The great terroirs of Champagne’s Côte des Blancs give birth to wines of well-deserved renown, and it is here—on the slopes of grand crus like Avize, Cramant, Le Mesnil sur Oger, and Oger—that Chardonnay (comprising 95% of the total vineyard area) achieves an unparalleled combination of finesse, power, and longevity. Of course, much of the fruit from these hallowed villages finds its way into the blends of the big houses, where their distinct characters are subsumed within the consistency-above-all nature of these massively scaled products. Thankfully, as in other subregions of Champagne, a growing number of vignerons are producing increasingly terroir-dominant wines, prioritizing the individuality of each cru and the variability of each growing season.
The Franck Bonville estate in Avize has been producing wine from their holdings in Avize, Oger, and Le Mesnil sur Oger for four generations, and today Olivier Bonville, along with his son-in-law Ferdinand Ruelle-Dudel, are guiding the 15-hectare domaine toward ever more precise and distinctive renderings of these terroirs. Currently certified Haute Valeur Environnementale, they have eschewed the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides for over a decade now, and they are currently converting their 77 assorted parcels to fully organic viticulture bit by bit.
Bonville’s nine hectares in grand cru Avize comprise the heart of their holdings, augmented by four and a half hectares in grand cru Oger, and a hectare and a half in the coveted chalk of grand cru Le Mesnil sur Oger. Their spacious and beautifully understated cellar, constructed in the 1850s, accommodates a production of roughly 130,000 bottles per year, and allows them to employ extended lees aging for many of their cuvées. They do not block malolactic fermentation, and while most of their wines are vinified and aged in stainless steel before bottling for their secondary fermentations, they employ oak aging for their single-parcel “Les Belles Voyes” and plan to expand that element of their regimen based on the positive results they’ve obtained.
While they have long produced Champagnes of great character and typicity—as evidenced by an impressive lineup of older bottles we drank at our first visit—Bonville’s improvements in farming, along with their increasing emphasis on single-cru, single-vintage bottlings and a more nuanced approach to dosage (determined by blind trials), have elevated quality here to new heights. More than ever, one feels in their wines the mineral strictness of Avize and its poor soils, the gourmand sumptuousness of Oger, and the regal poise of Le Mesnil, and we are thrilled to begin our partnership with Olivier and Ferdinand during this exciting phase of their evolution.
Certified Haute Valeur Environnementale; undergoing organic conversion as of 2022
Entirely estate fruit
Inoculation with neutral yeasts
Wines undergo malolactic
Primarily in stainless steel with oak employed for top cuvees
Determined by blind tasting trials