Alfred Gratien founded the champagne house in 1864 and started producing his first cuvées. Ever since, Champagne Alfred Gratien has remained a family business. As a negociant they hold two hectares of vines in property, and source the major part of their production from a large number of grape growers within a 40 km radius of Épernay.
Working with around 50 viticulturers in this region, Alfred Gratien has access to over 30 different crus of Champagne in addition to the six crus they cover with their own vines.
“Choosing only the best qualities of must from Grand Crus like Bouzy, Ambonnay, and Le-Mesnil-sur Oger, and Premier Crus like Cumières or Grauves, is certainly a big advantage for us,” says Nicolas Jaeger, sibling of the Gratien family and head winemaker.
Entering the heart of the Maison de Champagne means entering their barrel room. Nearly 1,000 oak barrels stacked up on top of each other are serving vinification and aging needs here, and their heartbeat can be felt while walking through the long lines of barrels from different origins. A picture of Alfred Gratien in the center of the cellar pays tribute to the founder’s spirit and the first house cuvées he created.
Around 60 per cent of their barrels are bought from the cooperative La Chablisienne in Chablis after they have already served four to five years of Chablis production.
“We don’t want to mask the our champagnes with new oak and prefer used barrels to achieve a rounder and denser structure without too much flavor extraction,“ explains Nicolas Jaeger at the domain. “The major part of the oak aromas and tannins have been absorbed by the wines that have aged in them previously. When they arrive, they are cleaned and prepared to our measures by the Tonnellerie Champagne-Ardenne, before they are filled with our wines,” he adds.
The barrels are cautiously watched over by a hygrometer to ensure that the sensitive oak has enough humidity and doesn’t dry out. Depending on temperature and weather conditions, the hygrometer automatically analyzes the correct dose of humidity that needs to be added to the room and an artificial fog is sprayed every couple of minutes.
All the grapes used for production at Champagne Alfred Gratien, whether owned or bought, are pressed as close to the vineyard as possible to ensure the best quality of the must. The must is then transported to Épernay for the vinification. (…)
Read the full story in CUVÉE Magazine No. 3 | Spéciale Champagne.Order your copy in our shop