The secret is out, Champagne will no longer be a rare treat as I have just discovered some exciting and elegant wines, where the quality to price ratio is so good, it could fool anyone into thinking you spent some extra time (and money) on the perfect Champagne. Allow me to introduce you to….. Champagne Devaux.
Champagne Devaux has been making wine since 1846, and originally founded by two brothers named Jules and August Devaux. Today, it is a co-op of many growers, all contributing to the beauty and purity that is Devaux. The vineyards are located in Côte des Bar, where Pinot Noir does particularly well, and is the dominant grape variety planted, followed by Chardonnay and a bit of Pinot Meunier.
Recently, I had the opportunity of sitting with Jean Noel Girard, export manager for Champagne Devaux and tasted through some examples that are available on the Quebec market. Not being very familiar with the House or their style, I was going into the tasting with a very open mind and of course a very eager palate, as one does when they are about to taste Champagne. The tasting was outstanding of course, but I was especially impressed by the ‘D Collection’ and the Coeur Des Bars, a Blanc de Noirs ( 100% Pinot Noir).
These wines offered more complexity of flavours, autolytic evolution and purity of fruit at an excellent price point, in comparison to other wines that are in this price range. What accounts for this quality for price ratio? Well, there are a few things.
To start, it’s the price of the grapes. Grapes in Côte des Bars are less expensive in comparison to other regions in Champagne. Côte des Bars is located roughly two hours from Reims, in the Aube department. Historically, this area supplied its neighbours to the north with grapes, as Côte des Bars was not considered the ultimate area for top quality Champagne.
Thankfully, that false reputation is being busted because beautiful things are happening in this area with plenty of top quality grower Champagnes, release of single vintages, and experimentations with a younger, eager crowd of growers. Champagne Devaux is highlighting the power and potential of this grape throughout their range wines.
Champagne Devaux is also a coop, which means that tax on grapes here are lower compared to other areas. There is no short cut on quality here, just a simple advantage that co-ops have when it comes to wine. Their suppliers take part in sustainable viticulture and they work closely with them, ensuring optimal quality of grapes.
The style of Devaux is to make wines are that rich and expressive without losing the elegance that is Champagne. One important factor in their style is their use of the first pressed juice, called the cuvée, in the blend for their classics and their Collection D. First pressed juice is considered the best, most purest juice that is rich in sugar and acid which makes wine with the most potential for complexity and aging potential.
Another factor is that the reserve wines are aged in oak vats, which contribute a complexity and softness to the style. There is also extended lees aging in the bottles. ( Lees are dead yeast cells that get released in wine after fermentation. They contribute that attractive brioche, buttered toast notes on the Champagne.)
Law dictates that Champagne must be aged on its lees for a minimum of 15 months in the bottle for release, of which 12 months are matured on lees. Devaux ages its Classique series for a minimum of 3 years (36 months), and for its Collection D series, 5 years (60 months).
Devaux is making Champagne with tremendous heart and dedication for the sole purpose of it being enjoyed by people like you and me. Every step of the process, from the growers they work with, to the aging process, down to the details of the bottling has been carefully thought out and crafted.
All these factors above harmonize the wine into beautiful, soft and elegant Champagne. A rich and pristine style that can be appealing to many different palates.
The wines listed below are ones that I have personally tasted, thoroughly enjoyed, and available at the SAQ. They come highly recommended, especially given the quality and value. To find out more about the wines of Champagne Devaux, take a look at their website at www.champagne-devaux.com.
Devaux Grande Réserve Brut
SAQ : 11374315 $52.75
Made with a majority of first pressed juice of Pinot Noir, and come Chardonnay from Côte des Bars. It contains 25% reserve wine, of which approximately half was aged in large oak casks. 8g/L of residual sugar.
A little richer in style, this wine still has an incredible freshness, structure and elegance. A mineral driven wine with notes of citrus like grapefruit and lemon, with undertones of baked apple pie and warm spice. It has excellent acidity and freshness with fine, persistent and soft bubbles. The finish is very clean, with notes of citrus, salt and a bit of buttered toast; beautiful Champagne.
Devaux Ultra D
SAQ : 1338550 $59.75
This is a blend of first pressed juice of Pinot Noir (55%) and Chardonnay (45%), coming from select vineyards. Fermentation was in stainless steel tanks finishing on 300L wooden barrels. Partial malolactic fermentation. 3g/L residual sugar.
Notes of baked apple pie with warm spices and cream, with citrus like grapefruit and mandarine. This wine is all about freshness, having an excellent acidity in line with saline and chalky impressions. Bubbles are long lived and finely textured moving into a very elegant finish with spice and buttered toast. Mineral driven, elegant and prestine.
Devaux Blanc de Noirs Brut
SAQ : 11588381 $52.25
My personal favourite, this wine is 100% Pinot Noir fermented in stainless steel tanks, then with some time in 300L barrels followed by malolactic fermentation. 3g/L residual sugar.
This wine offers notes of apples and grapefruit, with a mouth watering salinity. The high acidity makes for a clean and attractive palate, along side bubbles are persistent, soft and very delicate adding texture and complexity. The long finish focuses on notes of brioche, white peach and chalk . A very refreshing, elegant wine with excellent structure and brightness. Absolutely delicious.