by Fred McMillin
for May 14, 1999


Winery of the Week

Deutz, Then and Now


July 8,1787—In the Champagne district, a British visitor notes, "Ay ["eye"], a village not far out on the road to Reims, is very famous for its wines."

Earlier Voltaire had praised the effervescing wine of Ay, writing:

    Pour out a wine of Ay, whose prisoned foam,
    Tightly compressed within its crystal home,
    Drives out the cork; 'midst laughter's joyous sound
    It flies, against the ceiling to rebound.

1882—Another British visitor, Henry Vizetelly, says Deutz is "the largest Champagne establishment at Ay...Adjoining M. Deutz's chateau was the entrance to their splendid range of cellars, no less than seventeen feet wide, the same number of feet in height, and of the aggregate length of 2,200 yards...They are capable of containing several million bottles of Champagne."

Deutz Deutz still owns its original 100 acres of Ay vines, which rank 98% on the quality scale.

"Those 100 acres of family vineyards produce a range which, from the humblest wines to the prestigious Cuvee William Deutz, bears the hallmark of outstanding winemaking." (Feuilly & Johnston)

To sum up, while Deutz also purchases some additional grapes, basically they've stayed small, sharp and dynamic. Here's a suggestion on how to explore that "outstanding winemaking." I'd start with these two, getting another couple to share the cost and the wine.

  • The Brut Classic...blend of three varieties. Critics say it's a "guaranteed" pleaser. $38.
  • The '93 Blanc de Blanc...100% Chardonnay... striking clear bottle...four years on the yeast...critical opinion: "outstanding freshness." Lovely, suprise gift for a June bride. $69.
  • Newlywed Wine Cellar - Martha Stewart recently suggested a fun bridal shower in which guests bring one bottle of wine to taste or to start a cellar. This Blanc certainly would steal the show...er, shower.


Incidentally, some of those chalk tunnels in Ay can be hazardous to your health. To reach them we descended the Roman-cut, narrow steps excitedly, until we realized we'd gone down many stories. After the tour, it was a long climb up! Mr. Deutz must have been in good shape.

Note: For much more about Deutz, see the April 23, 1998 article "This Is No Plain Champagne." If questions, phone Michelle Armour at (510) 286-2000, Oakland, CA.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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