100% Pinot Meunier. This tiny, impeccably-run estate in Cumières is known only to a select few connoisseurs of champagne. You could drive through the village a hundred times without knowing it was there, and in fact, aside from a well-worn, barely legible placard with the words “Champagne Georges Laval” written in about three millimeter-high script just above the doorbell, there is no marking whatsoever to indicate its presence. Behind these simple, unassuming wooden doors, however, lies one of Champagne’s great treasures. While the Laval family has been growing vines for four generations, Georges Laval began producing estate-bottled champagne in 1971. His son Vincent (pictured) joined the estate after finishing his studies in 1991 and has been in charge of the cellars since 1996. Laval’s vineyard holdings comprise just 2.5 hectares. The average vine age is over 30 years, and the oldest vines of the estate are over 70 years of age. The Lavals have been practicing organic viticulture since 1971, certified by Ecocert. Organic compost is used, and cover crops are planted in all of the plots, with regular tilling to oxygenate the soil and encourage the roots to descend deeper. Laval’s wines are harvested ripe and almost never chaptalized, and fermentation takes place in barrel, with indigenous yeasts. The wines are bottled late, usually about ten months after the harvest, and they are neither fined, filtered nor cold-stabilized. While Laval is not against the use of sulfur, he does try to limit its use as much as possible: sulfur is added at the harvest and then throughout the course of vinification only if strictly necessary. The result is an unusually low level of total sulfur in the finished champagnes, usually below 20 milligrams per liter. This vintage Blanc de Noirs is produced from Pinot Meunier vineyards planted between 1930 and 1959. The wine is only produced in great years from optimally ripe fruit. Notes of red fruit, toast, and citrus rind dominate this sparkling wine’s delicious palate.