VISIT AND TASTING AT CHAMPAGNE DEHOURS ET FILS
Jérôme Dehours is a well-know figure in Champagne who cultivates his vineyard with respect and passion. Located between Epernay and Dormans, we met at his estate with this talented winegrower of Cerseuil – a village located halfway up in the south of Vallée de la Marne. The terroir has been the origin of the Dehours’s champagnes for 3 generations now ; diversified cuvées and styles from a fragmented vineyard spread over the left Marne bank.
The tour started on the outside of the family estate, where a terrace offers a beautiful view on the vines of the area. Jérôme chooses to organize each of the visits with people from different fields and gather them around the passion of champagne.
3 generations, 3 strong champagne personalities
Jérôme is now the 3rd generation in charge of the Champagne Dehours estate, a family inheritance but also a succession of great champagne producers . His grand-father, Ludovic, founded the estate in 1930 but he was also among the first independent winegrowers. During the 70’s, Robert – Jérôme’s father – developed the activity but was also one of the precursor of the reserve wines – a method consisting in keeping part of the wines from harvests of previous years with good evolution potential in order to use them in the blending process to regulate and perpetuate the style of a Champagne House from one year to another.
When Robert passed away, the financial partners took control of the business. It is only after fighting hard to get back the family property, that Jérôme started all over again in 1996 and recreated the Dehours estate. Today, he works on the vineyard with his brother in law and has “the aim of shining a light on the ‘terroir’ “. As all the previous generation, Jérôme is a well-know figure of the Champagne area and he has at heart to always make a difference : founding president of the association Artisans du Champagne – a group that associates winegrowers who share the same values and philosophy -. Jérôme is also one of the first producer to use a parcel approach and he participates to the positioning change of champagne from celebration wine to fine wine.
Philosophy : diversity & research of excellence
The Dehours estate is divided in 42 plots spread over 3 crus – Mareuil le Port, Oeuilly and Troissy – with a majority of Pinot Meunier and a soil composed of chalky bed stock covered by clay on surface. These 42 parcelles allows a great diversity of the sun exposure, the subsoil, the grapes varieties but also the age of the vines, the height, the proximity to water and the confluence of the Marne and the Vallée du Flagot… It is all this shades that allows Jérôme to vary the blends and to creates high expressive terroir wines.
The most important for Jérôme – who elaborates his wines from the vines to the bottles – is what is happening in the vineyard, as 85% of the work is already done at the harvest. Even if the yield is lower and the investment higher, Jérôme chose to value the diversity of his terroir with a sustainable viticulture and profound respect for the environment including working closely with an agricultural engineer consultant, a mechanical soil cultivation, no chemical input, curative treatment only ; his objective : work well, neat and respectfully but more than a ‘work approach’ it is a real state of mind for this devoted winegrower who have great respect for nature.
During the pressing, Jérôme uses 3 traditional Coquart press made in Champagne to get the cuvée and the taille – a qualitative factor as he can see the grapes and control the juices that flow out. Meticulous, he realizes several tests on the marcs to decide of the best approach on the harvest. The 3 press allow him to separate the grapes and to press them without waiting after their harvest, straight after receiving them at the pressing room. Thanks to the use of traditional press, the pressing is gentle – a pressure of only several hundred grams – and the crumbing less marked as the grapes in the central portion don’t move. Finally, Jérôme takes the time to do a small training with the vintagers to raise their awareness of his approach and his philosophy.
In the wine storehouse of Champagne Dehours, the vinification is done plot-by-plot for precise blends and is a matter of father and grand-father inherited know-how. For some of the champagnes, the winemaker uses the perpetual reserve started in 1998 and going on over the years. As for his barrels, Jérôme is in constant research for origins and toasting that won’t mark to much the wines. In a diversity matter, he multiplies the approaches and the varieties of barrels as for him “the diversity makes the richness” : new and old barrels as well as different sizes – 200, 300 and 500 liters, including Billon Burgundian barrels of 500 liters -, Jérôme’s wines also pass through different oak barrels. The objective is to let the terroirs and the origins express themselves, this is also the reason why there is very few intervention during the maturation.
Jérôme is for sure a winemaker who stays constantly outside his zone of comfort, he always tries new things; last harvest, he tried a ‘no sulfure protocol’ and he also confided that he just bought a new foudre of 40 hecto to test the Solera and mark less the wines than with the barrels – smaller, they have more surface of exchange – while allowing nevertheless exchanges with the ambient air. As for the Solera approach, started in 1998, it removes the differentiation, certainly, but it allows to tell the story of the plot.
