Champagne

Champagne Bourdaire-Gallois

David Bourdaire farms 8 hectares situated in and around the village of Pouillon. Pouillon is one of a dozen, or so villages in the Massif Saint-Thierry, a group of undulating hills and forests that slope off toward the vast plain, northwest of the city of Reims. This Massif is the northern most part of the Champagne appellation and is home to some 900 hectares of vineyards which are spread throughout the dozen villages. Due to the challenging climate, it is the late budding Pinot Meunier which is the favored grape type. The soils have a large portion of sandy clays which offer a distinguishing expression to the area’s champagnes.

David’s family began estate bottling their champagnes in 2001 when they left the coop that David’s grandfather founded in 1951. The vineyard is comprised of 85% Pinot Meunier, 10% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir. The vines have an average age of 43 years with a few rows of Chardonnay planted at 11,000 plants per hectare that date back to 1923. David farms organically and is in conversion to obtaining certification. The vineyard is planted on low yielding root stocks and David cultivates natural grasses between the vine rows to further limit yields. He vinifies each parcel separately according to the specific rootstock “porte-greffe”. After years of adjusting the dosage level with each disgorgement, David has settled on finishing all of his Champagnes with a dosage of 0g/l.

Read David’s comments in the Champagne Vintage Reports

Perseval-Farge is a 4-hectare estate in the 1er Cru village of Chamery which is in the northern part of the Montagne de Reims, known as the Petite Montagne. The Perseval family traces its roots in the village back to the early 18th century and today it is Benoist and Isabelle Perseval who carry on the tradition. Benoist farmed in a manner he called “viticulture integrée” a commitment to taking care of the land for future generations and when Benoist and Isabelle’s son, Henri, joined the family full time in 2020, they officially entered into conversion for organic certification. The four hectares are planted with 40% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier and with 10% Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Fromentot (Pinot Gris) combined in a small parcel planted in 2004. The Perseval’s four hectares are divided among six parcels, all in the village of Chamery, with the greater portion being on the mid to upper slope with calcerous-clay soils and the smaller part on the lower slopes with sandy-clay soils. Besides his commitment to sustainability in the vineyard, Benoist has worked to decrease the use of SO2 in his winemaking and at 26 to 35mg per liter, he uses one fifth of the norm. Nothing with Perseval-Farge is entirely systematic and so the notes below are general rather than detailed. Benoist and Isabelle have a cellar (two actually) filled with vats of different sizes, made of different materials along with barrels and foudres of different ages. All are used in the patient maturing of their wines and may contain a single variety, a blend of varieties from a single parcel, a single vintage, a blend of vintages or any combination of the above. They provide a palette from which Benoist paints his Champagnes.

The Fresne Ducret domaine consists of 6 hectares of 1er Cru vineyards divided among 25 parcels, which are, with one exception, all in the village of Villedommange. According to the champagne authority, Richard Juhlin, Villedommange, along with the village of Sacy, has the best vineyards in the northern part of the Montagne de Reims, known as the Petite Montagne. The Fresne family have lived and farmed in Villedommange for 180 years and since 2007 it has been Pierre Fresne and his wife Daniella writing the current chapter. Losing little time, Pierre and Daniella began estate-bottling their champagnes with the 2008 vintage. In 2018, after a decade of working towards organic farming, they officially entered into conversion for organic certification.

Notes from a conversation with Pierre:

“Regarding my philosophy, I think of myself as a farmer who makes wine rather than a winemaker who grows grapes. That’s because of my family history (we were grape growers long before we started to make champagne) and also because it’s impossible to make good wine with bad grapes!

Now, this year has taught me a lesson in humility: at the end of the day it’s the weather that makes the harvest, not the man….

The way I make wine is in constant evolution year after year, and I don’t like to shut doors unless I think I have explored all of the options a particular technique or tool can offer…

SO2

As far as I’m concerned the use of sulphites is a necessary evil, and I try to use as little as possible. I find sulphites are necessary in order to preserve the freshness of the grape must and to prevent oxidation when reserve wine is transferred from one tank to another, but the closer we get to bottling, the less I use them (they would interfere with the prise de mousse), and no more sulphites are added afterwards (i.e. disgorging). I have to confess that I have yet to taste a white wine “sans sulphites” that would make me want to stop using them altogether. In the few that I have tried, I found “foxy” notes that wouldn’t work for our champagnes.

