We’re there. The home stretch. The final few days of a year that has been odd, stressful, painful, and exhausting, to say the very least. Around the world many have struggled to survive as their health, business, and ability to pay expenses have been teetering on the brink of disaster, and some of us haven’t made it. We all deserve to celebrate the close to this year, to put it behind us, and to look forward to what’s to come in 2021.
In typical fashion, many of us will be ringing in the new year with Champagne. These crisp sparklers we use to mark birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and other celebrations have a way of lifting our spirits with their lively stream of fine bubbles rising from the glass and bursting at the surface like a miniature New Year’s fireworks display of their own. But these bubbly wines aren’t the only ones produced in the Champagne region, as a miniscule amount of whites and reds under the AOC Coteaux Champenois, along with very few rosés, most often under the AOC Rosé des Riceys, are also made.
It is estimated that for every 16,000 bottles of sparkling wine made in Champagne, by proportion, roughly only one still white wine and twenty still reds are produced, making these Coteaux Champenois bottlings extremely rare and scarce. The majority of reds come from Pinot Noir, though Pinot Meunier often makes an appearance. For the whites, Chardonnay, or direct pressings of the red Champagne varietals can be used. The pink wines of Rosé des Riceys in the Aube department come exclusively from Pinot Noir. With very few producers making these inimitable wines, getting your hands on one can be a challenge. Luckily, the top-tier Coteaux Champenois Rouge from Bonnet-Ponson has landed, giving us a chance to taste this four-leaf clover of the wine world.
Since 1862 the Bonnet family has been making Champagne in the village of Chamery in the Montagne de Reims. A marriage in 1956 between André Bonnet and Monique Ponson, herself coming from a winegrower family, led to the creation of Champagne house Bonnet-Ponson. Now, 5th and 6th generation winemakers Thierry and Cyril Bonnet are at the helm, crafting traditional Champagne along with cuvées of non dosé, zero added SO2 Champagne and Coteaux Champenois, all organically farmed since 2013.
The 2018 Bonnet-Ponson Coteaux Champenois Rouge is 100% Pinot Noir from the 1er cru of Chamery. Forty percent whole clusters, along with the remainder of destemmed grapes, macerate and ferment for three weeks before being transferred to old barrels and amphora for 10 months of élevage. It is then bottled without fining, filtration, nor the addition of SO2.
A shimmering medium minus ruby in the glass, the wine perfumes tart red cherry, anise, savory herbs, and a mineral backbone. Paired with Pan Roasted Garlic and Herb Sausages, Jerusalem Artichoke Purée, and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, both food and wine intermingle effortlessly, highlighting wintery, earthy undertones, creating a marriage as perfect as that of Monsieur Bonnet and Madame Ponson themselves.
As we say good riddance to 2020 and welcome in the fresh, optimistic arrival of 2021, celebrating with a wine as rare as this past year itself only makes sense. And if anyone asks you if you’ve had any Champagne this New Year’s Eve, you can say, “Yes,” even if the wine is red and isn't sparkling. Cheers!