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N°157

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Champagne Ulysse Collin

and the passion for single plots

Olivier Collin, winemaker and owner of Champagnes Ulysse Collin, is a person of high stature. Physically, he stands tall, at 6 foot 2 inches. For his winemaking abilities and for his intimate knowledge of the alchemy between soils and grapes, he stands also above average. And he stands out for his enthusiasm and generosity. He seems forever in high spirits, and has on his face the constant smile of a happy child.
 

Yann et Frédéric (SI), T. Hamon, A. Rosengren, H. Pignio, O. Collin, E. Beaumard, M. d'Hainaut et G. Olivier

He welcomes Arvid Rosengren, World Best Sommelier 2016, at his winery in Congy, with a couple of his single vineyard cuvees: ‘Les Enfers’ and ‘Les Roises’, both from the 2010 vintage. Both come from 100% Chardonnay plots. ‘Les Enfers’ is a forty year old vine whereas ‘Les Roises’ is 65 years old. “I confess that I was a bit worried about these two wines, says Olivier Collin. The two plots sit almost next to one another , they are both planted with the same grape, the’ve been through the same vinification process, and they’ve been given an identical dosage … So I was concerned that they might be too much a like. But in fact they  each have their distinct personality.”

Arvid finds ‘Les Enfers’ to be “very youthful and broad, with a certain richness and density to it, certainly needing time to unfold and show its great character.” About les Roises he says “it was my personal favorite, a wonderful wine. Calling it Champagne is almost not enough! It tasted like a wonderful Meursault with bubbles. Smoky reduction and citrus on the nose, unfolding into orchard fruits, nuts and spices on the palate.”

Olivier Collin then invites Arvid to follow him into the vineyard, right across the street, and discover these two plots by himself. While walking between the rows of vine he talks passionately about the soil, which is red for Les Enfers, hence its name, and white for Les Roises, flush with chalky dust. He also dwells on the subsoil, rich in flint and goes about finding one such rock which he instantly breaks in two to reveal its dark onyx interior. “Champagne is blessed, he says. It is our duty to take good care of it. I spend most of my time here, in the vineyard, much more time than at the winery. I tend to let the wines take care of themselves…”

Olivier Collin works neither according to the precepts of organic agriculture, nor to those of biodynamics. He works according to his own precepts. Spontaneously and intuitively. “I applied a preparation of silicium to my vine, but I did it my way, he says. I could not figure out the lunar calendar.”

When he talks about his Champagnes he seems like a child astonished by the success of his own magic trick. “Today we produce 47,000 bottles from five single vineyards. First there was ‘Les Perrières’, then ‘Maillons’, a Blanc de Noirs, then ‘Les Enfers’ and ‘Les Roises’ and a bled rosé, made with grapes from ‘Les Maillons’. We have a new single vineyard on the way, but I’d rather not talk about it yet,” he bursts out laughing.

“I want to make wines that can age ten or fifteen years. I seek purity and impact in my wines … This one I did not need to do much for it, he says pointing to the 2008 ‘Les Perrières’, it pretty much made itself.” Upon tasting the wine, Arvid is impressed. “This Champagne has infinite complexity and a strong personality. It is a great wine.”

Later on that evening, during a dinner at the Château d’Etoges, with Eric Beaumard, Olivier Collin brings out his 2012 bled rosé. Arvid found it “really exuberant and pretty; but  needing a little time and air to show its best side, and definitely better after letting the mousse calm down a little. Like an elegant red wine.”

Overall he only has praises for his encounter with Olivier Collin. “I had visited Olivier probably 5 years ago, he says, and I have sporadically had his wines since, both in Europe and USA. I previously found them more philosophically intriguing as opposed to delicious, but this visit was eye-opening. The wines are now not only interesting but also really fantastic. Spending time with the thoughtful and charismatic Olivier was certainly one of the high points of my trip in Champagne.”

Gérald Olivier

 

21, rue des Vignerons – 51270 Congy - Tel. +33 (0)9 79 05 00 69