The Grand Cru village of Ambonnay is now regarded as the king of Pinot Noir villages. The power of red fruits is always in counter point with lovely acidity and minerality. Only Ambonnay delivers on all these aspects of what makes a fine Champagne. Ambonnay is home to the ‘greats’ of Champagne. Egly-Ouriet, Eric Rodez, Benoit Marguet, and Dethune. Of course Krug have their outrageous Clos d’Ambonnay to set the bar extremely high.
With vineyards in Ambonnay and Bouzy in the south of Montagne de Reims, Marie-Noëlle Ledru is a rare breed of female vigneron – she calls herself a ‘viticultrice’. As a civil servant, she inherited the property from her parents who retired in 1984. Her philosophy is virtually organic, using no insecticides and no herbicides, and if treatments are necessary, only environment friendly options are considered.
Until recently the Ledru estate was 6 hectares in size but family disputes have resulted in her vineyards being reduced to a 2.5 hectares. 2ha Pinot in Ambonnay and .5ha Chardonnay in Bouzy. The wines are all classically vinified in tank with no oak maturation and malo-lactic fermentations occur. Yields are low, chaptalization is avoided, no filtration, no cold stabilisation, dosages are all low and minimal amounts of sulphur are used during the appropriate wine making processes. Bottles are disgorged by hand. The entire wine making process is manual and labour intensive – and the results speak loud.
The Ledru style focuses on purity, complexity, power and yet all of this is enclosed in an elegant framework. The novice may think that oak is utilised somewhere in the wine making process, but you would be wrong. Precisely manicured and maintained vineyards are the key. “Great wines start in the vineyard” – and Marie-Noëlle is the perfect example. Now she produces tiny quantities of great Champagne, not taking on any new customers and rationing out what she has to loyal existing customers.
The top cuvee is the 100% Pinot Noir called Goulte. Also Marie-Noëlle makes rare roses – two types – by addition and saignee. But quantities are tiny. The regular standard Brut is a masterpiece and shows the style of the Ledru estate at a bargain price.
What can we say – stunning and rare Champagne!
I was lucky to see Marie-Noëlle during the 2017 harvest which she pressed quite happily but decided to sell all the juice off and retire. So her final and last harvest was the 2016 and she has now officially retired, with her grapes now going to the sisters who sell them off. Her last few bottles are rationed out to her long term customers. As they get scarcer they also got more expensive. These are rare and extraordinary Champagnes and maybe my last allocation ever!
The Ledru style is all about elegant red fruit purity. Never fruity, but always enclosed in minerals and citrus sherbet overtones. Creamy and very subtle.