Chateau de Bligny – Champagne’s only grower producer Chateau
On Saturday September 8th 2012, just a few days before the start of the Champagne harvest, more than 100 international VIP guests (including journalists, restaurant owners, retaillers and winemakers) joined dignitaries from L’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne at the Rapeneau family’s magnificent eighteenth century hunting lodge Chateau de Bligny, in the heart of the Aube region, for the inaugural International Chapter of L’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne hosted by Champagne G.H.Martel.
What is “L’Ordre des Coteaux”?
The original members of this notorious seventeenth century #foodie gentlemen’s club were aristocratic dandies from the court of Louis XIV’s Versailles. Their leader, the Marquis de Saint-Evremond would reputedly only eat veal from Normandy, rabbits from La Roche-Sur-Yon and wine from the good champagne coteaux of Ay, Hautvilliers and Avenay. When De Saint-Evremond fell out of favour with The Sun King he only managed to escape imprisonment in La Bastille by heading across the channel, where he soon became a royal favourite and Champagne’s first international ambassador. “The Order of the Hills of Champagne” is therefore credited with bringing champagne to Charles II’s Merry England. L’Ordre des Coteaux was revived by the Champagne industry in 1956 to promote the unique features and reputation of champagne wines by creating and motivating a network of staunch supporters (professional restaurateurs, sommeliers, connoisseurs and personalities from the world of politics, media, stage and screen). “L’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne” currently comprises about 4000 members worldwide. Learn more about L’Ordre des Coteaux here.
A Champagne Celebration Party Like No Other
Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger, chairman of Champagne Taittinger, Commandeur de L’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne and our effervescent MC for this special celebration at Chateau de Bligny, personally commended each of the new chevaliers inducted on this extraordinary occasion for their global efforts in democratising the champagne category and making its wines accessible to new consumers. After the formal ceremony of processions, oaths and pompons followed by a presentation of certificates and medals (complete with medieval mood music) this cosmopolitan crowd got down to the serious business of wining, dining and dancing, with a mouth-watering champagne and food matching menu showcasing six different styles of champagne drawn from the G.H. Martel and Taittinger portfolios.
Thanks to the DJing skills of 4th generation Jean Remy Rapeneau, this extraordinary multi-national multi-generation champagne fuelled party lasted well into the early hours of Sunday morning.
Following a leisurely late breakfast, celebrations continued with simple country pursuits like clay pigeon shooting, followed by a 2nd more intimate evening dinner ‘en famille’, where our ever generous hosts the Rapeneau family opened their amazing personal collection of aged Sauternes and exotic fruit liqueurs at dessert. What becomes immediately apparent to any visitor to Chateau de Bligny is that every member of the Rapeneau family shares their work hard, play hard ethic, as well as the natural charm and discretion of born and bred champenois. Over the last thirty years this industrious family has quietly but steadfastly built up an impressive portfolio of champagne producers from boutique grower to medium size house, which now makes the Rapeneau family Champagne’s 6th largest producer. But they don’t shout about their successes, they just get on with with the job and have fun at the same time.
In between spinning dance tracks to keep all the dinner guests entertained, Jean-Remy Rapeneau (who calls himself “J.R.” and has been based in the US for the past six years, but comes home every September to help out during vintage) explained to me that the Rapeneau family prefers to keep things low profile and maintain the independence of each brand under the G.H. Martel umbrella in order to ensure the best quality product for consumers, whilst at the same time leveraging economies of scale across the group to guarantee attractive product pricing in their markets. “J.R.” is the first family member to re-locate overseas to develop international sales, whilst his cousin Vincent manages their ever expanding portfolio of vineyards and growers, and his younger brother focuses on winemaking. It certainly seems like the family has hit on a sure-fire recipe for success.
Rapeneau champagnes arrived unannounced in Australia in 2010 through an exclusive BOB (Buyers Own Brand) deal with Australia’s largest champagne retailler Dan Murphy’s. Marketed at a price point just under $40 for the NV and NV rose, last Christmas this easy drinking great value “Duperrey” champagne range literally flew off supermarket shelves which, in 2012, led to G.H. Martel participating (under the Dan Murphy’s umbrella) in the Australian Good Food & Wine Show national roadshow, even sending over their Singapore based local ambassador to launch their extensive range of grower champagnes to Australia’s bubbly loving public.
Here are Champagne Jayne’s Top Value Down Under Personal Picks priced between AU$40 – AU$70 drawn from the extensive G.H.Martel champagne portfolio.
Blanc de Blancs
Charles Auban (Troissy, Marne Valley) 100% chardonnay
Made from 100% estate grown fruit, this light, creamy and fruity chardonnay style shows delicious notes of peach and mango, almond and vanilla with a medium length palate.
Blanc de Noirs
Paul Louis Martin vintage 2005 (Bouzy, Montagne de Reims) 90% pinot noir/10% chardonnay
Made from 100% grand cru fruit this toasty vintage champagne style from the heart of the Montagne de Reims is rich and balanced with brioche and exotic fruit notes that combine to produce a harmonious long finish on the palate.
Non Vintage Blend
Chateau de Bligny Brut Reserve blue label (Bligny, Aube) 50% pinot noir/50% chardonnay
Based in the heart of the Cote des Bars, Chateau de Bligny is a unique grower/producer in Champagne because it is the only one to have a “chateau” appellation. The non-vintage entry level blue label is an accessible balanced style of champagne with minerality on the nose and balanced richness on the palate.
Check online at www.danmurphys.com.au for direct purchase and delivery information Australia wide.