José Dhondt Champagne
It was wasn’t until 1974 that José Dhondt, a longtime grower, produced his first cuvée. José makes three wines, a NV Rosé, a NV Blanc de Blancs and another he calls “Mes Vieille Vignes,” which, while always made from grapes of a single year, is only vintage dated when José decides it’s been an especially good year in the vineyard. Whether the “Mes Vieille Vignes” cuvée is vintage dated or not, it is astoundingly good Champagne, with a richness and persistence that is truly unparalleled.
The Dhondt family’s 6 hectares are split over several parcels, equally divided between the Côte des Blancs and the Sézannes regions. The vines average 25 years of age, though grapes for his “Vieilles Vignes” cuvée come from 56 year old vines on a tiny parcel on a slope of Oger that was planted by José’s grandfather. Dhondt avoids chemicals as much as possible, practicing what the French call “culture raisonnée.” He keeps yields low with a severe debudding and sorts grapes mercilessly before they go into the press. Pressing is done in a traditional vertical wood press and only one “retrousse” is allowed. Vinification is in small temperature controlled stainless steel vats with individual lots kept separate.