Aurelien Suenen left a career in basketball to take over his family's Champagne estate, which he has taken in exciting directions. It doesn't hurt to have neighbors and mentors like Pascal Agrapart and Anselme Selosse.
"Champagne in victory and defeat" certainly sums up my rationalization for drinking a luxury item in such a fraught year. There were plenty of defeats and a few victories, but as we move into the more relaxing and hopefully more fulfilling summer of 2021, Champagne seems even more appropriate as a way to celebrate the opportunity to see the friends and family we've missed so much. We will be celebrating our first customers in our store soon (stay tuned for that announcement later this week). There is much to be hopeful for as we commune together once again.
If there's a Champagne that I would pick for these joyful reunions, Suenen would be high on my list. As far as Champagne goes, it is still one of the best values around. They are true wines of terroir, delicately showcasing the chalky soils of the Cote de Blancs, which Aurelien does with less manipulation in the cellar and more focus on making his vineyards healthy. Though his methods are still not the norm in Champagne, his wines have a broad appeal. Lean and racy with 1-4 grams of dosage, they manage to be refined and pleasurable where others are sharp and challenging. In other words, these are perfect for sharing with anyone and everyone, with zero compromise for Champagne nerds or those who only drink grandes marques.
For those who are looking for an intellectual excuse to drink great Champagne, then look no further, since Suenen's bottlings here are the perfect way to compare and contrast the different villages Aurelien is working with. The Oiry bottling shows off the bracing effects of north-facing vines on white chalk that struggle to ripen. The C+C, from the communes of Chouilly and Cramant, has a touch more give from parcels planted on deeper soil with more clay mixed with the chalk; they face north-west, west, and south-east.
I've tasted these bottles side-by-side on a few special occasions, sipping them over the course of a lazy holiday, and it is a blast. You can really taste the difference, but it's also a thinly-veiled excuse to drink two of my favorite expressions of chalky, Cote de Blancs Chardonnay at the same time. So take one of each, or more, and use it as a thinly-disguised excuse to get together with loved ones again.