CHAMPAGNE OLIVIER HORIOT | Making the Aube Great Again

Meeting Olivier Horiot at his domain in the Côte des Bar in the Aube region requires a good two-hour drive from Reims. Located in the village of Les Riceys, Champagne’s southern border with Burgundy is just a few minutes away. Olivier Horiot is the third generation of his grape grower family and his father Serge was one of the co-founders of the cooperative in Les Riceys, which continues to be an important supplier of Pinot Noir for many big champagne brands.

After his wine studies in Beaune and some time spent at harvests abroad, in 1999 Olivier arrived at the family domain in Les Riceys, full of ideas and motivation. The specialty of the small village of Les Riceys is the three appellations under which they can produce their wines: AOC Champagne for sparkling wines, AOC Côteaux Champenois for white and red wines, and AOC Rosé des Riceys for the special rosé still wines that are produced from Pinot Noir.

During his first years at the domain, Olivier decides to focus fully on still wines, with the rather unknown Rosé des Riceys at the center of his attention and the Côteaux Champenois red and white on either side. His family have been making Rosé des Riceys for a long time and Olivier is interested to see how he can improve and change the wines by applying the Burgundian winemaking techniques he has learned and tickling the vines to bring more unique terroir expression to his wines.

Champagne Olivier Horiot

He consequently convinces his father to operate in a more sustainable way and start working the soil mechanically in order to stop all herbicides and favor terroir typicity, and then chooses two plots, as diverse as possible, to embark on his new endeavor.

The plots, Valingrain and Les Barmonts, are completely different in their soil structures and therefore produce very opposite characters of wine. Valingrain, with its marl and limestone soils, makes for delicate and refined wines, while Les Barmonts, with lots of clay on top of the limestone, brings out more opulent wines due to its thick clay layer covering the limestone. The expressions he achieves are powerful and unique and he can’t understand why the Pinot Noir grapes of the Aube are commonly said to be too overtly fruity and heavy, and often seen as being of lesser quality within Champagne.

“The Aube is still dealing with many different prejudices from all sides,” Olivier resumes. “The big champagne houses still say that wines from the Aube are rich, aromatic, and heavy. This was one of my inspirations to make my first champagne.”



Read the full story in CUVÉE Magazine No. 3 | Spéciale Champagne.

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Written by

Stefanie is the founder and chief editor of CUVÉE Magazine. Epicurean at heart and wine professional in life, she writes about all things wine and food that pamper her palate. Living in Champagne and holding the Champagne Master Level Certificate as well as WSET certificates, she can't stop discovering new bottles and the stories behind the labels.

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