Digging Deeper Into Avize Grand Cru

  • By Terry Kandylis
  • 29 Dec 2020
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 201
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Champagne bottles - Credit : Learn_Champagne

Avize is a famous Grand Cru village, which is located in the Côte des Blancs subregion of Champagne. Total acreage under vine is 267.9 ha, all of which is Chardonnay. The village is home to Jacques Selosse (who is considered by many to be the best small grower in Champagne) and the winemaking school Avize Viti Campus, the only one to be found in the region.

Avize and Cramant were the first Grand Cru villages in the Côte des Blancs, while the remaining four villages (Oiry, Chouilly, Oger, and Le-Mesnil sur-Oger) were added later in 1985. Champagne houses that control vineyards in Avize include Duval-Leroy, Jacquesson, Moët & Chandon, Mumm, Perrier Jouët, Piper Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Roederer, Ruinart, and Taittinger.

The vineyards in Avize are located around the village. East and southeast-facing slopes dominate this village, with the more inclined above the village (close to the edge of the forest above the Côte des Blancs slope) and the almost flat area below the village, e.g. close to the southern outskirts of the Oiry commune and the D9 road. If one were to focus on the single vineyard sites in Avize, one would speak of the following:

  • Les Avats, a south-facing vineyard in the middle of the slope. Pierre Callot produces his vintage Blanc de Blancs from grapes harvested in this site. 
  • Champ Caïn is a site used by Jacquesson. It is situated at the bottom of the slope, facing due south. The soils are calcareous with a mix of clay, sand, and silt over the classic  Champagne chalk. It was planted in 1962 to Chardonnay, with 12,000 vines per hectare; their parcel is around 1.3 ha. 
  • Les Chantereines became well known due to Jacques Selosses, who produces one of their vineyard-designated Champagnes (lieux-dits) from this site. Composed of 100% Chardonnay, this is produced using oxidative oak barrel treatment in a solera, and is non-vintage.
  • Chemin de Flavigny has been used together with Chemin de  Plivot by Larmandier-Bernier (in Vertus) for their “Les Chemins d’Avize” since the 2009 vintage. 

Considering the similar locations of Avize, Oger, and Le Mesnil sur-Oger on the Côte des Blancs slope, the stylistic differences between them are slight. This is the area where one would expect Blanc de Blancs that show intense minerality, high acidity, and a lot of concentration to a higher degree than other sites. From elsewhere, a Blanc de Blancs could be a bit leaner, more acid-dominated, less mineral-driven, softer, spicier or more fruity. 

Both producer and vintage are likely to play a more important role in determining the style than the specific village within this area, as well as the location of the vineyard(s): on the slope above/around the villages or below on the slope. 

If one were to focus upon similarities and differences between the villages of Avize and Cramant, one could generally say that Cramant is usually considered to produce somewhat “creamier” Champagnes than the other Côte des Blancs villages. For many, Avize tends to be more powerful and fleshier, though quite frequently the opposite will be stated. 

Therefore, to be more precise, I asked three different Chef de Caves to give me their  opinions on both Avize and Cramant:

Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon – Cellar Master at Louis Roederer: 

“Avize  is a complex terroir as there are variations, but it’s always very chalky with roundness and finesse. It’s at the same time powerfully fleshy and elegantly salty, great contrasts that are the signature of  the best terroirs.

It also ages gracefully with a persistent stamina. It stays energetic while developing silkiness. It’s probably not as chalky as Cramant but rounder and fleshier without being heavy. More elegant and less powerful than Mesnil and fleshier and softer than Cramant when young. Cramant needs a bit more time to show this balance; I believe it is the most balanced terroir.”

Frédéric Panaïotis, Ruinart's Chef de Cave

“Avize is more complete, typically showing higher intensity, power, acidity / stony finish compared to Cramant which is usually more elegant, creamier, and softer. Both age super super well though.” 

Pascal Agrapart is an important grower in Champagne with vineyard holdings in both Cramant and Avize. He focuses more on the exposure of Avize which lies east / southeast which he believes gives a more homogenous and precise character in the wines.

If I had to encapsulate all of the above in one sentence, I would use the words of Jean-Baptiste, who said “Avize is the very gifted Cru of Côte des Blancs. Naturally and effortlessly balanced and elegant.” 

Champagne bottles - Credit : Learn_Champagne