are drained only using gravity.
Without the need of a pumping system, the resulting sulphur and CO2 content of the juice is greatly reduced. Similarly, the wines are manipulated as little as possible to avoid such sulphur tainting.
The cuvée and taille are then left in separate steel tanks to allow for any deposits to fall. Once 15 hours has elapsed, the clean juice is then transferred to other tanks to ferment into base wines.
Malolactic fermentation is employed to achieve this as Arnaud prefers for the resulting creamy and fruity flavours.
Arnaud and Didier also use a Soléra tank for keeping a perpetual reserve wine, which is a Spanish technique rarely used for blending Champagne. Every year, Arnaud will top up the Soléra tank with some base wine of the year’s vintage.
As a result, the older wines mature at the bottom while the younger wines are layered above. When a proportion is taken for blending, the oldest base wines will drained from the bottom.
The Soléra tank’s current capacity allows for six vintages to be stored together, which is often used for blending their flagship Cuvée de Réserve.
Although 95% of Gallimard’s wine is produced using steel tanks, the family continuously experiment with innovative casks to ferment and age their wines. While many of their techniques are centuries old, few of these are still used in mine-making today.
One of Gallimard’s greatest accomplishments is the family’s expertise with oak casks. With a desire to return to traditional techniques, Didier has been experimenting with oak casks for the last 40 years.
Overall, the ageing process in an oak barrel tends to take between five to six months. Every year, the father and son team will trial different types of oak barrels to see the results. For instance, two casks made from virgin oak from different regions are were used in 2018.
While one comes from the Vosges forest in eastern France, the other was sourced from Nièvre, which is 140 km (87 miles) south of Les Riceys.
Meanwhile, Arnaud has been in contact with a winemaker for sourcing ex-Burgundy casks for 2019. As oak casks can be only racked three or four times in Burgundy, their use would be convenient for all involved.
A labour-intensive practice that requires patience and research, their oak casks only represent a small portion of the winery’s production for the Quintessence cuvée. From their annual production of 150,000 bottles, the oak-aged cuvées consist of only 3,000 bottles.
While Didier has mastered the art of ageing in oak casks, Arnaud sought to make his mark with an altogether different process. In 2014, he purchased four Italian terracotta Amphora vessels to experiment with ageing wine.
Fired at low temperatures, the porous clay membrane enables micro-oxidation similar to oak. However, it’s similar to steel in that it doesn’t impart any tannin flavours.
Meanwhile, the curved shape promotes a permanent freedom of movement for the yeast. Its increased contact with the wine accelerates ageing it faster while simultaneously improving complexity and balance.
Although an old throwback to antiquity, Arnaud’s vessels feature contemporary materials too. For instance, airtight stainless steel lids are used to seal the terracotta vessels so oxidation only takes place through the clay’s membrane.
The first to introduce terracotta into Champagne, Arnaud soon quickly garnered critical acclaim. As a result, oenologists began visiting in droves so that they could see and taste the first terracotta-aged Champagne.
Currently, the terracotta vessels are only used for ageing the wines, which is showcased with the Amphoressence cuvée. However, Arnaud is also considering using them for fermentation in the future too.
Gallimard’s Blending & Ageing Techniques
While most Champagne houses will rely on a small circle of elite blenders, Arnaud and his father strongly believe in blending themselves. Not only does this preserve their independence but it’s also a cherished art form
Arnaud believes that by employing the same select oenologists, blends will inadvertently develop a resemblance due to the limited palates involved. Therefore, blending the wines themselves guarantees their identity.
Most blends are produced from 10 separate steel tanks each containing different wines. The calculated percentage is then placed into each bottle rather than blending into a single steel vat.
Although a much more time consuming approach, it ensures accuracy that reflects Didier and Arnaud’s original concoction.
Once the blend is complete, the bottles are transferred to Gallimard’s cellars.
Old & Modern Cellars
Currently, these consist of a 17th-Century cellar carved into the limestone ground as well as an insulated and climate-controlled warehouse above ground. With storage space running short, a second modern facility is currently being planned for 2019 as mentioned above.
Gallimard’s ageing process goes well above and beyond Champagne’s legal requirements. Their non-vintage bottles spend 24 months on lees as opposed to the minimum 15. Meanwhile, their vintage blends are aged between 5 and 6 years rather than the mandatory 3 years.
As production continues to expand, Arnaud has begun to develop his own vinoteque in the 17th-Century cellar. Essentially a Champagne library, the vinoteque is used for archiving the remaining bottles from previous releases.
Unfortunately, many of his ancestors sold their remaining bottles from certain vintages while other mystery bottles were never labelled. Although Arnaud regrets that the opportunity to preserve these wines was not seized earlier, he is dedicated to create an archive for the future generations to come.
Notable Gallimard Champagne Blends
With a marriage of original and novel techniques, Gallimard offers a rich variety of blends that are available for purchase either directly or from independent marchants and restaurants.
From blanc de noirs and macerated rosé to blanc de blanc and oak barrel aged cuvées, the depth of choice is overwhelming. Nevertheless, all the blends feature a very restrained use of sugar and are often brut nature or extra brut.
This is because Arnaud believes that sweeter Champagne tends not to reveal as many aromatic nuances than when particularly tart.
In this guide, we feature a few of their notable cuvées:
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