Selosse Les Carelles – The Champagne That Rocked My World

I will always remember February 12th of 2014. On that dark winter evening Muru, one of the best wine bistros in Helsinki, organized a spectacular Krug & Selosse & Jacquesson tasting where I met a champagne that changed my life. Until then, I hadn’t been sure whether barrique-oaked and slightly oxidative champagne style was my cup of tea at all, but Anselme Selosse’s Les Carelles did the trick. From the first sniff I was madly in love.

That was the rock-my-world wine moment I had always been waiting for. Becoming totally smitten and silenced by those bubbles. Even though a bunch of nice young fellows were sitting at the table, suddenly they ceased to exist. There was only this fabulous, voluptuous, deep golden yellow elixir with the most erotic nose I had ever sensed from a champagne.

Yes. You can call me a dramatic, fanatic or lunatic, I don’t mind. I just know that ever since Les Carelles Blanc de Blancs has been a sacred one for me. And it set a perfect example why tasting blind (or in this case: semi-blind) makes so much sense: your senses are open, completely honest and responsive, thanks to which you may end up falling for something unexpected…

I always love to enjoy Selosse's champagnes from big Burgundy glasses.
I always love to enjoy Selosse’s champagnes from big Burgundy glasses.

During that night we got to taste all six Selosse’s lieux-dits (meaning wines from strictly defined and designated single vineyards or smaller plots of those vineyards). Also my first runner-up before Krug’s legendary Clos du Mesnil and Clos d’Ambonnay was made by Anselme: Le Bout du Clos, a rich and expressive, beautifully saline, mouthwatering blanc de noirs from the world-famous Pinot Noir village of Ambonnay.

As the spring went on, I made sure that whenever there was a possibility to taste these hard-to-find rarities, I was there – no matter what. And for true love you do sweet silly things… like buying a bottle of Les Carelles from Helsinki Airport on your way to Vilnius, only to fly back with it four days later… or roadtripping in Tuscany with a bottle of Sous Le Mont travelling in your already heavy luggage.

Anselme in October 2015.

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At its best, there was a moment I had eight different Selosses in my little cellar. But it was not enough. I wanted to go where heavenly Les Carelles nectar came from: being well aware, of course, that instead of heavens its origins are tightly rooted in the chalky and mineral soil of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, one of the most prestigious villages for first-class Chardonnay grapes and stellar blanc de blancs champagnes.

Les Avisés – my favourite hotel on earth

Eight months after that unforgettable tasting I am sitting on a taxi, bursting with excitement. It’s my birthday, my first time in Champagne, and after a very nice afternoon visit at Philipponnat, I’m on my way to Les Avisés, a wonderful mansion hotel that Anselme and his wife Corinne have been running since 2011.

The building has been renovated with great taste and lovely materials, but what is most important: the atmosphere is supercozy. In no other hotel have I dined barefoot in winter. At Les Avisés you can without feeling underdressed. Or if you feel sleepy after the dinner, nobody minds you taking a little nap on the living room sofa (at least I like to think they don’t).

A beautiful dog called Uva used to delight hotel guests for years. Their new puppy is called Muscat.
JOY, the most affordable of the ten different chambres, will always have a special place in my heart as it was the first room I stayed in.
Joy, the most affordable of the chambres, will always have a very special place in my heart as it was the first room I ever stayed in.

But let’s go back to those first impressions in October 2014 when the weather is turning so nasty that I must stay inside the rest of the evening. At Les Avisés it’s nothing short of a blessing as their wine list makes me chuckle: lots of awesome bubbly options to choose from!

Slightly worried about the idea of drinking the whole bottle by myself, I enter my room. While hiding under the covers listening to the growing rainstorm, the guy at the reception desk brings me a bottle of Benoît Lahaye’s (one of my favourite vignerons!) Blanc de Noirs. The idea is brilliant: after enjoying an aperitif, I continue with the bottle throughout the dinner, enjoy a nightcap in my room and finish it next morning during breakfast (which, by the way, you should never skip while staying at Les Avisés).

avises

Here you are in good hands: charismatic chef, Stéphane Rossillon, creates exciting flavours and his charming wife Nathalie serves the food. The menu changes each night according to the season and the availability of fresh ingredients.

No wonder at the checkout I am on utterly good mood. Despite knowing that Monsieur Selosse himself, the amazing man behind these champagnes – and the entire rise of the vigneron movement – wouldn’t be around.

But a birthday wouldn’t be a birthday without surprises: the moment I am about to leave the building, he is back from Philadelphia. Forgetting all stupid principles how to act like a “cool” oenophile, I rush to him like a little girl and mumble something in my lousy French. The big smile on Anselme’s face and the smell of tobacco make a perfect ending to a perfect first visit.  I would be back for my next birthday.

There are not many traditions in my life, but at Les Avisés I have started building them. Rule number one: Lahaye for breakfast!
I’m not into selfies, but visiting Les Avisés without snapping a selfie in the most famous loo of Champagne region would be a crime of worst nature.

In addition to birthdays, life has taken me back three times within a year. In June I fulfilled my dream of staying two nights in a row. Being bitterly well aware this kind of frequency may be a bit too heavy on my freelancer wallet, I’m already drooling over next week – my third birthday at Les Avisés.

And if I ever marry, Avize shall be the destination. No question about that.

Summery view from Sköl (the room with a balcony overlooking the garden).

 

59 Rue de Cramant (Avize). Open daily (restaurant closed on Tue-Wed). Tel: +33 (3)26 577 006. Arrival: either by car or by taxi (15 to 20 mins from Épernay train station).

 

2 thoughts on “Selosse Les Carelles – The Champagne That Rocked My World

  1. Hello Sanna,

    I enjoyed reading your story. I came across it because I am planning a trip to Champagne next year and I wanted to learn more about Selosse and the hotel. Now I know and I an plan to stay there with confidence! Merci.

    Dave DeSimone
    Wine, Food and Travel Writer
    412-897-7497
    Email: ddesimone@tribweb.com
    Blog: http://www.daveswinecellar.com
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    1. Dearest Dave, your comment makes me so amazingly happy that all I can say is… huge thanks!! Great to hear you’re planning a trip like that. Les Avisés is worth every cent. Will soon go there for my 4th birthday in a row!

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