It is hard to begin writing about a House with over 330 years of history. Where to begin? What to highlight? I personally tend to start with the first cuvée released by Tarlant under their own label. This was all the way back in 1928, well before the term “Grower Champagne” was even whispered. Cuvée Carte Blanche, made by Louis Tarlant, after returning home from WWI and deciding to recreate the estate. This became a local success and thus began the journey to what is now one of the most recognized and regarded “Growers” in the business.
When you visit the estate of Champagne Tarlant you are greeted by perhaps one of the greatest views in all of Champagne. Situated in Oeuilly within the Valée de la Marne, Tarlant’s Domaine overlooks the valley’s sprawling hillside vineyards and allows you the opportunity to get a snapshot of what terroir really means. Once you get inside the Domaine, you get to enjoy a completely different perspective of this landscape. The caves that run beneath these beautiful slopes allow you to walk from the domaine at the top of the hill, all the way down to the village centre over a kilometre away. Mélanie Tarlant happily shared an anecdote with us of her childhood walks to school through the cellars. Halfway to class she would have a quick stop at her grandparents home for some chocolate, as any child roaming through underground cellars would do. Over the years the cellars have grown to connect the properties of the Tarlant family.
With all of this history it would make sense for the Domaine to be traditional in their approach and perhaps not introduce new ideas on a large scale. That of course would make sense…but it most definitely is not the case. Champagne Tarlant does not purchase any grapes from growers and 100% of their wines are made with what they grow. They have moved toward organic farming and rigorous bunch thinning while closely monitoring their yields to make sure they are getting the most out of every vintage - even when it means getting a tiny crop in a less favourable year. They have decided to use some of Champagne’s “other” grapes in Arbanne, Pinot Blanc, and Petit Meslier, as well as make wines from a single vineyard of Meunier. Their vineyard practices are geared toward allowing the vines to extract the most out of their plot therefore expressing this sense of terroir through the finished wines.
And then we get to their winemaking...where the innovation and veering from tradition is taken to a whole new level.
The wines of Champagne Tarlant have long been regarded as superb quality, and once again, you would think introducing wide scale changes would be a risky move, and once again, Tarlant does something completely out of the ordinary: Every one of Champagne Tarlant’s wines is Brut Nature. From top to bottom, not a single wine receives any dosage whatsoever. Their two NV cuvées are called Brut Zero and Rosé Zero respectively. Benoit Tarlant, the 12th generation winemaker now at the head of the Domaine, believes that the addition of sugar is unnecessary. He believes that you can achieve the roundness and drinkability by, first, making a balanced wine, and then, allowing the wines time to develop into what they are meant to be. The result of this philosophy now sees their NV cuvées receiving 6-7 years resting on lees before dégorgément. Cuvèe Louis - a wine appropriately named after Louis Tarlant - is a testament to this idea of allowing time to play its part. I was fortunate enough to taste several vintages, one of which was still resting on lees and had been doing so for almost 20 years...still in need of more time. Beyond this, there were signs of other ideas popping up as I walked around the Domaine. While I was in their cellars I noticed clay amphora and was told that they are now experimenting with these to see if they will be something valuable to their wines. A now famous cuvée of theirs, BAM!, is made of those 3 “other”grapes I mentioned earlier. Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, Petit Meslier; again, all varietals that are seldom used in the region much at all, and yet, this wine is a hard-to-get-your-hands-on (worldwide!) due to not only its uniqueness but the shockingly delightful character.
As Benoit and Mélanie continue pushing the boundaries of this region, we can be assured they do not seem to have any sign of slowing their discovery down any time soon. This seems all too appropriate since the Domaine has always had such a reputation for their influence. Being a leader and a pioneer in Champagne, it is only fitting that these two continue to carry that flag and carve the way with a surging movement of Growers now at their side.