Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Days prior to the maddening COVD-19 outbreak, I was privileged to join Etienne Calsac for dinner in Singapore. We were treated to modern Indian delights at fine dining restaurant Thevar on Keong Saik Rd. Although this is definitely not the cuisine that I would typically pair with champagne, chef Mano Thevar showcased in his cuisine creative combinations of Indian and Malay spices that balanced with the bright acidity of Etienne’s wines.
Taking over his parents’ 3 ha of vines in Avize, Grauves (Côte des Blancs) and Bisseuil (Vallée de la Marne) 10 years ago, Etienne makes vibrant and mineral wines which highlight the chalk and limestone terroir of the region. Although not 100% certified, his vines have been cultivated with organic viticulture since 2013; he tills with horses and ferments his wines with native yeasts. We were welcomed with his signature L’échappée Belle and over a selection of amuse bouches. This cuvée is a non vintage with 3 years on lees (2016 base here) with 30% reserve from a Solera, and less than 8,000 bottles produced.
This was followed by single vineyard Les Rocheforts Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru from a south east facing vineyard in the premier village of cru Bisseuil. Produced from the first press only (cuvée), it was then partly aged in oak for 7 months, and then bottled to the tune of 3,500. We enjoyed half dozen between the group and it was the perfect balance of fruit and vivacious grip to cleanse the palate after the exquisite crispy pork wrapped in betel leaf and goan spiced hamachi spiced ceviche with coconut sothi.
A delicate and elegant chardonnay focused rose then paired beautifully with beetroot chaat. The assemblage rose includes 11% pinot noir sourced from the Côte des blancs, but doesn’t overpower the bright Chardonnay, maintaining a perfect acid to tannin ratio.
As main was served, we jumped into the most intriguing wines: Les Revenants 2017, which is yet to be released in Singapore, is a blend of 3 of the 4 forgotten varietals: 50% Pinot Blanc, 43% Petit Meslier, 7% Arbanne. Throughout the whole champagne region, the plantings of these three vines make up less than 100ha (of 34 thousand, so less than 0.3%) so it is incredibly rare to have a wine made entirely from these varietals. Etienne believes that these varietals are the future of champagne and panted as soon as he took over the domaine in 2010. He has a small lieu dit in the Sézannais area and makes one single 600 litre barrel. Less than 800 bottles are released to market with zero dosage.
And last but not least, was the vertical of Le Clos des Maladries. A clos is a walled vineyard (think Clos du Mesnil by Krug, or Clos des Lambrays in the Côte de Nuits in Burgundy) and in Champagne not only must the vines be walled, but they must also be registered officially as a clos by the Comité Champagne. This means there are only 32 registered clos in the region, and it takes more than a mason doing a few days of building to create this kind of exclusivity. This micro vineyard has been the Calsac family monopole since the 1970s and is an exceptional grand cru site in the heart of Avize, just behind Etienne's grandparent's home.
The vines in a Clos, and certainly in the Clos de Maladries benefit from a micro climat. Not only are they protected from the outside weather year after year, but they also bask in the reflected heat from the stone walls. This means that Etienne consistently gets a ripper crop and more aromatic complexity. His first vintage was 2013, which we were lucky to see here lined up against the 2014 and 2015. Only 1,000 bottles of the Blanc de blancs are produced per year, and I would highly recommend getting your hands on what is left, before it’s too late.
D I N N E R irish oyster mango chilli lassi goan spiced hamachi ceviche coconut sothi crispy pork sambal aioli
“Les Rocheforts” Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru
tandoori chicken spiced yogurt beetroot chaat
“Rosé de Craie” Rosé Premier Cru
veal bone marrow doughnut mushroom kulcha
“Les Revenants” (2017) – preview
grilled snapper pollichathu, herb salad pepper & tamarind iberico pork chop mango curry
“Clos des Maladries” Grand Cru 2015 – preview “Clos des Maladries” Grand Cru 2014 “Clos des Maladries” Grand Cru 2013
carrot halva kulfi coffee, honeycomb, basil
Etienne Calsac http://www.champagne-etienne-calsac.com/