Alfred Gratien: The Art of Champagne
Founded in 1864, Alfred Gratien’s Champagnes have been recognized as one of the finest wines of the Champagne region. A hand crafted champagne that has been passed down for generations; the elegant wines of Alfred Gratien subtly express liveliness, expertise and passion. This distinctive style is the culmination of their notable approach to vinification in oak barrels.
This delicate process is the true art of their Champagne, an art meticulously crafted by their cellar master, Nicolas Jaeger. Jaeger’s dedication and talent has not gone unnoticed, the renowned and prestigious French wine guide Le Guide Hachette des Vins selected Jaeger as their “Winemaker of the Year.”
To be selected for such an award the wine must go through numerous blind tastings in competition with wines from all of Europe. Being selected ‘Winemaker of the Year’ is an impressive achievement and proof that Jaeger’s work is of the highest quality. He considers the award a confirmation of the Alfred Gratien Champagne House’s philosophy: produce the highest quality products in small batches.
Growing up surrounded by vineyards, Jaeger always had the desire to follow in the footsteps of his forefathers by becoming a cellar master at Alfred Gratien. Shadowing his father and working alongside him, Jaeger learned the techniques of handling the barrels, cellar maintenance, and the quest for the best suppliers.
In 2007, Jaeger became the reigning “Chef de Caves” at Épernay – the fourth Jaegar family member in succession to claim this title. He had always been fascinated by working with wood barrels, and was determined to retain the roots of Alfred Gratien’s Champagne while also upgrading it’s quality.
“In order to have great wine you need great grapes so I have been working on sourcing even better quality grapes,” Jaeger said in an interview with The Wine Society. “I have also carried out work on the processes in the cellar too. So, for example, I have stopped using the second pressing of grapes since 2007 so that we just use only the best first-pressed juice for the wine.”
Jaeger also worked to develop a his own style of liquer d’expédition. This process is when before sealing, wine is added to top up the bottle after sediment is removed. In addition, he ensured installation of temperature and humidifying systems that optimized conditions for fermentation. This approach of traditional techniques and modern passions demonstrates Jaeger’s dedication to Alfred Gratien’s “quality-first” approach.
The delicate work that goes into composing the symphony of flavors that is Alfred Gratien’s champagne requires skilled expertise, patience and a unique talent – aspects that are a hallmark of Nicolas Jaeger’s work. This most recent award is just glimpse at the potential of a talented winemaker and an elegant Champagne house.