This choice to use less and less sulfites means that all of our base wines now undergo malolactic fermentation, which was not always the case in the past.

Regarding yeast, my opinion is not so definite. Our move towards organic grape growing has led me to try and vinify without adding selected yeast in the last couple of years. Two months ago, we bottled our very first single plot “wild” yeast fermented Blanc de Blanc, “Le Mont Teigneux”.

But I am a champagne maker! I need selected yeast in order to guarantee the prise de mousse. So, if I am going to use them later in the process, why not use them from the beginning, and avoid potential dangers of wild yeast fermentation stops?”

The Georgeton-Rafflin domaine consists of 3.5 hectares. The majority of the vineyards are 1er Cru within the villages of Ludes, Chigny-Les-Roses, and Rilly-la-Montagne. They also have a few small parcels of Grand Cru in the village of Verzy. The vineyards are predominantly Pinot Noir with a complement of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The domaine has been certified HVE3 since 2014 and certified organic and biodynamic since 2021. Remi Georgeton returned to the family domain in 2006 after his education and some apprenticeships. His passion and quiet persistence is evident in the brilliance of his recent cuvées.

José Michel made his first vintage in 1955 and thanks in part to his cellar of very old bottles of Pinot Meunier, he developed a cult following for his Champagnes. José passed away in 2019 and this “Maison de Tradition” which began in 1847 is now, seven generations later, run by José and Nicole’s grandson, Antonin. Antonin is brilliantly refining the work that José accomplished over six decades and developing his own ideas. As he says, “José and I agreed on practically everything”.

The Champagne house is located in Moussy, a small village just south of Epernay. The 7 hectares of vineyards are spread throughout a number of villages, both in the Cotes D’Epernay and in the Vallée de la Marne. The vineyard sights with a richer clay soil are planted to Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The slopes which have a calcareous soil are planted to Chardonnay. José Michel was the first in his family to plant Chardonnay which he did beginning in 1958. Fermentations are carried out in old oak casks or enameled steel vats and the wines go through a malolactic fermentation. José Michel is certified “Level 3” the top level of certification in Haute Valeur Environmentale. The Michels are a founding member of the group, “Tresors de Champagne” known as the “Special Club”.

The Champagne house of Thierry Triolet is located in the village of Bethon. The vineyards in Bethon are part of the Côtes de Sezanne region of Champagne which begins near the town of Sezanne and extends southward for about 20 miles. Geologically, this narrow band of hills with deep deposits of limestone, is a continuation of the more massive Côtes des Blancs. Traditionally, the Sezanne vineyards have been a source of excellent Chardonnay grapes for the large negociant Champagne houses to the north.

The Triolets are one of a growing number of families who have begun estate bottling their champagne over the last three decades. They own 11 hectares in and around the village of Bethon and almost all their vineyards are planted to Chardonnay. Thierry Triolet farms in accordance with the principles of sustainability and is certified both as “Level 3” Haute Valeur Envirnmentale and Viticulture Durable en Champagne. He is committed to having low yields and prunes accordingly. The pressing is done slowly at low pressure in a modern bladder press. Fermentations are then carried out in a variety of tanks. No barrels are used in fermentation or aging.

The Champagne house of the Dumont family is situated in Champignol-lez-Mondeville, a village in the southern Champagne region of the Aube, some 90 miles southeast of Reims and Epernay. Characterized by forested hills, streams and vineyards, it is a natural and reflective environment that has attracted people such as Saint Bernard (Clairvaux) and Renoir (Essoyes). The Dumonts have owned vineyards in this area for over two hundred years and today Bernard Dumont, along with his cousin and his nephew, work together to produce champagne exclusively from their own 22 hectares. The soils are a geological extension of those in Chablis, namely kimmeridgian chalky clay. The vineyard is planted with 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. As Bernard Dumont says with amusement, “we grow grapes on the same soils as the vine growers in the Chablis region. There, they produce white wine from white grapes and here we produce white wine from red grapes.”

The Dumonts farm bio-dynamically and are in conversion to organic certification.

Read Bernard’s comments in the Champagne Vintage Reports