Virginie and Bertrand Waris own seven hectares of vineyards across Champagne, making small production wines from a majority Pinot Noir from Sézannais, Epernay and Aube. As the fourth generation of the family, their practices are well established in making grower Champagne. Based in Avize, the property is a stone's throw from both Agrapart and Selosse, the celebrity growers in the village. Bertrand - who studied viticulture - has a clear passion for vineyard work and clarity of expression in the wines, but the Waris name remains relatively under the radar, the wines therefore offering good value for money. Waris have made Farr Vintners' "Ville de la Reine" label for fifteen years, so it was about time for me to visit the property and get a greater understanding of the wines and the philosophy behind them.
Grower Champagne is now firmly established as a source of great, individual wines that offer something different to the grandes marques that have dominated sales and production in the region for so long. The concept of owning, farming and then making wine is not a stretch in most regions (and, indeed, many of the larger houses in Champagne own at least some vineyards from which they make wine), but the focus on quality of fruit and effort in the vineyard to produce high quality sparkling wine is the essence of these wines. In a recent visit to Egly-Ouriet, it was possible to see just how much work Francis Egly has put into every aspect of his wines, resulting in a recent 100-point score for his magnificent 2008 Millésime. I drank this wine recently in Spain, and it is an absolutely stunning offering, well worth its perfect score with ample richness to match the hallmark ’08 acidic tension. A profound champagne worthy of patience in the cellar.