Janisson & Sons
It is best when you visit the Champagne region that you find your way off the A4 highway that leads to Reims; find the Champagne Wine Route that travels through many a small village where one can discover many small Champagne producers. Some of the most beautiful views of the Champagne vineyards are on these less traveled roads. We got a tip from winemaker Ludovic Dubric at Mumm Napa to visit a Champagne producer in the village of Verzenay. To get to Verzenay, we head out from our Le Breuil rental home and head along the backroads towards Epernay and then the N51 north toward Reims. About halfway there, we turn right on D26 and head to Verzenay.
It seems that each day of our French exploration we get an unexpected pleasant surprise and on this day it is no different. We have arranged a 10:30 appointment, and when we arrive in the salon at Janisson and Sons, we are greeted by none other than Manuel Janisson, the winemaker, and owner of the this impressive Champagne House. Manuel is the third generation in the Janisson Family to run the winery. For many generations the family were growers, and it was Manuel’s grandfather who in 1925 decided the family should start making Champagne from their prized vineyards.
Luckily for us, there is a respected Japanese wine buyer, who represents several importers in Japan, with us in the tasting room. Manuel opens all the bottles of Champagne that he has available in his inventory for us to taste. Seiji, the friendly and knowledgeable Japanese wine buyer, joins us in the tasting. Manuel explains that his vineyards in Verzenay are Grand Cru vineyards. We learn that there are three designations of villages in the Champagne regions. The highest is Grand Cru, followed by Premiere Cru, and finally Cru. These designations began in 1945. All the Janisson Champagne wines we taste are beautiful wines with distinct flavors and nuances. It’s the chalky soils here that give these wines these beautiful characteristics. The Grand Cru Reserve Brut stands out among the wines we taste. It is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru vineyards of Verzenay. We don’t see any signs of a price list, so we are unsure of the price range of the Champagne wines we taste. Following an hour of conversation and tasting, we take a brief tour of the cellars to view the stainless steel tanks and get a taste of the 2010 vintage harvested just a couple of weeks ago. Manuel thinks because of the unusual growing season, 2010 is going to be a spectacular vintage. He will know for sure in another three months.
At the conclusion of our tasting and tour, we ask Manual if we can purchase some wines. He leads us to the cellar where he hands us two bottles of Champagne and tells us to enjoy them on him and have an enjoyable stay in Champagne.