Anne Gremillet of Champagne Gremillet was in Bangkok for an exclusive tasting event, bringing with her the essence of the Gremillet vineyards, an independent boutique champagne house. The tasting at Vertigo TOO, Banyan Tree Bangkok, had Anne showcasing her champagnes, sharing the family’s craft with an audience keen to discover the bubbles. Importing the bubbly to Thailand is Independent Wine & Spirit (Thailand). A mere 45 km from the administrative heart of the Champagne region, near Troyes, Gremillet estate embodies family aspiration and Champagne tradition. Since its inception in 1979, the vineyard has seen the predominance of Pinot Noir vines, accounting for three-quarters of their plantings in the Côte des Bars area. The estate’s verdant vineyards yield a staggering half a million bottles annually. While the youthful energy of this Champagne house may not echo centuries of history, it’s forging a narrative every day – a story borne from audacity, from a dream realised against all odds.
During the evening, four Champagnes were offered. The Gremillet Sélection Brut is a testament to the estate’s commitment to quality with its pale golden yellow and persistent bubbles. A blend of 70% Pinot Noir for structure and depth and 30% chardonnay for brightness and acidity, it’s not just popular but also internationally recognised. Slated to be rechristened ‘Ambassadeur’ to represent better its ambassadorial role, this non-vintage Champagne represents the Maison’s philosophy of consistency. Matured for 22 months in cellars, it outstrips the appellation’s 15-month ageing requirement, offering a dry palate with restrained sugar, well within the ‘brut’ category.
Meanwhile, the Gremillet Blanc de Blancs delivers a 100% chardonnay hit that resonates with longer lees ageing in stainless steel temperature-controlled vats of 30 months. The extended maturation brings a complexity of aromatic citrus and florals with a caramel finish. Pairing suggestions are roast sea bass or venison or warm fruit tart with caramelised fruit.
The vintage expression, Gremillet Le Millésimé 2017 ‘The Uniques,’ is a bold 100% Pinot Noir statement. It speaks of the vineyard’s capacity to encapsulate a year’s climatic narrative in the glass, patiently refined over five years. It’s full-bodied with a long, fruity finish. Perfect pairing with lamb, I’m told — or caramelised fruit dessert.
The Gremillet Rosé Brut blends 70% Pinot Noir with 30% Chardonnay. Its 22-month maturation period leads to a distinctive profile of mature red and black berries, a trademark of this meticulously crafted salmon pink champagne. Blending four to five vintages, the Champagne comprises only the cuvée (first press). It’s luscious and fresh at the same time.
IN CONVERSATION WITH ANNE GREMILLET
Anne’s journey is intertwined with the story of Champagne Gremillet. What began as a modest venture by her grandmother has transformed under the guidance of her father, Jean-Michel, and the expertise of her brother, Jean-Christophe, carving a niche for itself. As the evening unfolded, Anne shared insights into the world of champagne making, the challenges and opportunities, and the delicate balance between tradition and innovation that defines Champagne Gremillet:“We may not boast centuries of history, but every day at Gremillet is an opportunity to craft our legacy. Our vigour and dedication have cemented our reputation.”
What inspired your family to enter the world of champagne making?
My grandmother, Lulu, bought a few acres of vineyards and sold the grapes to merchants. Her son Jean-Michel, my dad, went one step further and decided to produce and bottle his own Champagne. That’s how Champagne Gremillet was born in 1984. In 2006, I took over marketing and communication, which were non-existent then. We had the know-how and the quality, but we needed to develop a strong marketing strategy and everything that goes with it. My brother Jean-Christophe is the winemaker - he joined the company in 2003, reorganising the winemaking process completely: buying vats and machinery and improving the production process.
Champagne production is an intricate blend of art and science. How has Gremillet maintained its quality over the years? What is the key to your success?
Our consulting oenologist, Mr. Lédé, says the quality of a good champagne is the sum of details from the vineyard to the cellar. Throughout our history and entire range, we have stringent quality criteria that exceed the requirements of the Champagne appellation (using only first-press grapes, a house-made disgorging liqueur, etc.). We craft wines that we love to drink, taking the best of what nature has to offer.
