Ulysse Collin

Olivier Collin has, in just a relatively short period of time, established himself as one of Champagne’s foremost winemaking talents. His range of single vineyard champagnes are studies in terroir, proving just what can be achieved in Champagne when a diligent vigneron works old vines on interesting soils. The domaine is based in Congy, on the Coteaux du Morin (almost a continuation of the Côte des Blancs), where the Collin family has owned vines since 1812. The family vineyard holdings were rented out for years, but in 2003 Olivier managed to regain control, putting a vineyard on the label for the first time in 2008. Today he farms 5 hectares of old massale selection vines on a purely parcellaire basis. He cites Anselm Selosse as an inspiration, with whom he did an internship, yet his wines feature none of the trademark Selosse oxidation. Viticulture is “80% organic” and focussed first and foremost on soil health. Copper is eschewed, organic as it is, as both ineffective and potentially harmful to the life of the soils from which his vines grow.

Winemaking begins in a 50 year old traditional coquard press, all the better to ‘feel’ the press in action. Fermentation is spontaneous and elevage is carried out in old wooden barriques, for up to 23 months. The wines are held sur fine lie with no battonage and topping up is done regularly. The cuvee and the taille are vinified separately, to be blended together pre-bottling if Olivier feels the taille is going to contribute to a more balanced wine. Reserve wines are aged in fuders on their fine lees, by vineyard and by vintage, an important factor to the final freshness of the wines. Nothing is fined or filtered.

The percentage of reserve wines is on the increase. From the 2014 base vintage onwards reserve wines account for 80% of the blend. Pierrieres and Les Maillons both see 36 months sur lie while the two wines from the village of Congy, Les Enfers and Les Roisses, are released a year later, receiving 48 months sur lie. The terroir multiplying effect of several vintages of a single site gives rise to some very clearly articulated vineyard characteristics and no shortage of fabulous freshness. Delightfully, the hand of the winemaker is almost invisible and yet the range is literally brimming with character. These are vinous, precise and refined champagnes of the highest order.


The vineyards:

Pierrieres – 1.3ha of vines in Toulon La Montagne, 5kms to the east of Congy. 100% massale selection Chardonnay. An East facing vineyard composed of very pure chalk soils and black silex below. These are very old, tender chalk soils, similar to those found in Montgeux, the famous Aube chardonnay outpost. This tends to be the most refined, mineral, focussed wine in Olivier’s range, the Puligny-Montrachet perhaps. 23 months elevage in old barriques with regular topping up and no battonage, followed by 36 months sur lie. From the 2014 vintage just 20% base wine and 80% reserve wine. Dosage of under 2g/lt.

Maillons – A 6ha vineyard right in the heart of the Cotes Sezannais, 30 minutes drive south of Congy. Oliviers holdings here amount to 2.5ha of pure massale selection Pinot Noir. The soils here are heavier than in Congy, and this is always the first place Olivier harvests. The vineyard is east facing and the vines are a very healthy 46 years old. This produces two wines, a Blanc de Noirs and a Rose de Saignee. The BdN is one of Olivier’s most expressive, arresting wines, bursting with bright Pinot Noir fruit but also profound depth and fabulous acidity from the east facing exposure. The hugely sought after Rose is increasingly refined and balanced, and deserves a large Burgundy balloon. Both receive 23 months elevage in old barriques with regular topping up and no battonage, followed by 36 months sur lie. From the 2014 vintage just 20% base wine and 80% reserve wine. Dosage of under 2g/lt.

Les Enfers – A vineyard in the heart of Congy, planted entirely to Chardonnay. Just metres from Les Roisses but oriented East. Olivier has just .6ha here, planted on ochre clay, with 40 year old vines. The wine of base vintage 2013 contains 50% reserve wine, increasing to 80% from 2014 onwards. A vineyard that produces taut, complex and profoundly mineral wines full of salinity and wonderful texture and poise. Often demure at first, Enfers is perhaps most layered wine in the range, unfurling constantly in the glass. 23 months of elevage in old barriques followed by 48 months sur lie. Dosage under 2g/lt.

Les Roisses – Just metres from Les Enfers in the heart of Congy, and the only one of Oliviers vineyards that is south facing. Here the grey clay top soils sit on deep chalk and flint and the 0.6ha of vines are pure massale selection chardonnay. At 70 years old these are the oldest vines in the domaine and produce a wine of incredible depth and persistence. Kind of like a Batard with bubbles, great power underpinned by vibrant minerality. Les Roisses undergoes 23 months elevage in old barriques and 48 months sur lie before disgorgement with under 2 grams of dosage.
Region:
Appellation:
Colour Range:
White
Number of Champagnes:
3 champagnes
Price Range:
Ulysse Collin