Francis Orban has had champagne in his blood for three generations. In 1999, at just 19 years old, he jumped into the family business, fresh with a brand-new winemaking degree, and began tending the family estate started generations ago in 1929. The family is located in the Marne Valley, the heart of Meunier country, with soils rich in sand and clay – an entirely different terroir from the chalky limestone found around the Montagne de Reims and the Côte de Blancs. The sprawling Marne is devoted to Meunier, with around 70% of its vines dedicated to it; almost 90% of Francis Orban’s vineyards are Meunier, with a small smattering of Chardonnay.
His vineyards are farmed sustainably by hand, and range over 18 acres in the villages of Leuvrigny and Sainte-Gemme. Since he took over and started bottling his own wines in 2007, he has taken a minimalist approach, doing everything by hand and fermenting with indigenous yeasts in tanks. A hallmark of his style is to use aged wines in the finished blends for added depth and complexity, usually adding around 50% reserve wines to his non-vintage Champagnes, including his rosés. This technique is a literal metaphor, a symbolic act of including the past- and family history, in each new vintage.
While the soil here may not be limestone, the nose is still a dusty blackboard covered in powdered chalk, complete with a lunch pail full of dried red fruits. There’s fresh baked bread, like a toasted rye loaf with a crust of crushed caraway and sunflower seeds, along with a hearty helping of savory cookies, like salted shortbreads and dried flaky pie dough. The aged wine portion definitely gives elegance and full bodied vivaciousness, but it is the meunier spice that drives this exotic rosé with a hint of bitter herbs, fruit leather, and a little sweet suede. This is a classic candidate for meunier-all-day, a savory, deep and meunificent pink bubble.
Dosage 3 g/L. 50% reserve wines blended in. This wine is made for Nor Cal only, it is crafted exclusively for North Berkeley Imports… and we get a tiny slice of the pie.