The Champagne terroir is world-renowned. How does Gremillet’s specific location influence the flavour profile and characteristics of your champagnes?
We are in the southern part of Champagne, adjacent to Burgundy. Our terroir in the Côte des Bar is especially favourable to Pinot Noir. The clay-limestone soil provides a certain vigour to the vines. It’s the region where Pinot Noir reaches its peak, producing robust and structured Champagnes with beautiful aromatic complexity. Pinot Noir is the DNA of our house.
Are there any particular challenges or advantages you find in your vineyards?
We are fortunate to have a 55 hectares domaine across 16 villages of the Côte des Bar. It allows us to create a diverse style of cuvées but also helps keep high-quality cuvées despite spring frosts, hail or disease in the vineyards.
Looking forward, how do you see the future of Champagne Gremillet in terms of innovations, challenges, and opportunities? Are there any plans to introduce new products or variations in the coming years?
In recent years, we have restructured our range of champagnes to offer a beautiful diversity. We have ten different cuvées. The 11th reference will be introduced in 2024: Our organic cuvée. In total, 6 hectares have been converted to organic farming. Organic represents less than 10% of the AOC. Our challenge for the years ahead is to keep widening our distribution worldwide and continually optimise our quality.
Any milestones that stand out?
My father had already done a lot of work before my brother and I joined the estate. I saw my parents work hard to build the estate, and they instilled in us the work ethic and the desire to move forward without resting on our laurels. The house is young, and I’ve seen it grow little by little. My earliest memory is of my mother and aunt dressing our first bottles in the basement of our residence before our cellar existed. Things have changed a lot since then.
How do you balance respect for tradition with the need for innovation in the world of Champagne?
Tradition is strongly present in Champagne, propelling us among the most well-known appellations in the world. However, it is not at odds with innovation, which often signifies greater efficiency and opportunities to seize.
The wine industry is increasingly focusing on sustainable practices. What steps is Champagne Gremillet taking to ensure environmental responsibility?
We indeed operate in a world where environmentally friendly practices are no longer an option but an absolute necessity to preserve our planet. We have been HVE certified for ten years, and we calculate our carbon footprint every year with the intention of continually improving it. Beyond vineyard practices, it’s all our daily practices that need consideration. Better waste management and installing solar panels in our production facilities are our challenges for the next two years.
For someone new to the Gremillet range, which bottle would you recommend they start with and why?
Without hesitation, our cuvée Brut Sélection (or Ambassadeur) because it is, in fact, the Ambassador of the brand. It accounts for over 50% of the volume and perfectly embodies the house style. This is the case for all Champagne houses, where the first cuvée is the one by which they intend to be judged, the one that will make people want to discover the rest of the range.
On the four champagnes introduced in Bangkok.
The Brut Sélection, which we will soon call ‘Ambassador’, has the advantage of being versatile and adapts to all occasions due to its fine balance between Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The lightness of the Blanc de Blancs is best enjoyed with fish and seafood. The roundness and complexity of the Vintage can pair perfectly with creamy white meats, for example, and it is also the ideal companion to complement often spicy Thai dishes. Finally, the Rosé is great as an aperitif or after dessert to end on a high note.
Outside of these four available in Thailand, what’s your personal favourite?
It’s hard to choose; the context, the pairing, and the time of day can influence my decision. But if I had to choose just one, it would be our Blanc de Noirs. A rich, well-structured wine with character, perhaps like me!
You use only two grapes – pinot noir and chardonnay? Why?
It’s a choice that came naturally because our terroir in the Côte des Bar is planted with 85% Pinot Noir, making it a natural fit. Some of our blends are complemented with chardonnay to bring finesse and elegance. We prefer wines with freshness and believe more in the ageing potential of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir than in Pinot Meunier, which is the third grape variety of Champagne.
For more on Champagne Gremillet click here: Independent Wine & Spirit (Thailand)