Review- Marie and Olivier Horiot

Olivier Horiot champagne

“Le sol est roi!” (= the soil is king). That’s the motto of Marie and Olivier Horiot, who only needed to make one Soléra to turn me into a fan. And even though I’ve only tasted two of their champagnes, I’m officially adding the Olivier Horiot champagne name to my wall of fame. You should too, and I’ll tell you why.

Olivier Horiot champagne is not a safe bet

First, I must admit that I’m late to the Horiot party, which has been going on for many years. As for me, it was only last week that I opened my first Horiot champagne at a small dinner party at my place. The bottle had been gently sleeping in our cabinet for months, and since it was bought from Aline of Au Bon Manger (who is always right), it was a safe bet. Or so I thought. There’s nothing, and I repeat, nothing safe about Horiot champagne. The cork popped, gold came pouring out and I spent minutes taking in the scent, mesmerised by the bright colours in the Zalto glass that I’d break later that evening in a horrible dishwasher accident.

I took a first sip, and tasted Pinot Noir. I took a second sip, and there was Pinot Meunier. Was it a blend? There were green apples in there too, which often means there’s Chardonnay involved. Must be a blend, then. I got confused. Everything I knew about champagne was dancing in my glass, like a Greatest Hits record, yet more refined. I had to check the label on the bottle to find out “everything” was in fact the right way to put it. The champagne was made out of seven (!) grape varieties, including not-so-usual suspects Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Jackpot.

Les 7 cépages:

  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir
  • Pinot Meunier
  • Arbane
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Blanc
  • Petit Meslier

The Horiot story & vision

So much for my confusion, now let’s move on to a proper introduction of this awesome brand. Olivier Horiot and wife Marie are third generation grape growers in Les Riceys, a small town in the Aube that’s close to the borders of Burgundy. In her book Terroir Champagne, Caroline Henry writes that Olivier left for the United States, only to realise the uniqueness and diversity of his family’s vineyards in France (read: marl, limestone, clay, the works). He moved back, rolled up his sleeves, talked his father into a more natural way of working and applied for both organic and biodynamic certification in 2010.

It was the start of an exceptional champagne brand, that today creates distinctive champagnes that are all about differences. Differences in terms of soil (the aforementioned king), differences between vineyards, differences within vineyards, and grape varieties, as Olivier Horiot champagne is all about forgotten cépages, especially Arbane. In the cellar, Marie and Olivier only use natural yeasts, and as grapes are picked at full ripeness, there’s no need to add sugar (so-called chaptalisation).

Speaking of terroir: Olivier Horiot champagnes come from vines that grow on Kimmeridgian soil, which is a layer of dark marl with marly limestone that contains rich layers of seashells, a base that’s unique in the Champagne region. In English: it’s a fine piece of land, known for bringing forth elegant and refined wines, including the better Chablis and Sancerre wines.


Soléra 2014

LocationGrape varietiesSpicy detailDosageRating
Les RiceysChardonnay
Pinot Noir
Pinot Meunier
Petit Meslier
Pinot Gris
Pinot Blanc
As you might have guessed,
this is in fact a Soléra 🙂
Brut nature8/10

5 Sens

LocationGrape varietiesSpicy detailDosageRating
Les RiceysChardonnay
Pinot Noir
Pinot Blanc
Pinot Meunier
Very complex, hints
of citrus
Brut nature7.5/10