By. Jiles Halling
Making wine has, literally, been a part of the landscape in Champagne for hundreds of years and these days it’s not unusual to meet wine makers whose family history goes back many generations, but even in this impressive company the history of Champagne Lionel Carreau is way out of the ordinary.
The Carreau family has been associated with wine since 1543 when a distant ancestor was winemaker at the Abbey of Mores in the small community of Celles-sur-Ources and you’ll find Champagne Lionel Carreau in the same village to this very day. The brand itself was created much later, but the family’s savoir-faire has been handed down from father to son, and now to daughter, for many generations.
Of course there are lots of long-established, small grower champagnes in the Champagne region but it’s not just because of the history of the family that Champagne Lionel Carreau is worth discovering.
Celles-sur-Ource is in the southernmost part of Champagne which is known as La Côte des Bar. The soil here is very different from the area further north nearer Reims, in fact geologically and geographically speaking, La Côte des Bar has more in common with Chablis than with the rest of Champagne except for the fact that in La Côte des Bar Pinot Noir is the main grape varietal.
The big champagne houses have always valued the rich, full-bodied, yet soft style of wines produced here which lend an extra dimension to their house blends, but over the past decade or so the quality of many of the smaller grower champagnes produced locally has been increasingly recognised and rewarded. Lionel Carreau Brut Tradition is a perfect example – a Blanc de Noirs made from vines over 50 years old; it’s an impressive wine indeed especially considering that this is the least of the Lionel Carreau range which also includes an succulent, pure Pinot Noir rosé and an elegant Pinot Noir / Chardonnay blend.
One more discovery that awaits you at Lionel Carreau which is that they are one of the very rare grower champagnes to have kept a few acres planted with Pinot Blanc Vrai, a varietal that was quite widely used a century or so ago, which fell out of favour for decades and which is now attracting more interest. You can discover Pinot Blanc Vrai in the prestige Cuvée Préembulles: a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc Vrai blended from the first pressings of the 2009 harvest.