This series of articles will focus on the top wines from a number of Champagne Houses. In Champagne these top wines are referred to as that house’s “Tête de cuvée”. The Tête de Cuvée will be made from a strict selection of the best barrels from the best vineyard parcels. The Tête de Cuvée is very limited in production but it is very important to the Champagne house as it represents the best of the best, the crowning achievement that defines what the house is capable of.
Champagne Deutz was founded in 1838 by William Deutz and Pierre-Herbert Geldermann. Originally known as Deutz-Geldermann it was a founding member of the Grande Marques, Champagne’s association of 24 of the top houses. Deutz was owned by the Deutz family since founding and up until the year 1983 when it was acquired by the Rouzard family. The decision by the family to sell to the Rouzards was an important one. Investment in the winery and the vineyards was required in order to maintain production at the highest quality levels. The Rouzard family has several very prestigious winery holdings in France including Chateaus Pichon Longueville, De Paz and Haut-Beausejour in Bordeaux, Delas Freres in the Northern Rhone and their main driver Champagne Louis Roederer in Champagne. Deutz is run separately from the other houses but has benefitted from the substantial financial investment made by the Rouzards since the acquisition.
Deutz is located in the village of Ay in the Valley de la Marne, one of Champagne’s 5 sub-regions. Here Deutz has their 42.5 acres of owned vineyards, Chateau and winery and their 3 kilometres of underground caves used to store their Champagnes. They also contract to buy grapes from a further 216 acres owned by various growers that Deutz has enjoyed a long relationship and worked very closely with.
Though most of the Deutz line up, including the Cuvée William Deutz, is a blend of Champagne’s three main grapes, the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, it is the Pinot Noir that is planted on the home estate and is the grape variety that shapes the house style and has the most influence in the Cuvée William Deutz blend, being 35% of most vintages, followed by Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
The Cuvée William Deutz uses only juice from the first pressing. This is the gentlest pressing, accomplished by just the weight of the grapes with no additional pressure or assistance. Also referred to as free-run juice it is the most desirable, the most elegant, possessing the least harshness and greatest finesse.
Deutz ferments their wines in steel tanks to preserve freshness. Wines go through malolactic fermentation which gives body and roundness to the texture. The Cuvée William Deutz will typically spend 10 years on its lees, or the spent yeast cells that were used to create the secondary in-bottle fermentation that creates the bubbles in the wine. Such a long time on the lees imparts a lovely autolytic aroma of brioche or rising bread dough. After disgorgement of the yeasts, the wine is held back in the cellars for several more months before being released into the market. The William Deutz is one of the last Tête de Cuvées to be released into the market. Currently there are many vintage Champagnes from the 2009 and 2008 vintages available; the 2006 Cuvée William Deutz is the current release in the market.
Much care goes into the making of all of Champagne’s Tête de Cuvées and the Cuvée William Deutz shows it in its remarkable finesse. The William Deutz, to us, is more of a gastronomic wine than an aperitif. There is enough body in this wine such that its finest qualities really shine when paired with a meal. Our recent tasting of the 2006 was with scallops in an orange sauce over rice. The richness of the scallops worked very well with rich, honeyed texture of the William Deutz. At about CDN $145 this wine is certainly not cheap, but it is less than many Tête de Cuvées and half the price of its famous cousin, Roederer Cristal. Strict selection of only top-quality grapes and 10 years in the making mean high costs and therefore high prices. If there is a special occasion in your life and you feel you can splurge, there is no better way than on a Tête de Cuvée.
2006 Champagne Deutz Cuvée William Deutz
Rich and textured with a full body, this shows the warmth and generosity of the 2006 vintage. The nose is a delectable mix of warm brioche, bread dough and hints of almonds. Flavours of bruised apple, white peach and toasted almonds are delivered on bigger frame that shows great intensity and yet at the same time, great finesse. As the wine evolves in our glass, we start to pick up honey notes together with ripe pear. Gentle acidity gives definition, but the overall impression is one of softness and roundness, not a harsh note to be found anywhere. Impeccable balance.