The winegrower does not claim any label. The estates is managed with a profound respect of the environment and a constant research of excellence and authenticity: mechanical soil working, harvest of the grapes with high maturity, no added yeast for the alcoholic fermentation, an important oak barrels collection and a controlled oxydation, no blocking of the malolactic fermentation to reduce sulfure – 28g last year only -, wines on lees as long as possible, no settling of the musts before racking, natural clarification, no filtration or fining ; the Dehours champagnes are unique, harmonious and complex at the same time, they are the perfect reflect of their terroirs with a nice sapidity and saline freshness. Before the tasting, Jérôme willingly confesses that the frustrating side of his work is that one idea take years to be implanted before seeing the result – like his next cuvée : a non-vintage Meunier available in 2017.
A tasting around diversity
GRANDE RESERVE BRUT
« Generous on fruit »
The reflect of Champagne Dehours spirit and terroir : 42 plots with a majority of Pinot Meunier (57%) – identity grape variety of the valley and of the estate – completed by 10% of Chardonnay and 3% of Pinot Noir. This cuvées is also enriched with reserve wines from the Solera started in 1998.
The color is a light gold and the bubbles are delicate. The nose brings nice fruit, moka and honey aroma. The low dosage and the small portion of the wines matured in oak offer a nice and generous expression of the aroma during the tasting. A well-balanced cuvée between freshness and maturity. The Solera brings a nice aromatic complexity and the finish is fresh and generous.
« LES VIGNES DE LA VALLÉE » BRUT
« Mineral and Suave»
The cuvée Grande Reserve Brut with a base of 2010 harvest and a “prolonged ageing”. Time highlight the sapidity of this wine for a generous and ample cuvée with a great aromatic persistence.
The color is a golden yellow with light glints. The nose and the palate have more butter and toasted notes than its younger. It also bring almond, dried fruit and honey aroma.
TRIO «S» BRUT
« Mineral and Gourmet»
Trio for the three grapes variety that composed this cuvée – Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay -, this Brut is made from the perpetual reserve in Solera of the House. Truly the memory of the estates, it regroups all the harvest since 1998 which brings a singular personnality to this generous and expressive cuvée.
The color is a golden yellow. The nose is rich with ripe yellow fruits aroma and classy bouquet – toasted bread, hazelnut. On the palate, the champagne is ample and possesses a good tension strengthened by the minerality of the terroir. The mix of the different grape varieties, various vintage wines and the diversity of the plots brings him a nice complexity and a great aromatic depth.
« MAISONCELLE » 2007
« An iron fist in a velvet glove»
Maisoncelle is one of the few plots with Pinot Noir of the Champagne Dehours. The old vines from 1973 and 1975 of this one hectare plot enjoy a North-East exposure and so the vines dry fast on the morning.
The color is straw-colored with golden glint. The nose is discreet but complex with dried fruits, citrus and woody aroma with light spicy notes. The palate offers a great texture with a nice sapidity. Soft, powerful and complex, the finish is long with freshness and the minerality of the terroir brings a nice tension.
BONUS : COTEAUX BLANC MAREUIL LE PORT
Jérôme is one of the few winegrowers who produce a white Coteaux Champenois which is recognized as a reference. The producer made us the nice surprise to give to Portraitsdebulles the opportunity to taste this pearl…
A name referring to its lieu-dit, where old vines bloom in the heart of the terroir on a clay soil. A 100% chardonnay vinified in white, matured 18 months in oak barrels and bottled without filtration in order to keep of the essence of the terroir; this Coteaux of the House Dehours is produced in small quantity only if the quality allows it and especially if the harvest offers the appropriate maturation. In order to have the optimal maturation for this still wine, the grapes are picked up at the end of the harvest 2011 on a plot of chardonnay named Les Rieux. The colour is a strong golden yellow with amber highlights. The nose is generous and expressive at first offering round and mineral notes with a iodized hint. Then light woody notes develop grilled, coffee aroma. The palate offers a pure, saline and mineral texture. A beautiful surprise to end the discovery of Jérôme Dehours estate.
Dehours & Fils
Responsable : Jérôme Dehours
Location : Cerseuil (Vallée de la Marne)
Majority grape variety : Pinot Meunier
Other grape varieties : Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
Vineyard surface : 14 Hectares
Viticulture : integrated viticulture
CHAMPAGNE DEHOURS & FILS
2 Rue de la Chapelle,