The Champagne vineyards of the Marne don’t just stop at the end of the Côte des Blancs. Just under them are those of the Sézannais. They continue over the border with the Aube at Villenauxe-la -Grande. Fontaine-Denis is just a stone’s throw away and it was here I met Florent Collet.
Florent has run the house with his two brothers , Vincent and Thomas , since 2003. The office has a view across the rooftops of the village to it’s church. It’s tucked into a corner of the vineyards where the family has scattered parcels amounting to about 5ha of vines.
Before the 1960’s the area was planted with varieties such as pinot gris and gamay that were used to make wine mainly for household consuumption. The big houses in the Marne then turned their interest to the Sézannais and and the three dominant varieties took over. Domaine Collet now has 60% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 5% PinotMeunierr. The vines are managed for sustainable viticulture.
Florent’s father René started to make his own brand Champagne in the 1970’s through a co-operative. The family continues this tradition by pressing grapes for other local Champagne makers.
The cellars are partly under the vines. Behind a closed door are a handful of squat stainless steel tanks. The rest of the space is given over to 50 oak barrels and 4 casks. The house also has an example of trending technology. An egg shaped concrete tank that’s said to have the same qualities as a barrel.
The house’s two brands are marked on each side of the main gate. There’s Champagne René Collet on the left. On the right is Champagne Anthime. It’s named after a great great uncle who lost a leg during the First World War. Florent is keen to introduce new brands.
The house makes around 46,000 bottles a year. It’s sold in countries from Switzerland to Japan. The Japanese have already bought many hundreds of bottles and are eagerly waiting for more. The English and Ameican markets with their many competitors are waiting to be developed.
Florent is the president of Secraie an organisation that wants to promote the Champagne of the Sézannais. They’ll be holding a tasting in Sézanne on 7th February. I’d say not to wait and visit the house as they make great Champagne at very good prices.