Alexandre Penet – A Man with a Plan
What do you do to make your wines stand out from the crowd if you’re one of the 2,500 or so small Grower Champagne makers?
The answer is to think outside the box, broaden your ideas and find your own distinctive style. Alexandre Penet of La Maison Penet is a classic example of someone who’s doing just that.
Born into a family with roots in Champagne going back over 400 years Alexandre grew up watching his grandfather and father make Champagne , but he went to college to study engineering and, after qualifying, left Champagne to work overseas in Brazil and in Africa for a number of years in industries that have nothing to do with wine-making. Just for good measure he also found time to gain an MBA from the University of Chicago Business School.
When Alexandre did decide to come back to Champagne he had a clear vision of what he wanted to create: ‘ terroir Champagnes’ that are the embodiment of the place they come from.
Finding the sense of place was relatively easy : all the Penet family’s 15 acres of vineyards are located in the two neighbouring villages of Verzy and Verzenay, two of just 17 villages in Champagne to be given the top designation of ‘Grand Cru’.
Creating a unique style though required Alexandre to make two bold decisions. Unlike most Champagne makers, he decided to avoid malolactic fermentation and what’s more, to use little or no dosage, both of which, he believes, can mask the true flavour of the fruit.
The result has been a resounding success with one renowned French wine journal describing Alexandre as “One of our best discoveries in La Montagne de Reims for 25 years”
There are two separate ranges under the umbrella of La Maison Penet.
The Penet-Chardonnet range features extra-long ageing, partially in oak barrels, and includes 2 single-plot cuvées, the only zero-dosage, Grand Cru rosé on the market and the top of the range Cuvée Diane Claire, a blend from the 2002 harvest, (92/100 Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW)
The nose has a flood of crisp, lemony fruit and a big core of bruised apple and a touch of honey or toffee too in a quite complex picture… A beautifully balanced, concentrated wine (Tom Cannavan)
These are almost hand-crafted Champagnes for real enthusiasts and are available in limited quantities only; they’re ideal for matching with fine food. Each bottle is individually numbered and bears the date of disgorging.
For more casual drinking there’s also the Alexandre Penet range which offers 5 more Champagnes, available in slightly larger quantities, that provide the ideal introduction to low dosage Champagnes for those less familiar with this vibrant, fresh style.
Author: Jiles Halling is an Englishman and long-time resident in Champagne.