Fiendish Wine Quiz winner Tony Hughes enjoyed a sparkling trip to Champagne Gosset, writes Christine Austin

‘I really enjoyed the cellars, and the vineyards, and especially the tasting but for me the best part of the visits was just talking to the people at Champagne Gosset.  They were so friendly, so knowledgeable, and they were so keen to show us how Champagne is made.’

Tony Hughes was delighted with his trip to Champagne Gosset as his prize for winning the 2017 Fiendish Wine Quiz.  He was accompanied on this 2-night trip to the Champagne region by wife, Kathy, and never one to miss out on a visit to this wonderful region, I tagged along to find out more.

Gosset is on the ‘small and beautiful’ scale of Champagne production.  It was founded in 1584 by Pierre Gosset, who was an alderman and winegrower in Aÿ, in the heart of Champagne.  In those days Gosset made still red wines but gradually started to produce sparkling wines.  Now, after 400 years, Gosset has become an icon of serious quality Champagne.

The company remained in the hands of the Gosset family for 16 generations, but 25 years ago they sold it to close friends, the family-owned Renaud-Cointreau group who also own Frapin Cognac.  Frapin has a venerable history, having been founded in 1270.  It is with careful regard to their history and continuity that Champagne Gosset has developed in recent years.

Our tour started at Gosset’s premises in Epernay, which have over a century of history, a newly-equipped fermentation cellar and almost 2 kilometres of historic underground cellars.  Graffiti on the walls of these cellars suggests that in December 1944 American troops may have found shelter and maybe a bottle or two down here.

Natalie Dufour, who has worked at Gosset for 24 years, welcomed us and gave us the background to the region.  She described the three key areas of vineyards and their soils such as the chalk and limestone slopes of the Montagne de Reims, where mainly Pinot Noir is grown; the deeper soils of Vallée de la Marne, home to Pinot Meunier and the chalky hillsides of the Côte des Blancs, famous for its Chardonnay.  We then jumped into the car and headed out to see those vines and the different slopes and soils that have such an influence on the flavours in the grapes.

We trod the ground at various sites, examined the training styles, smelt the delicate aroma of the flowering vines and noticed how the best sites were on slopes facing south or east.

From there it was back to Domaine Gosset for a much-needed glass of champagne and the delightfully fresh-tasting Grande Blanc de Blancs Brut was poured alongside canapés.  This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and is aged in the cellars for four years, developing citrus, quince and honeyed notes, with an almost savoury, salty note on the finish.

Lunch followed, each course matched against a different champagne, and each one harmonizing perfectly with the food.

From there it was down to the cellars, 18 metres underground. These cellars have a constant temperature and are perfect for maturing champagne.  With the capacity to hold 3 million bottles they are a necessary asset for Gosset which ages its champagne much longer than the legal minimums.  For example a non-vintage wine need only be aged for 12 months to comply with the rules but at Gosset they allow the Grande Réserve to rest and mature for well over three years while vintage wines are often matured for eight years in order to develop complexity and harmony.

Gosset has a particular style, developed by long-time former winemaker Jean-Pierre Mareigner, and now continued by general manager and winemaker Odilon de Varine, who speaks remarkably good English having spent his student summers picking strawberries in Kirk Deighton, Yorkshire.

Tony and Kathy Hughes meet winemaker Odilon de Varine

His philosophy, and that of Gosset, is to maintain high quality in the wines by carefully selecting the grapes that go to make the final cuvées.   Many of the growers that are chosen to work with Gosset have been supplying grapes for generations.  Because they are based in some of the best vineyard sites, they provide grapes with different characteristics and flavours.  It is by blending those elements that the final wine achieves the complexity of flavour and finesse that Gosset is known for.

After a walk around the grounds of Domaine Gosset, it was time to return to the hotel in preparation for dinner with yet more champagne.

So what was Tony’s favourite champagne?  ‘Well I liked them all – but the 2006 Vintage was exceptional – like nothing I have tasted before with gorgeous layers of flavour that went perfectly with food.’

Gosset champagnes are generally sold through independent retailers.  This is where you can find them.

Grande Blanc de Blancs Brut

Now in its new, clear bottle this is a fresh-tasting, lively champagne, perfect as an aperitif.  Made from 100% Chardonnay it has citrus, quince and honeyed notes, and a savoury note on the finish.  Available at priced £60.

Grande Réserve Brut

Not a vintage wine, but is so good, it could be. Mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with just a splash of Pinot Meunier it has toast, honey and white floral notes with almonds and a hint of spice. Perfect served alongside asparagus and scallops.

Available from Bon Coeur in Melsonby (01325 776446) at £46.19.

Grand Millésime 2006 Brut

A gloriously complex and lively wine, with citrus, ripe pear and honeyed notes, pink grapefruit, toasted apple and a light minerally crunch.  Served with truffle-stuffed guinea fowl it was divine, and it went perfectly with the cheese course too.

Head to Wine Array in Boroughbridge (01423323337) for the glorious 2000 vintage of this wine (£69).

Petite Douceur Rosé Extra Dry

Served with a dessert of raspberry, lemon and choux pastry, this rosé was packed with its own array of red fruits, with a clean zing of citrus on the finish.

Available from at £57.50.

Grand Rosé Brut

This delightful, strawberry-scented, dry, appetite-inducing rosé wine was developed in the 1950’s for at the request of Suzanne Gosset.  Clearly she had good taste; this is a delightful wine, perfect for summer days and weddings.

Available at Bon Coeur Fine Wines at £52.25.

And a final word from Tony.  ‘This has been an absolutely fantastic trip. My thanks go to everyone at Champagne Gosset.’



About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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