“Firm determination, it is said, can move heaven and earth.” In the wine business it is rare that it is noticed unless you have an extraordinary terroir; Delphine Cazals has both.
In the mid-1990’s, tipped off by the deliciousness of the Chardonnay fruit grown from the walled vineyard inside their family home, Delphine convinced her father to give her a shot at making a Champagne cuvée from this special spot. The spot is at the back of their house, in the famous village, Oger, a place that is home to some of the most gifted Chardonnay vineyards in all of Champagne.
Despite her father’s skepticism about it being “special,” she pushed forward and with the 1997 vintage gave the world a new cuvée, “Clos Cazals.” Sadly, before getting a good look at what was on the horizon for this special wine, her father, Claude, passed away. Boy, if he could see what has transpired since that first vintage! Delphine moved forward, continuing the planting of this gifted site, which now encompasses 3.7 hectares (just over 9 acres.) The wines that are in bottle now serve as an insider’s preview of what will likely come to pass: the entrance of a serious new top contender in Champagne.
“The story starts with Ernest, a barrel maker from the Languedoc who came to Champagne to trade and managed to do well enough that he married a local lady and settled. The Maison Cazals was born in 1897, in Mesnil-sur-Oger, a village at the heart of the Côte des Blancs. In the 1950’s, his descendant, Olivier, bought a house in the village of Oger for his son Claude – it happened to be the former house of Léon Bourgeois, an influential French politician, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1920, and “the spiritual father” of the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations.
Olivier and his son Claude started to plant the garden of the mansion, which seemed to be a very promising vineyard site. The old cellar built under the house was quickly put to use. A few years later the harvest from the property was blended with the rest of the Cazals vineyards, in and around Mesnil-sur-Oger.” – Jerome Brenot. In the 1990’s, Delphine stepped foot into the family business and the rest will be history.
Lay of the Land
Clos Cazals may be one of Champagne’s best-kept secrets. It sits tucked away in the Mesnil-sur-Oger, a Grand Cru village that is located in the Côte des Blancs just south of Epernay. In Champagne, a village is considered Grand Cru when it has been scored 100% by the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) for the quality of its grapes, a stringent and highly acclaimed achievement. Mesnil-sur-Oger has undoubtedly earned that accolade, evident in its Chardonnay grapes that thrive in these unique soils. Here, the soils can look almost blindingly white due to a higher content of chalk relative to most other villages in Champagne. One lesser known secret is that a substrata of Kimmeridgian soils are at their strongest concentration between Mesnil-sur-Oger and Avize, neighboring towns to the south and north, respectively. The Blanc de Blancs produced in this small village are amongst the world’s top echelon sparkling wines.