This article originally appeared in Luxe Beat Magazine in December 2015.
During a visit to the Champagne region of France, I discovered some fabulous small champagne houses. Most of them are open to the public for tastings and tours. Some of them export products to the U.S. or around Europe.
One of the champagne houses I found most intriguing was Dom Caudron. The house hopes to have its champagnes available in international markets soon, but this is definitely one to visit during your next visit to France.
History of Dom Caudron
Dom Caudron covers more than 320 acres in France’s Marne Valley. Back in 1929, the French priest Aimé Caudron gathered about two dozen local vine-growers and suggested they combine their skills to create the champagne collective.
Dom Caudron relaunched in 2010 and today combines the skills and fruit from more than 60 vine-growers who produce mainly Meunier grapes used to make champagne with a high-quality, refined, and fruity flavor.
The Grapes of Dom Caudron
Dom Caudron is based in the village of Passy-Grigny in France’s Marne Valley, about 25 minutes outside Reims. The primary grape in the valley is the Pinot Meunier, usually referred to simply as Meunier.
Meunier is a black grape that is ideal in the combination champagnes produced by Dom Caudron. Meunier is often called the “workhorse” of the Champagne region. Less well known than Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier is grown in areas too cold for the more popular varietals. It has a shorter growing season than Pinot Noir, budding later and ripening earlier.
Dom Caudron, under the guidance of a young and innovative leadership team, effectively blends Meunier to create five extraordinary champagnes, each with a dosage of 9 grams of sugar per liter, for a true Brut Champagne.
Prédiction is a 100 percent Meunier champagne made in the traditional style with full malolactic fermentation. This was Champagne Dom Caudron’s first offering. There are citrus and honey notes and nicely developed bubbles after two years of aging on laths. Prédiction pairs beautifully with salmon, oysters, and shrimp.
Fascinante is a complex rosé that uses traditional wine-making methods. The champagne is a blend of 80 percent Meunier vinified into white wine, 10 percent Meunier vinified into red wine, and the addition of 10 percent oak-aged Chardonnay wine. The champagne rests two years on laths and has a bright berry aroma with a smooth berry taste. This champagne is ideal as an aperitif, alongside melon and prosciutto, or with a strawberry dessert.
The Épicurienne is a blend of grapes from old-growth (over 50 years) Meunier vines. The champagne is aged on lees for five months following alcoholic fermentation. The partial malolactic fermentation and old vines give the Épicurienne its smooth taste and fine bubbles. You can pair this champagne with seafood, sushi, or a lovely fish broth.
Cornalyne is a new champagne concept for Dom Caudron, featuring half of the wine aged in oak barrels. This Meunier combination introduces wine aged in oak barrels and stirred throughout the process to add oaky notes to the finished champagne. This Blanc de Noirs is ideal for gourmands who want to pair champagne with food. It goes beautifully with chicken, venison, duck, or pork.
The Sublimité 50/50 is 50 percent Meunier and 50 percent oak-aged Chardonnay from the best regions of France. The champagne is lath-aged for seven years to give it a soft full flavor. This one pairs beautifully with foie gras, lobster, escargot, or a goat cheese salad.
Visiting Dom Caudron
When you visit Champagne, take time to tour some of the smaller champagne houses, such as Dom Caudron, in the countryside outside Reims.
Dom Caudron offers a variety of tours that help explain the complexity behind the méthode champenoise. The shop and tasting area, with a small museum of winemaking equipment used throughout history, is open all year. The hours vary depending on the season.
If you are coming from Paris, it's easy to get the train to Reims. If you're heading to Champagne from Charles De Gaulle airport, take the TVG train, which is located on the lower level of Terminal 2 adjacent to the Sheraton Hotel. It takes less than 50 minutes to arrive in Reims by train. Rental cars are available at the train station.