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Champagne Gounel-Lassalle

In the heart of the Marne Valley in Champagne, amidst the celebrated vineyards of Chigny-les-Roses, there resides a maverick; a man whose passion for winemaking transcends tradition, propelling him towards innovation. Arnaud Gounel-Lassalle, billed as the ‘Wine-Rider’ is a visionary whose journey traces back to the roots of his family’s history.

In 1870, Arnaud’s great-grandparents laid the groundwork for what would become a legacy of winemaking excellence; they were the first in the family to anchor their roots in the Premier Cru village of Ludes. The family’s commitment to their craft remained steadfast through the decades, as they continued to participate in the local cooperative of Chigny-les-Roses well into the 1970s. It was during this time that Arnaud’s father, Pierre, assumed the mantle of leadership, expanding their production to 30,000 bottles and elevating the estate to new heights.

Arnaud and his wife Sophie are a dynamic duo, united by a shared vision of excellence

In 2002, the reins of the domaine passed into the hands of Arnaud and his wife, Sophie—a dynamic duo, united by a shared vision of excellence, and they set out together to redefine the estate’s identity with a singular goal in mind: to vinify all their wines independently by 2018. This was an ambitious undertaking, but true to their word, Arnaud and Sophie achieved their goal with aplomb. By 2018, every bottle that bore the Gounel-Lassalle name was a testament to their dedication and craftsmanship. The wines are made with no dosage and they have committed to farming sustainably and organically, hoping for full certification at the end of 2024. Their philosophy ensures authenticity of the wines; zero-dosage does not hide the flavours of the terroir or vintage in times of changing climates.

So why do we look to the smaller growers like Champagne Gounel-Lassalle? Our favourite of the Grande Maison’s such as Champagne Bollinger, Pol Roger or Ruinart all produce Champagnes of excellent quality and consistency, but their production is on a different scale: Bollinger and Ruinart produce somewhere in the region of 2.5 million bottles, Pol Roger a mere 1.5 million, and these are all on the smaller side of the scale for the larger estates. Moet & Chandon produce 30 million bottles, Veuve Clicquot 19 million and even Dom Perignon produces 5 million bottles, but they do not own all their vineyards: they have long-term contracts with growers and might buy their grapes from as many as 1,000 vineyards to create their wines. Champagne Gounel-Lassalle vineyards are all located in Premier Cru villages, such as Chigny-les Roses, Ludes, Rilly-la-Montagne and Barzy-sur-Marne, so immediately we know the source of the grapes is from high calibre vineyards, but the estate totals only 5 hectares of vineyards! Each cuvée shows on its label exactly where the grapes for that Champagne have been grown, each is a celebration of the land from which it is sourced. In a high yielding year, Champagne Gounel-Lassalle might be able to produce as much as 27,000 bottles; 2020 saw 20,000 bottles produced, a substantial difference from the millions produced by even the greatest of Grande Maison’s! But still, only 20,000 bottles of superb quality Champagne!

When you meet Arnaud and Sophie, you know these are growers who are truly intimate with their land. Arnaud’s hands are covered in callouses from spending his time pruning and it’s his decision and every decision, which is made with meticulous care to ensure each parcel reflects the unique character of its terroir. From the vibrant ‘Esprit Voyageur’ dominated by Pinot Meunier (58%), with Pinot Noir (25%), and Chardonnay (17%); to the elegant ‘Terre d’Ancêtres’ an equal split of the three noble grape varieties. The tantalising Rosé ‘29 Parcels’ is produced entirely from Pinot Meunier offering an enticing pale pink hue and captivating berry fruit notes. While Le Haut Balai is produced from a plot of land shaped like Texas, with the balance of fruitiness and minerality perfectly aligned to express purity, precision and incredible character.

Each cuvée is a symphony of flavours and aromas; these are Champagnes that deserve a moment of contemplation: allow the Champagne to develop in the glass and revel in their splendour!

Each cuvée is a symphony of flavours and aromas; these are Champagnes that deserve a moment of contemplation: allow the Champagne to develop in the glass and revel in their splendour! They are a glorious gastronomic accompaniment to fine fare and if enjoyed similarly to the still Premier Cru wines of the Cote d’Or, we believe you will see what character captivated in those fine bubbles: mini explosions of limestone, chalk, minerality, citrus, brioche all exploding together to create these intense yet elegant expressions.

Arnaud Gounel-Lassalle, stands as a beacon of innovation in an industry steeped in tradition. His journey is a testament to the transformative power of passion and the enduring legacy of family. We can’t wait to raise a glass to Arnaud and Sophie Gounel-Lassalle, and to the thrilling adventures that lie ahead for the ‘Wine-Rider’! 

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