Anselme Selosse: The terroir artist of the Cote de Blancs

Anselme Selosse: The terroir artist of the Cote de Blancs

Domaine Jacques Selosse in Avize is a family-run property which encompasses a little over 8 hectares of vines in the crus of Avize, Cramant, Oger, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Ambonnay. Anselme Selosse, who took over the domaine from his father Jacques in 1980, is widely acknowledged as one of the best winemakers in the Côte de Blancs and maybe even in all of Champagne. For Anselme Selosse wine making is “a lifelong process of observation, trial and error and contemplation in regards to viticultural methods and practices”. The Selosse family has developed its own system of viticulture which is an approach that follows no set method like for example bio-dynamics, but permanently adapts itself to the circumstances confronted throughout the growing season in the various vineyard plots. The family’s credo: “It is man who perturbs nature the most thus one must refrain from intervening as often as possible”.

Anselme Selosse focus has alway been on getting the highest quality fruit for his champagnes as possible. For a wine maker this might sound quite logical, but in the 70-ies, when Anselme began his carreer, the fruit that went into most champagnes was of low quality, the result of high yields and use of chemicals. The fact that Anselme believed in a relationship between healthy soils and the quality of the grapes that grow on them, was quite a game changer in those days. And so he has always been a great advocate of organic farming and low yields.

In the wine making process, Anselme only uses indigenous yeasts and wooden barrels (of which 20% new) in which he keeps his wines on their fines lees for a couple of months. Selosse: “At the time of vinification, we must add nothing. 100% of the identity and the character of the wine is found in the grape juice; to do too much would be to mask, to mark, to alter.” Sidenote, Anselme Selosse gets his used barrels from the famous Domaine Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet. None of his champagnes undergo malolactic fermentation. One of Selosse’s believes is that "great champagne doesn’t need any make-up", which is why he always keeps the dosage of his champagnes to an absolute minimum.

Perhaps Domaine Jacques Selosse’s most prestigious cuvée is the famed Substance, a blanc de blancs champagne of which the base wine is produced using a type of solera system that was created in 1986. The idea behind the solera is to bring together reserve wines from around 20 vintages. The solera takes out the differences from vintage to vintage en therefore provides the ideal stage for the Avize chardonnay terroir.

In 2010, Selosse decided to release 6 different single-vineyard wines. Each coming from a distinct parcel from a different village in Champagne. One of them is the 100% Pinot Noir cuvée “Sous le Mont” from Mareuil sur Ay.

With his style of viticulture, Selosse has been a true inspiration for an entire generation of young winegrowers in the Champagne region. One of them, his own son Guillaume, has been assisting his father at the domaine since 2012 and is likely to take over the business anywhere in the next coming years.

Jacques Selosse Champagne, Version Originale Grand cru Blanc de blancs Extra brut, quite a mouthful, is the name of this particular cuvée on the left. This champagne is made from perfectly ripe chardonnay grapes from the Côte de Blancs grand cru villages of Avize and Cramant. The wine is made ‘extra brut’, no dosage (or make-up in Anselme's words) was added, which makes the wine bone dry. A mineral, complex and multilayered champagne with a beautiful balance is the result.