Champagne Roger Manceaux, Rilly-La-Montagne, Montagne de Reims, France

Wine: Fourth generation grower-producer, Patrick Manceaux farms 12 hectares in premier cru and grand cru villages in and around Rilly-La-Montagne in the Montagne de Reims area of Champagne. He makes blanc de blancs, rosé and blanc de noirs and the styles range from delicate and fresh 100% chardonnay to fuller-bodied, more robust blends of 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay (plus a demi-sec for dessert or foie gras). He makes 90,000 bottles from his own grapes, which takes 70% of his grapes; the other 30% he sells to 2 well-known champagne houses.

Tasting of 5 wines: 1. Brut Cuvée Reserve 45% Pinot Noir/30% Chardonnay/25% Meunier, 9g sugar (red fruits & biscuits). 2. Brut Rosé 55% Pinot Noir/35% Meunier/10% Chardonnay, 9g sugar (ripe strawberry, raspberry, white pepper). 3. Brut Grande Reserve 50% Chardonnay/50% Pinot Noir 7g sugar (lemon, red fruits, biscuits). 4. 2009 Brut Millesime 50% Pinot Noir Grand Cru/50% Chardonnay 1er Cru, 45-60 yr-old vines (honey, red fruits, brioche, lemon cream). 5. Heritage 2006 60% Pinot Noir/40% Chardonnay, Oak-aged (floral, tropical, brioche, orange brulee, round). 

My take: Education-packed tour! Patrick is transparent, enthusiastic and patient with question-asking. If you really want to understand how champagne is made, this is your tour. The Manceaux champagnes are lovely and fruity and classic. You can also stay at their grand house (the most beautiful house in town!) that adjoins the winery. More on Roger Manceaux and staying at Le Palais Champenois.