Ulysse Collin's Pierrieres and Maillons

Ulysse Collin's Pierrieres and Maillons
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 and prove 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, yet it was only in 2003 that Olivier managed to bring production back in house. 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 ageing is carried out in old wooden barriques, for at least twelve months, frequently now longer. 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, a fact Olivier deems an important contributing factor to the final freshness of the wines. Nothing is fined or filtered.

The percentage of reserve wines is on the increase – today’s wines, based on the 2013 vintage contain 50% reserve wine but the most recent bottlings see this increase to 80% reserve wine. 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.

Of Oliver’s four vineyard sites, today’s release sees the first tranche, the two east facing sites of Pierrieres and Maillons. Les Enfers and Les Roisses are now receiving an additional 12 months sur lie and will be released next year.