Mémoire de Vignes, even vines have memories

Picture of Richard Juhlin

Richard Juhlin

Mémoire de Vignes, what an eminent name for a magnificent wine. Because it really is true. [read the full champagne story by Richard Juhlin] 

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Certainly not a brain, but something that can be closely compared to muscle memory. The old vines have a memory, to the extent that on an individual level they react to new situations based on what they were exposed to earlier in the life cycle and adapt and behave according to these experiences and circumstances. For example, naive younger vines are unprepared for extremes such as drought and often fail, while the older ones understand how to let the sap drop and slow down during times of crisis. All with survival as a goal like all other organisms on our planet.

Mémoire de Vignes

Mémoire de Vignes is the name of Michel Arnould’s prestige champagne made from grapes from the oldest vines in Verzenay. I personally see Mémoire de Vignes, a prestige wine made from grapes from 70-year-old vines in the purest chalk, as the premier wine from the increasingly important Grand Cru village. Even more important as climate change forces producers to seek out elegant mineral-infused wines from the cooler northern locations the district has to offer. One can clearly see a trend where producers such as Krug, Bollinger and Louis Roederer, among others, tone down the element of Aÿ, Bouzy and Ambonnay in their luxury cuvées and increase the proportion of Verzy and Verzenay to maintain their aristocratic style.


From its considerable 420 hectares, Verzenay produces the smallest and blackest grapes in all of Champagne, although the wines are considerably lighter than the large villages on the other side of the Montagne de Reims. It is one of the mysteries of the wine world how you can produce such mineral-rich, peppery and masculine Pinot wines from northern slopes in one of the world’s northernmost wine villages. Most of the village’s so-called north positions are actually north-east and are exposed to the sun’s rays for a long time during the day. Just like in the sunnier neighboring village of Mailly, the vineyards are heated by a local hot air current. Since 1972, even the Chardonnay grapes grown in the village have had somewhat undeserved Grand Cru status. It is true that wines from the village never acquire the soft aromatic richness of Aÿ’s champagnes, but they acquire an even greater weight with increasing age and are very important as the backbone of several world-class champagnes. The perfume that Pinot Noir from Verzenay has is very intense and unique. Notes of iron and pepper mix with the grape aroma itself. The aftertaste is hard, tough and long for many years before softening to perfection.

A spring visit in Verzenay

Since Patrick Arnould stopped selling his grapes to Bollinger and keeps them, the crown jewel is Mémoire de Vignes. When Björnstierne and I received a late cancellation from Krug in our VIP travel program and were already at Lanson in Verzenay, we came up with the brilliant idea of walking to three generations of Arnould 200 meters away. It was an emotional meeting. It’s in moments like these that I suddenly understand the extent of my own growing work in Champagne and how quickly time has passed. 30 years have passed since I was there last, and a lot has happened. Growers who previously had a hidden existence have gained cult status and they are so genuinely grateful to me that I blush. In a couple of days’ notice, the entire Arnould family had gotten involved and put together a veritable smorgasbord of great wines in their cellar. Vertical tasting of Mémoire de Vignes was the heart of the tasting, although the new star of the future, the oak-aged vineyard wine Les Voyettes, was also seen and greatly impressed.

Mémoire de Vignes is always a fantastic champagne made in just under 3,000 copies and always worth running your legs over to get across. The style is breathtakingly clean. Filled with red juicy apples, grass and gooseberry in its youth to transition to majestic weight with notes of blood grape and orange beautifully preserved in the stony aftertaste. At least once in your life you should try to drink this treasure in Triglav in Slovenia. The extraterrestrial place Pål Allan and I ran into by chance when we were making the book that is my greatest professional pride, Champagne Hiking. There, the meeting between nature on site and nature’s creation in the glass was pure perfection.

Below you can see how some of the last preserved bottles of the vinothèque version of Mémoire de Vignes taste from the first vintage to the latest in April 2024.

2018 Michel Arnould ‘Mémoire de Vignes’        


‘Flaunting power without losing its purity. A maximum fruit concentrate for wine with polished sweetness and majestic notes of licorice, dark chocolate, honey and apricot marmalade. Wonderfully good already in a fruit bomb way that makes many thirsty people drink too young. Store for at least another ten years.’  


2017 Michel Arnould ‘Mémoire de Vignes Vinothèque’        


‘Always as elegant and mansion-like in its deliciously sober style. Light in color and perfectly clean in its surprisingly light composition. Multifaceted and elusively volatile. Small fine notes from graven stone apple, blood grape, blood orange, apricot, peach peel, milk chocolate and rose petals with a splash of powdery vanilla. Extremely dense, but easily flowing extract-rich and somewhat unredeemed taste with purest chalk from Verzenay reminiscent of the backbone of Louis Roederer Cristal.’   


2015 Michel Arnould ‘Mémoire de Vignes Vinothèque’          


‘2015 is not one of my favorite vintages in general. The exceptions are usually found in wines made on the north side of the Montagne de Reims, where the freshness is maintained by the cooler microclimate and its fine chalk notes from the barren soil. Of course, that’s why Mémoire de Vignes belongs to the tops this year. However, the wine easily stood up to the best in this tasting and felt soft, well lubricated and a little neutral by comparison, there is an impressive density and a delicious layer of vanilla and milk chocolate that is hard to resist.’


2012 Michel Arnould ‘Mémoire de Vignes Vinothèque’


‘Mountain spring clean and seamlessly harmonious as always. Showy Gravenstein bouquet as from the finest Hardanger cider. Wonderfully easy-drinking and gastronomically compliant phase. Close to its peak and probably less storable than other vintages despite its harmonious appearance.’


2008 Michel Arnould ‘Mémoire de Vignes Vinothèque’          


‘A completely perfect Verzenay if a bit mischievous at the moment. Unbelievably creamy like a bold Chardonnay from Cramant while fresh apple notes in the aroma reveal the grape. The wine is as perfectly polished as a growers’ Cristal. Velvety smooth, it flows down the throat like the finest essence. However, a bit more rowdy phase right now where the minerality tears so store until 2028 at least.’


2002 Michel Arnould ‘Mémoire de Vignes Vinothèque’         


‘A maximum fruit concentrated wine with polished sweetness and majestic notes of licorice, dark chocolate, honey and apricot marmalade. Wonderfully good right now in its still fruity youthful or rather early middle-aged phase. Sweet exoticism has crept in and in the background rest the mushroom forest and the magical dark aromas while the fairies continue to dance. Drink whenever you want for the next 30 years.’ 


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