It has been a few years since we’ve added any producers to our Champagne portfolio. I’m not especially in the hunt for new estates, but I taste at dozens of new places every time I’m in the region. It’s mostly to stay on top of what’s going on out there, and to have first-hand experience with the wines and producers other people are talking or writing about. I find most of what I taste to be decent enough, but rarely do I find anything exciting enough to make me want to do something about it.
I was turned on to Champagne Janisson-Baradon by our producer and friend and producer Jérôme Coessens – he said his buddy Cyril in Épernay was “getting very serious” and starting to make some great stuff. The city of Épernay is home to the dreaded Moët et Chandon and dozens of the famous large negociant houses, but it’s rare to find a good grower-producer based there. I was intrigued to say the least.
Cyril Janisson (above) and his brother Maxence are the 5th generation of the family to run the estate, with Cyril taking over in 1997 and Maxence joining him in the cellar as of 2004. Together they make wines from their 22-acre estate, which is almost exclusively on the hillsides surrounding Épernay. In 2014 they opened up a tasting room and retail shop on the Place de la République (below) in the heart of Épernay, and their wines are quickly getting very well known in France and by the hordes of European tourists who descend on the city all year long. The wines are a great secret outside of Europe and have been harder to find than hen’s teeth in the US. I’ve managed to snag a small allocation for you, and I’m proud to add Janisson-Baradon to the Caveau family.
The soils surrounding Épernay have heavy concentrations of clay mixed in with the chalk, and the resulting wines tend to be on the bigger, more powerful end of the spectrum. The Janisson-Baradon wines always show a deep fruit expression and are rich in body. There is a fair amount of older reserve wines in most of the cuvées. The reserve wine is all aged in older oak barrels, which adds some heft and texture and brings the wines into a beautiful balance.