Cramant Grand Cru – Côte des Blancs

Cramant, with Avize, was one of just two Cote des Blanc villages classified 100% quality in the original 1911 Echelle des Crus. In 1945, the term ‘grand cru’ for the best villages was formalised; several were promoted in 1985 to make a the current total of 17 grands crus.

Cramant is just south-west of Grand Cru Chouilly from Epernay and quite large at about 350ha planted, all to Chardonnay, along with the tiniest amount of of Meunier. As you drive south down the D9 from Epernay, Cramant rises to the right and the flat vineyards of Grand Cru Oiry flank the low road. You will see Moët et Chandon’s grand Chateau de Saran high to the right on the slope, but it is sited over the border in Chouilly. Cramant’s vines then unfurl up the gentle east-facing slope and curl around the steep foot of the wood-topped big hill of the Butte de Saran. The village itself is raised over the lip of the steep higher slopes. Approaching from another direction on the D10 via Cuis, the variety of slope orientation and gradient becomes clear, myriad enclaves and undulations, all kinds of incline and the thickness of clays over the chalk varies too.

Grand generalisations for the taste of Cramant wine are risky. But commentators still proffer them. There is a reputation. A common theme is a combination of grand cru power, substance and weight, an intensity and energy we would all like to think grand cru wines should show. And with that we often see the world ‘creamy’, a tempering texture which adds majesty and finesse. And this rounder, nougat-like character sticks, even if not in every Cramant wine.

Of course the big houses have substantial holdings here and the vast majority of Cramant grapes finally play bit parts in Champagne’s vast blends. But the increasing number of cru and even ‘parcellaire’ versions of Cramant is exciting. Maybe it is the multiplicity of exposures and micro-terroirs which make me think Cramant shows best in blends of its own vineyards. Cramant’s most well-known single cru wine is Mumm’s RSRV Blanc de Blancs vintage cuvée, inheriting the lineage from a wine called Mumm de Cramant. I wonder if its ‘creamy’ lower pressure is the chicken or egg of Cramant’s famous name for a soft edge to its power. Diebolt-Vallois’s prestige vintage Fleur de Passion is renowned too, again a blend of several sites. Other important wines are an Extra Brut vintage Cramant from Pierre Gimonnet, Anselme Selosse’s single vineyard Chemin de Châlon, Dhondt-Grellet’s Le Bateau and Suenen’s Les Robarts.
The best and most up to date exposition of Cramant’s terroir is the detailed analysis and commentary of Charles Curtis MW in the publication that goes with the map project illustrated on this site, made with cartographer Steve de Long. To borrow from the Financial Times – ‘No Curtis-De Long? No Comment.’