16th August 2019
One of the true great family firms in Champagne from its birth in Ay (1838) until 1990, Deutz fell victim to the effects of the ensuing first Gulf War that triggered acute world recession, compounded by disagreements among family shareholders. So, Head of House André Lallier-Deutz had to consider selling up; he, fortunately, found a saviour in the Louis Roederer family who shared the same values and bought the house in 1995. Quality surged, particularly after the appointment in 2003 the highly regarded Michel Davesne as chef de caves. With the financial means to realise it, a modern new cuverie was built, full of gleaming stainless steel vats. All this played to Deutz’s strengths, whose philosophy had always been to make Champagnes that were close to the purity of fruit from the best crus of Champagne, with a soft digestible mousse that made them so digestible. There has been no oak in the Deutz wines for several decades and none is planned for the future. Those Champagne lovers who came to the final judgings of The World’s Finest Glass of Bubbly Awards in 2017 & 2018 will know that Deutz consistently won top awards, particularly in 2017 winning the overall title for its 2010 Blanc de Blancs, remarkable in a challenging year. It was also my favourite Champagne of the competition in my own little Michael Edwards award, tasted blind. The 2012 vintage won the trophy for Classic & Elegant at the Glass of Bubbly Awards 2018.
So, I was very happy in organising my annual winter trip this February (2019) to put Deutz top of the list for a new visit to taste with Michel Davesne the new still wines (vins clairs) before they were transformed into Champagne. Would the jewel shine as brightly as I had hoped. It did, yet it also showed the honesty and transparency of Michel’s approach. For sure, 2018 is the fruit of a gloriously hot dry summer with record levels of maturity in undeniably great Pinot Noir and arresting Meunier of elegance with strength. Chardonnay across the villages is good to very good but rarely exceptional. Too often the vintage speaks more loudly than the terroir. Playing devil’s advocate, I made a beeline to taste two great Chardonnay villages, Avize and Oger, which were complicated by very high yields – impressively, Michel & his team, have kept the fruit maturity and intensity in both crus, without slipping into decadence, a masterclass into which parcels would best withstand the heat.
New Champagne releases, pick of the bunch tasted Ay, February 2019
Deutz Brut Classic NV – Shimmering bright yellow with green-edged lights. A fine blend of citrus & orchard fruits, lemon, grapefruit, peach and pear. The best Meunier from Pierry & Moussy fill out the palate with floral fruitiness, a touch of baked bread. Greatly improved. 89+
Deutz Blanc de Blancs 2013 – A step up from the 2010 Blanc de Blancs, certainly the 2013 is finer, a walk back into the past, being a late picked year into October. Longer time on the vine has induced real complexities of flavour, all the while retaining an invigorating crispness and energy enlivening maturing flavours of a classic. Quite exceptional. Interplay of fresh lemon & citron confit. Will keep well to 2024. 95
Deutz 2012 – The straight vintage Cuvée, in a great year for Pinot Noir, one of the most interesting vintages for Pinot Noir since 1952. It all slips down so easily, but this is a wine of perfect balance born of perfect harvest conditions, poised intensity of subtle opulence with magic balance of acidity. 94 now will go higher.
Internationally respected Champagne, Sparkling Wine and food author & journalist. Ex Chief Inspector & Wine Editor for the Egon Ronay 'Restaurant Guide'.