Good Champagne is borne out of the labor of love. But exceptional Champagne? It’s borne out of a revolution.
Last week, I had the joy of meeting Cellar Master Sebastian Walasiak. One quality that describes both Walasiak and his wines: integrity. Integrity in the process of crafting a great wine, as well as Collet’s integrity to the rich history and community of Champagne. As we spoke, I began to truly realize why the arrival of Champagne Collet in America is truly so exciting.
The Story of Champagne Collet
To understand the magic of Champagne Collet, one must know the story of the fiercely independent souls that made it possible. This story starts back in 1921, when small independent winemakers were at risk of being eliminated. High rates of counterfeit Champagne sourced from outside areas, such as the Loire or Languedoc, drove Champagne prices down to the point where independent winemakers could barely make a living.
In defense of Champagne and terroir, these independent winemakers banded together to form the Cooperative Generale des Vignerons de Champagne, or COGEVI. The COGEVI created its own brands, the most iconic of which was Champagne Collet.
Champagne Collet Today
While much has changed since the tumultuous days of the early Champagne industry, the core of the Champagne Collet identity remains unchanged: affinity, respect, humility, and stability for the greater good of local grape growers. This is evidenced by the strong loyalty that COGEVI retains today. “Today, I have access to 160 of the 320 crus of the region,” says Walasiak proudly. As we were talking, Walasiak flipped out his smartphone and revealed photos of hundreds of unlabeled bottles from different crus, lined up in the cellar and outdoors, waiting to be tasted.
To create the most elegant cuveés possible, Walasiak vinifies each wine separately. Only after intense rounds of tastings does he assemble the final cuvee. This allows Champagne Collet to produce multiple Champagnes that exemplify the best of a vintage, but also are unique from one another. He also ages his cuvees on the lees longer than average, from 4 up to 10 years. This ensures he is able to achieve his trademark style — a round wine with a long, elegant finish.
In addition to the trademark finish, Walasiak has succeeded in creating a Champagne for every mood. Tasting through the latest Champagne Collet wines was a rich sensory experience running from delicate, to vibrant, to bold.
Finding Your Collet
To make choosing between the 6+ Champagne Collet releases easier, here’s each flavor profile summed up in an adjective.
This is your aperitif. Crisp, lively, refreshing, with lovely floral and mineral overtones. What separates it from other classic Champagnes is the richer mid palate texture, and the trademark long finish characteristic bestowed by Walasiak during the winemaking process.
Conclusion? A great Champagne takes a village — or in the case of Champagne Collet, villages. Find out more at http://www.champagne-collet.com/.