Champagne Fresne-Ducret

Village:
Villedommange 1er Cru (Montagne de Reims)
Appellation:
6ha
Champagne
Growers:
Pierre Fresne
Daniella Fresne

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?”

Les Nouveaux Explorateurs 1er Cru

The base wine for this cuvée is a blend of three 1er Cru parcels in Villedommange with sandy/clay soils: “Les Braies”, “Les Monts Teigneux”, and “Les Barbaries”. The blend is 45% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinot Meunier, and 10% Chardonnay. The base wine vintage is blended with 20% of the previous vintage and 20% from a “perpetual reserve” tank begun in 2008. The alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentations are done in tank and the “assemblage” is bottled the following spring. The champagne then rests “sur lattes” a minimum of 30 months before being disgorged. The dosage is 4.5g.

Le Chemin du Chemin 1er Cru

The base wine for this cuvée is primarily a blend from four 1er Cru parcels in Villedommange and Jouy-les-Reims with clay/limestone soils: “Les Loges”, “Les Monts Teigneux”, “Les Glaisières”, and “Les Huchis”. The blend is 40% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier, and 35% Chardonnay. Only the “cuvée” part of the pressed juice is used. The base wine vintage is blended with 30% reserve wine. The alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentations are done in tank and the “assemblage” is bottled the following spring. The champagne then rests “sur lattes” a minimum of 60 months before being disgorged. The dosage is 4.5g.

Arquémie No. 3 1er Cru

Arquémie is an “Old French” word meaning alchemy and captures the spirit of Pierre’s “divine study” of champagne through the production of “small batch” cuvées. The No. 3 is a Blanc de Noir with 75% Pinot Meunier and 25% Pinot Noir. It was produced from three 1er Cru parcels in Villedommange with mostly clay/limestone soils: “Les Mainberts”, “Les Caves”, and “Les Barbaries”. The base wine is vintage 2013 which was blended with 20% reserve wine. The alcoholic and malo-lactic fermentations were done in tank and the “assemblage” was bottled in 2014. For the more than 60 months of aging “sur lattes” the bottles were closed with a cork rather than the typical cap. This expensive and time-consuming practice allows some micro-oxygenation to take place during the long period of maturation. The champagne was disgorged November 2019 with a dosage of 4g. Production is 2037 bottles.

La Grande Hermine

The cuvée « La Grande Hermine » is a vintage champagne aged « sur lattes » for a minimum of 8 years. It quintessentially captures the Fresne-Ducret style in its combination of freshness and aromatic complexity. It was produced from 1er Cru parcels in Villedommange with clay/limestone soils, primarily: “Les Loges” and “Les Monts Teigneux.” The alcoholic and malo-lactic (partial) fermentations were done in tank and the wine was aged in tank for 5 months before bottling. The Champagne is disgorged with a dosage of 4g.

Region: Champagne

Champagne, at first glance, seems easy to understand. It is after all the most popularized and recognized wine in the world. It has been endorsed by Napoleon, Churchill and Warhol (it’s the “war” theme). However, once the fizz of gaiety evaporates and the veil of simplicity is pulled back, Champagne reveals a region with a fascinating history that has for centuries fastidiously cultivated a complex wine appellation. It is an appellation governed by complicated regulations that touch all aspects of production, a classification system of villages that sets grape prices and a myriad of styles including: wines of a single vintage, of blended vintages, of a single grape variety, of blended varieties; all of which can have different levels of dosage ranging from Extra Brut to Doux. Dare I mention content measurement? How did a 15 Liter bottle of Champagne come to be associated with Nebuchadnezzar?

The Romans gave this region its name. I suspect that these explorers had already dipped into the “local water” before naming it Campagna in memory of the area around Mount Vesuvius. Perhaps in contrast to the vast plains that flank the region to the west the geological undulations of Champagne appeared to be a similar wonder of nature. The region’s boundaries are basically unchanged since the 15th century and the “champagne viticole” (vineyard area) today spans five “départments” , the vast majority of them located in the Marne and the Aube. The vineyards cover approximately 30,400 hectares, although this area has recently been expanded. Most of the vineyards fall into the following broad areas: Vallée de la Marne, Côte de Sézanne, Côte de Blancs, Montagne de Reims and the Côte de Bar. A complete and more precise categorization divides the vineyards into twenty regions and is explained in the wonderful book Grand Atlas des Vignobles de France.

Champagne became an important center in France after Hugh Capet was crowned in Reims Cathedral in 987. Kings were crowned in the Cathedral for the following eight centuries and during this period considerable grants were given to the local monasteries which in turn became centers of winemaking until the revolution in 1798.

Until the 17th century the wines of Champagne were labeled according to small geographic regions such as vins de la Montagne or vins de la Riviere or more specifically by village or place names such as Bouzy, Verzenay, Ay and the Abbey of Hautvilliers. These wines were predominantly made from red grapes, their color compared to an onion skin or the eye of a partridge and they were gently effervescent or not. As fashion changed, so did the style of the wines to the extent that the producers could control it. The style of Champagne that we know today began in the 19th century and continues to evolve. The biggest change in the last twenty years is the increase of small scale recoltant-manipulant, “RM” producers. These estate bottled champagnes offer a remarkable diversity of expression resulting from the different philosophies of the independent producers and the more specific terroirs with which they work. These more personal expressions of champagne stand in stark contrast to the large negociant manipulant, “NM” producers who blend wines from hundreds of villages and often produce Champagne with a calculated uniformity.