Champagne, France

Champagne R. H. Coutier is located in the grand cru village of Ambonnay, one of the top wine-producing towns on the Montagne de Reims. The Coutier family has been in the village of Ambonnay since 1619, with the current head of the family estate René Coutier. The Coutiers own nine hectares of vineyards in Ambonnay, and interestingly, although Ambonnay is generally regarded as pinot noir country, the Coutiers’ vineyards are planted with one-third chardonnay and two-thirds pinot noir. In fact, in 1946 René Coutier’s father was the first vigneron in Ambonnay to plant chardonnay in the village, which has done well since then and is now as highly regarded as the pinot noir from this grand cru village. The vineyards on the Montagne de Reims shift exposure as one arrives in the village of Ambonnay, facing due south and producing a rather warmer microclimate for the grapes. There is also a bit more clay and a bit less limestone in the soils of Ambonnay than is typical throughout the region, which tends to produce more sumptuous styles in the wines, such as Coutier’s, that rely solely on Ambonnay fruit. This is not a large domaine by any stretch of the imagination, only producing 25,000 bottles in any given year.

The Coutier house style is accentuated by René’s vinification and cellar techniques that seek to marry the traditional richness of Ambonnay fruit with the racy and pure style that René cherishes. In this regard, only half of the Coutier wines go through malolactic fermentation, as René feels that this perfectly balances opulence with raciness in the finished wines. Barrel fermentation and/or aging is not used for any of the wines with the exception of the Cuvée Henri III. The Coutiers still sells off approximately eighty percent of their production to other houses, and their own bottlings are a bit more dominated by chardonnay in the blends than one might normally expect from a house based in Ambonnay. The non-vintage brut, called Brut Tradition, is comprised of sixty percent pinot noir and forty percent chardonnay, and is an excellent and racy bottle. The Brut Rosé is a deeply colored example, as it is made from the same varietal percentages as the non-vintage Brut, but with the difference that all sixty percent of the pinot noir in the blend is still wine! It is a beautifully made rosé that offers up notes of red fruit, brioche and the complex soil tones of Ambonnay fruit. The Coutiers also make a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs that is includes a high percentage of old vine fruit in the blend, with all of the original 1946 plantations going into the Blanc de Blancs. This bottling all hails from a single vineyard. Next in the Coutier hierarchy is their Brut Millésime, which is made from a blend of sixty percent pinot noir and forty percent chardonnay, made without malolactic fermentation. It is a classic vintage-dated bottle of bubbly that repays cellaring very handsomely. The Coutier roster is rounded out by their top of the line bottling, called Cuvée Henri III. This bottling is the only Coutier wine to see any wood in its elevage, which marries beautifully with the depth of fruit found in Ambonnay. It is made from one hundred percent pinot noir and aged four years in the cellar prior to release, to allow the wine to drink brilliantly upon release, though it will also age extremely well. The Champagne house of R. H. Coutier is one of the finest in Ambonnay, and is a wonderful introduction to the magic of grand cru bubbly in the heart of the Montagne de Reims.