I was delighted when Export Manager for Champagne Drappier, Philippe Verrier, asked if I would like to try their wines. It was a shocking 14 years ago that I last tasted through the Drappier range, in a tasting of wines from the cellars of two great fans of the house, which extended all the way back to the 1959 vintage. Although Drappier’s cellars in Urville were built in 1152, the family established their Champagne house in 1808. Today the house is headed by Michel Drappier, and the cellars surrounded by their vineyards, around half of which are owned and half leased by the house. Pinot Noir dominates with 70% of plantings, the rest made up mostly by Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, but intriguingly, also by plantings of perfectly legal but almost forgotten Champagne varieties including Arbane, Petit Meslier, Fromenteau and Blanc Vrai. Drappier describes its viticulture as “close to organic,” with ploughing by horse, grass cover bewtween rows and the use of organic fertilisers. In the winery the majority of electricity comes from solar panels, and vinification is with very little – or no – addition of sulphur. It is also a house where the dosage – the sweetening liquour added before bottling – is very low, leading to low residual sugar in the bottled wines. Drappier’s web site makes an intriguing promise: “Today, rather than sophisticated, sometimes overdone excellence, we prefer authenticity and a natural approach.”
Champagne Drappier, Blanc de Blanc ‘Signature’ NV, France
With its pale, lemony gold colour and steady stream of bubbles, the Blanc de Blancs has 5% Pinot Blanc blended with Chardonnay. The nose offers yeasty bruised apple notes, a touch of russet apple cider. In the mouth this has an inherent feeling of sweetness, and is fairly rich for a Blanc de Blancs, but the dosage is a modest 8g/l so that impression is coming from ripe fruit. It is not so racy and elegantly refined as some Blanc de Blancs Champagnes, but is has an open, robust and exuberant personality. 89/100. £33.33, Elixer Wines.
Champagne Drappier, Brut Nature Dosage Zéro Pinot Noir NV, France
Drappier also produce a zero added sulphur version of this wine, but this is the ‘very low sulphur’ version, though both have zero residual sugar. Made from 100% first pressings of Pinot Noir, it has a pale gold colour and is very effervescent, minuscule bubbles erupting across the glass. The apple and citrus nose begins to reveal some nuttiness and toast. There’s a lovely suggestion of burgeoning richness here. On the palate there is the hint of austerity from the zéro dosage, but there is nothing difficult about this: its fruit and rich toast roundness fill the mouth, with lovely clarity and precision in the finish. One of my favourites in the line up. 91/100. £34.95, Slurp.co.uk, Cork & Cask, Corner on the Square.
Champagne Drappier, Carte d’Or NV, France
Almost a Blanc des Noirs with just 10% of Chardonnay joining 75% Pinot Noir and 10% Meunier. A small proportion (5%) of the base wine is matured in barrel for a year and the dosage is a modest 7g/l. It has a pale lemony colour and plenty of small bubbles. Aromas are of flowers and elegant, light, lemony fruit, with a gentle background yeastiness. In the mouth this has real élan, with racy and crisp apple and sweet ripe pear, a lovely flourish of acidity cleansing and playing against those hints of toffee and brioche. Delicious, long and another favourite. 93/100. £44.80, Hedonism Wines, Cork & Cask, Henderson Wines, Aitken Wines, Corner on the Square.
Champagne Drappier, Blanc de Quatre Blancs ‘Quattor’ NV, France
One for the Champagne geeks in that it is an intriguing blend of four equal parts of the almost forgotten Arbanne and Petit Meslier, with Chardonnay and Blanc Vrai (or Pinot Blanc). Quattor has only 4.2g/l of dosage and as always is made with minimal sulphur. It has a lovely lemony-gold colour and plenty of effervescence. On the nose apples and flowers abound, an edge of fudge-like toast. In the mouth it has Drappier’s signature fruit-forward roundness, that bruised fruit depth, but it is pin-sharp stuff, the low dosage and core of citrus zest acidity really pushing through. Stylish and delicious. 92/100. £59.90, Hedonism Wines.
Champagne Drappier, Millésime Exception 2006, France
Made only in exceptional years, 50% of the base wine is matured in barrel for a year, and the wine spends at least five years on the lees before release. This 2006 is a blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay, with a dosage of 5.6g/l (the dosage liquor itself aged in Limousin oak casks). It has a lovely, lightly burnished gold/bronze tinge, with a beguiling, rich nose of downy peach and mango skins, a touch of Christmassy spice, and a fresh core of fruit. On the palate it is quite creamy in texture, has loads of fruit sweetness at its core, and yet there’s herby and gently floral and yeast layer too. 91/100. Delightful stuff that for me is potentially a real bargain: I cannot see a stockist of this 2006 currently, but the 2008 has just been released and is only £29.00 in Oddbins at time of writing.
Champagne Drappier, Grande Sendrée 2006, France
A single vineyard wine named after a parcel of land that was covered in cinders after a fire that ripped through Urville in 1838. A blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay, only made from first pressings of the juice, with a very low dosage leaving 5g/l of sugar. A third of the base wine is aged in barrel for nine months. The pale golden colour has a steady stream of miniscule, delicate bubbles rising steadily across the glass, with a lovely yeastiness and bruised fruit complexity, that slightly toasty note and apple at the core. On the palate it is crystal clear, a gentle smokiness and nuttiness, but really fresh, zingy and sharply focused fruit – citrus, but also a tiny candied fruit note, a touch of pineapple. The toast and racy freshness balance in the finish, which is long and harmonious but has a really structured, vinous hint of muscularity too. Mouth-filling, rich and fine, with waxed fruit or Asian pear grip. 93/100. £61.10, Hedonism Wines, Markinch Wine Gallery.
See all UK stockists of Drappier on wine-searcher.com.