Having started producing his own wines relatively recently, Olivier Collin is one of Champagne’s great experimenters. He strives to make true wines of terroir. As he says, “I create nothing. I accompany the forces of nature.” A devotee of Anselme Selosse, Olivier works as much as he can with biodynamic practices and is producing wines of great interest, concentration and finesse.
21 Rue des Vignerons, Congy +33 3 26 52 46 62
Olivier Collin is smart, adventurous and passionate. When these three traits combine in a winemaker, they usually result in fascinating wines, and this is certainly the case with Olivier. His primary goal is to show the terroir through the wines rather than his own fingerprints, and he does this admirably well. There is a distinct chalky minerality to his wines, which speaks as loudly as the fruit itself. Olivier considers each new vintage another chance to learn and adjust, so his wines are evolving each year, and are definitely ones to seek out and go along for the ride.
Ulysse Collin Les Perrieres
100% Chardonnay. Initially produced in 2004, this was Olivier’s first wine, and for this year and 2005 it was a single vintage. Now he is starting to add a small proportion of reserve wines. The dosage has varied on the wine from zero to two grams per liter.
Ulysse Collin Les Maillons
100% Pinot Noir from vines planted in 1971 in the ‘Les Maillons’ vineyard in Barbonne-Fayel. This wine was first made in 2006, two years after his inaugural production.
Ulysse Collin Les Roises
100% Chardonnay from a tiny parcel of 60-year-old vines in Congy. This wine was first made in 2008 and not released until late 2012. The vines are affected by a condition called ‘court-noue’ (often called fanleaf virus). This condition can actually benefit the concentration of the juice as the leaves are smaller, allowing for more sunlight to reach the grapes.
The Collin family has been growing grapes in the village of Congy (south of the Cote des Blancs) since 1812, but the house of Ulysse Collin was only created when Olivier Collin was inspired to bottle his own wines in the early 2000s.
However, before Olivier could begin, he first had to retrieve his 8.7 hectares of vineyards that for many years had been rented to a negociant by his father. Anticipating this would not be a simple task, Olivier enrolled in law school in 1995 to prepare himself, and during the final years of his study, he simultaneously and inconspicuously began an apprenticeship with Anselme Selosse in Avize.
In 2003, he regained control of his vineyards, but his crop was devastated by a spring frost and he had to sell off the entire harvest. However, it gave him the opportunity to assess his land. He began implementing practices and treatments to restore the soil and vines to an optimum level of health. His first major investment was a tractor, as he believes that plowing is an “evident necessity” in the production of wines of terroir. Olivier’s first vintage was realized the following year, in 2004, with grapes from just 1.2 hectares in a vineyard called Les Perrieres.
Olivier Collin’s 8.7 hectares are planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the villages of Congy and Vert la Gravelle. The average age of the vines is 35 years, but some of the Pinot Noir vines are as old as 60 (although he did not immediately use this fruit as he wanted to cultivate the vineyards thoroughly first).
It was through a detailed analysis of his land that he devised the three cuvees he currently produces. Each wine embodies his viticultural philosophy, but stands alone with individual character and personality.
Olivier is extremely interested in the health of his vines and encouraging the microbiological activity in the soil, as he believes this is one of the most critical elements in how a final wine will taste. Like his mentor Selosse, Olivier uses as many biodynamic farming practices as he can. In areas where he doesn’t yet have all the necessary equipment, he resorts to more conventional methods. In the short time since he took back his vineyards, he has seen the incredible difference biodynamics has afforded his wines.
In the winery, first fermentation takes place using indigenous yeasts and can last for an extended period of 6-8 months. Both the alcoholic and malolactic fermentations occur in oak barriques of 3-6 years of age, and the wines settle naturally, so he neither fines nor filters.
In his first vintage he aged the wines in barrel for 10 months, and each subsequent vintage has been slightly longer. In 2006, he aged the wines for 16 months. This was also the year when 30% of the production was held back to become reserve wines for the 2007 vintage, and he made a second wine – a Blanc de Noirs - from the ‘Les Maillons’ vineyard near Sezanne.