In the Family of Frerejean Frères
Tony Cox explores one of the youngest French Champagne houses that uses its youth to break free from convention because, well – somebody has to.
Frerejean Frères is a collaboration between three brothers (frères) with a family history both of craftsmanship (their ancestors were cannon makers in Napoleonic times) and an immersion in the terroir and wines of the Champagne region.
Being part of the Taittinger family from their mother’s lineage the three founders Guillaume, Richard and Rodolphe, have grown up with an innate feel for the vines and wines of the region.
Starting their business in 2005 they respect the traditions, especially in the vineyard; yet they take a more innovative approach to production, being more attuned to a grower style, where terroir is emphasised more than blending to a particular house style.
Based in Avize, in the heart of the Côtes des Blancs, Frerejean Frères is about highlighting chardonnay from Grand Cru and Premier Cru sites and whilst pinot noir is utilised, it never dominates.
The House shingle is squarely hung on the Premier Cru Brut. Being an even blend of chardonnay and pinot noir only, and aged for a minimum of six years with low dosage, the extended ageing is obvious on the nose with the yeastiness flowing to the palate.
It is precise, long, with a decided saline note to close; the low dosage further highlighting how linear chardonnay from the Côtes des Blancs can be; while some malolactic fermentation adds a little mid-palate texture.
A recent addition to the range has been the Grande Reserve which is the only wine produced incorporating pinot meunier. Featuring 50% chardonnay, 30% pinot noir and 20% pinot meunier it is aged for close to four years.
The meunier provides lifted floral aromatics and whilst there is that always-evident linearity of chardonnay, the presence of both black grapes provides roundness and allows darker fruit flavours and aromas to be present.
Their Blanc de Blancs is a blend of various vintages and reserve wines and undergoes extensive ageing. I looked back at my one word tasting note from a Mother’s Day lunch at Season with CEO Rodolphe. ‘Delicious’ was scribbled alongside, and it complimented the prawn ravioli exceedingly well.
For those wanting a further description, the wine had citrus elements but also drifted into riper tropical notes of papaya and passionfruit.
Whilst we sampled seven wines in total at lunch the highlight was the VV26.
This is a Blanc de Blancs from some vines dating back to 1926 and Grand Cru villages only.
Predominantly 60-90 year old vines, with most from Cramant and small quantities from Avize and Oger, this 50/50 blend of 2008 and 2009 vintages is more akin to an aged white Burgundy.
With the extended ageing displaying less effervescence, the full and voluptuous palate tapers to a long, saline finish. This was a wine I was happy to let warm a little as it opened over time, slowly revealing more.
At the conclusion of lunch I was handed the remainder of the VV26 to take home – what a phenomenal way to enjoy Mother’s Day and as I do not have children it was definitely a case of ‘here’s to me’!
With the house not yet even 20 years in business and with their policy of extended ageing the resource commitment is intense.
We have only recently seen the arrival of Frerejean Frères wines in Australia so keep an eye out for it. Particularly if you enjoy the delights of chardonnay-dominant Champagne from the Côtes des Blancs, don’t hesitate to pop the cork on any of the Frerejean Frères range. Sante!