Two Great Champagne Houses: Gosset and Henriot
“While I was teaching–in an earlier life–I used to work part-time in a local wine shop, to feed my growing passion for wine. I quickly noticed that customers usually selected wines whose names they were familiar with; this was especially true with Champagne. In the New York metro area, Veuve Clicquot’s ‘Yellow Label’ ruled, along with Moêt & Chandon (and its prestige cuvée, Dom Pérignon). Perrier-Jouet got some attention, but not too many other Champagnes.
“I knew that Moêt & Chandon was by far the world’s leading Champagne brand in sales, followed by Veuve Clicquot, and so I was not surprised. But I was disappointed that so many other very fine Champagne producers, including the many Grower / Producer Champagnes (today far more common in wine shops) were apparently unknown by most consumers. And so I took on a personal campaign to familiarize customers with Champagne producers that I respected.
“Among the many producers, two of my favorite Champagne houses have always been Gosset and Henriot, both similar in style. I should explain at this time that I have visited the Champagne region at least twenty times over the years, and have written a book about Champagne.
“Now, both Gosset and Henriot are introducing new cuvées into the U.S. market this year. I attended both opening ceremonies of their release in the U.S. recently. I concluded that these fine houses have much in common, and decided to spotlight them together in this column.
“Both Gosset and Henriot have a long history in the Champagne region. Gosset is actually the oldest wine house in Champagne; it was founded by Pierre Gosset in 1584. But Gosset made red wine at that time, and finally switched to Champagne, the bubbly stuff, in the late 1700s. (Ruinart, another excellent house, is the oldest Champagne producer, making it continuously since 1729.) Henriot was founded in 1808.
“The Gosset family owned the Champagne house until 1993, when the Renaud-Cointreau family, producers of Frapin Cognac, purchased Gosset, and they still run it today. The charming, dynamic Beatrice Cointreau was in charge at first; she streamlined the Champagne line and made Gosset much more attractively packaged. Jean-Pierre Cointreau, Beatrice’s older brother, now manages Gosset. Sadly, Gosset’s cellar master for 33 years, Jean-Pierre Mareigner, just passed away this year at the age of 60.
“Gosset basically has had four lines of Champagne:
— Gosset Excellence, its standard non-Vintage brut;
— Gosset Grande Réserve, its elite NV Brut, made from Grand and Premier Cru grapes;
— This category also includes a Grand Rosé NV Brut and Grand Blanc de Blancs NV Brut;
— Gosset Millésime Brut; its current Vintage Brut is the 2006;
– -Gosset Célébris Extra Brut, its Prestige Cuvée, championed by the Cointreau family; its current vintage is the excellent 2002; the Célébris Extra Brut Rosé is the 2007.
“A fifth line has now been added: Cuvée 15 Brut. It is a blend of many of the best vintages from the ‘80s to the late ‘90s. Cuvée 15 was cellared in 1999, and has rested on its lees in Gosset’s cold cellar for 15 years (hence the name) before being disgorged…”