Champagne Lancelot Pienne, Cramant

Champagne Lancelot Pienne label

Country & RegionFrance, Champagne
ProducerGilles Lancelot
Foundedlong family history of wine making in the area; Gilles took over in 2005

Gilles Lancelot produces lean, light, bright and crisp, spring-like Champagnes of remarkable purity and freshness. The style…is perfectly dry, pure, very refined, straight and mineral. These are elegant, and rather lean and filigreed rather than big, mouth-filling Champagnes.
        —Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate, October 2015

I had my second round of wines from Gilles Lancelot in Cramant this spring, with his Champagne Lancelot-Pienne bottlings showing beautifully and very much worthy of inclusion in any listing of great grower Champagne.
        —John Gilman, A View from the Cellar, April 2021

Gilles Lancelot is a member of Les Artisans du Champagne, one of the more elite of the bands of growers in Champagne. We met Gilles thanks to Jean-Marc Sélèque, a fellow member who invited us to the Artisan party in Reims during the April 2019 salons. This was at the swank Château les Crayères, and the greeting glass of Lancelot’s La Table Ronde from magnum (2012 base) proved to be one of the most memorable wines of that week of intense tastings.

Champagne Lancelot Pienne cave

Gilles farms 22 acres of vines, more or less the same as his friend Jean-Marc over in Pierry. Gilles’ base is in Cramant, and his 55 parcels are spread along the northern sector of the Côte des Blancs, dip into the Côteaux Sud d’Epernay, and reach into the Marne Valley. The breakdown is as follows:

• Côte des Blancs: 6 acres of Chardonnay in Cramant, Chouilly, Avize and Cuis.
• Côteau Sud d’Epernay (in the villages of Monthelon and Mancy): 4.2 acres of Meunier; 4 acres of Chardonnay; and 1/2 acre of Pinot Noir.
• Montagne de Reims (village of Bisseuil): 1 acre of Chardonnay.
• Vallée de la Marne (village of Boursault): nearly a half-acre of Chardonnay; 4 acres of Meunier; and 2 acres of Pinot Noir.

The varietal breakdown is 60% Chardonnay, 30% Meunier, and 10% Pinot Noir. The oldest vines are 60 years old and the average is 40. As with everything, Gilles is careful with his labels, and each back label is concise with information specific to its cuvée. Annual production averages 70,000 bottles, or just south of 6,000 cases.

He comes from a long line of growers. His great-grandfather cultivated his own grapes in Cramant in the post Great War years while working as Mumm’s vineyard manager, a connection that explains how Gilles was able to buy the old Mumm winery in Cramant early in this century. His grandfather began domain-bottling his Champagne in the post WWII years. In 1967, his father married Brigitte Pienne from Chouilly and the two domains merged. Gilles himself officially took the reins of Lancelot-Pienne in 2005 following his enology studies and after working at his father’s side since 1995.

Champagne Lancelot Pienne Gilles and Julien

This lineage informs him. He has four children (that’s his son Julien above, poised to join him at the domaine) and he takes great care to farm his vines sustainably, with careful monitoring of the parcels to determine disease threats and consequent treatments if required. Each of his many parcels offers something different, and each is farmed and trained in ways that best suit it and its grape variety. He’s a keen blender, and is careful to ferment only in steel or glass-lined concrete vats in order to have the clearest expression of the wine. He likes malolactic fermentations for the aromatic complexity this gives, and he leaves his wine in tank or vat over the winter, bottling in the spring or summer before ageing the wine sur latte (i.e., in bottles on their sides on thin wooden battens). Upon disgorging, he uses the minimum dosage to showcase the wine’s origins. His reserve wines come from perpetual reserves that he began around the turn of this century. What he likes most in wine is detailed clarity and elegance.

Champagne Lancelot Pienne vines in winter

The Wines

Instant Présent NVChardonnay
The perfect apéritif wine, fresh, lifted, chalky, and full of white and yellow orchard fruits. This comes from vines averaging 40 years of age growing along the Côte des Blancs as well as from Monthelon and Mancy, two villages south of Epernay in the Côteaux Sud d’Epernay. Aged on its lees for 30 months before disgorgement. This used to be dosed with 7 grams of sugar, but since the release of the 2018 base the dosage has gone to 6 grams.

FYI, for those with an interest in dosage, here is what Gilles does: "I use beet sugar to make our liqueur d’expédition. The important thing is that the liqueur d’expédition does not alter the characteristics of our wines. Thus, we develop our liqueur by mixing beet sugar with a blend made of vin clair from the last harvest and from our perpetual reserve wines."
Accord Majeur NV
70% Pinot Meunier, 15% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot NoirThe wine comes from 40 parcels with an average age of 50 years. It’s an accord (“major agreement”) between three grapes and three terroirs—Chardonnay and Meunier from the Côteaux Sud, and Pinot Noir from the hills around Boursault in the Marne Valley. The wine is bottled in March after the harvest and aged for five years on the lees before disgorgement. It’s dosed at 5 grams.
Grand Cru Table Ronde NVChardonnayGrand Cru vines in Cramant (60%) for its dominant expression of creaminess and mineral chalk salinity; Chouilly (30%) for fruitiness and elegance; Avize (10%) for steely acidity and freshness. The vines come from 21 parcels averaging 50 years of age and 80% of the wine comes from one vintage, with the remaining 20% coming from a perpetual cuvée system of the domaine’s grand cru Chardonnay. It’s bottled in July after the harvest and rests on its lees for around 3 1/2 years before disgorgement. 3.5 grams of dosage.

The name comes, of course, from the tale of the knights of King Arthur’s court, of which Lancelot was prominent. In real life, Gilles Lancelot married Céline Perceval, and Perceval was another legendary knight in the myth, so it seemed fitting for them to have a Holy Grail wine. Such is The Round Table.
Grand Cru Cuvée Marie Lancelot VintageChardonnayGilles' acclaimed rendition of Cramant, a terroir that has considerable complexity given that its vines descend off the ridge both to the east (to Avize, Oiry, and Chouilly) and the west (to Cuis), and face every exposition. This comes from six plots spread across the commune: Les Bourons, Les Porgeons, Les Buzons, Les Gouttes d’Or, Le Moyen du Couchant and Les Fourches. Vine age averages 50 years. Fermentation and elevage are done in steel, aging on the lees lasts at least 42 months, and dosage is 3.5 grams. 200 cases annually.