The Chardonnet family has lived in the village of Verzenay for over 400 years and the Penet’s have been in Verzy almost as long. Alexandre Penet, having taken over from his parents, is the current member of these families carrying on in the long line of winemaking tradition. Alexandre holds an MBA in engineering from the University of Chicago and an Enology degree from the University of Reims. Before he began his winemaking career he spent time exploring a career away from the vine. He was ultimately drawn back to the champagne region and the family business of crafting world class wines.
Immediately upon his arrival in 2007, Alexandre set out to explore every aspect of his 6 hectares of vines spread over 30 plots in the Grand Cru villages of Verzy and Verzenay. He worked closely with the CIVC and the University of Reims to understand the unique geology of each plot. The diversity found in his various terroirs led to the decision to vinify each separately allowing for each plot to show their unique expressions.
Of his six hectares, five are in Verzy and one is in Verzenay and are planted to two-thirds pinot noir with the remainder being chardonnay. The average vine age is over 30 years old. Farming takes many different forms depending on the needs of each individual vineyard. The goal is always to work as ecologically and sustainable as possible. Most of the estates vineyards are sustainably farmed while others are tended to the needs of their specific site. Alexandre’s approach is to “leverage the terroir” to achieve the best from his land.
When you visit the cellar you will see the state of the art PAI press as well as a multitude of differing fermentation vessels. Since 2009 Alexandre has been fermenting about half of each years harvest in various oak barrels as small as 228L and as large as 600L. The other half is fermented in stainless steel and enamel lined steel tanks. Malolactic is never carried out for any of the wines and he notes that this, ‘suits his specific terroir very well and allows for the wine to retain its freshness and complexity.’ The tradition of blocking ML goes back to his father and grandfather and aids in the tremendous potential for aging. No fining or filtering is ever carried out nor is any artificial cold stabilization.
The Penet-Chardonnet wines represent some of the finest examples of terroir driven, low dosage champagnes in the entirety of the Montagne de Reims. They feature complex rich round textures and the finesse of mineral and salinity notes all coming from two of the finest Grand Cru Villages.