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"This highly respected estate traces its roots in Aÿ back to 1696, when Nicolas Le Cacheur married Françoise Remy. Seven generations later, at the beginning of the 20th century, Emile Michel-Le Cacheur continued to carry on the family tradition of vinegrowing in Aÿ, and in 1921 his daughter Marie married Charles Gatinois. Since 1980, Gatinois’s granddaughter Marie-Paule and her husband Pierre Cheval (pictured) have been at the helm of the estate, representing the 11th generation of the family to grow vines in the region. The Gatinois estate owns 7.2 hectares of vines, all in the grand cru of Aÿ, and planted almost entirely with pinot noir. Of these vineyards, about five hectares are used for the production of estate-bottled champagne, with the rest sold to the négoce. Due to the family’s long presence in the village, the Gatinois holdings, which are spread over 27 parcels, include some of Aÿ’s most favored sites, such as Vauregnier, Valnon, Chaufour and Chatillon. Above all, Cheval seeks to express the character of this fabled terroir in his wines. “Aÿ wines are vinous and puissant but also elegant,” says Cheval. “They have strength and finesse at the same time.” He points out that the unique character of Aÿ is derived from the fact that nowhere else in the Champagne region can you find a fully south-facing slope with a river at its base and nothing but an open plain facing it. To preserve this character of place, Gatinois’s wines are handled as little as possible in the cellar. There is no fining, no filtering and no cold stabilization. The wines always go through a natural malolactic fermentation, and while wooden barrels are used to make the red wine, oak is never used for the champagnes. The disgorgement is carried out à la volée, without freezing the neck of the bottle, and dosage is kept low, at around six grams per liter for all wines except for the demi-sec, which at 15 grams per liter is still unusually low for the style." -Peter Liem, Champagne Guide [+]