VISIT AND TASTING AT CHAMPAGNE DAVID LECLAPART
Third generation on the estate, David Léclapart is a winegrower of Champagne with an atypical background who manages his vineyard with a lot of humility and following a biodynamic approach. Located between Châlons and Reims, we met at his house with this out of the ordinary winegrower of Trépail – a village on the terroir of the southern part of the Montagne de Reims. A generous, simple and sensitive winegrower who developed a passion for the vines before the wines and who creates highly expressive cuvées in perfect harmony with nature.
The visit started in the tasting room of the family House where David receives the epicureans who come to visit the estate surrounded by souvenirs of the winegrower, just next to the library where he studies and finds inspiration. The endearing winegrower starts by explaining with a lot of sincerity his unusual path and how he got so passionate about crafting natural champagnes…
A two stage revelation : the vines and biodynamic approach
At the beginning, neither his mother nor him wanted that he takes over the estate. Instead, he chose a cursus in the Business and Management area but life brought him back to the vines…
After a first period of activity, David came back in Trépail and rediscovered the work in the vineyard with his parents. For him it is a first revelation and what was once a constraint became a pleasure and a passion. He decided to follow the training of Avize as well as the one of vineyard workers.
Early in the 90’s, his wife offered him a book about the organic farming and after what he decided to change his diet little by little including the Budwig cream of Catherine Kousmine – an eminent scientist who proved that there is close dependency between our health and what we eat. At that period, David developed his awareness and understood that we lost the living nutritive elements in our food. In a magazine, next to an article about Catherine Kousmine, the winegrower noticed an advertising for the Marjolaine Fair – the exhibition for organic products and sustainable development – where he decided to go. During this event, he met and exchanged with the School of Agrobiology of Beaujeau including with Claude Bourguignon – agricultural engineer – and François Bouchet who developed the biodynamic approach ; meetings that drove the young winegrower to go to the school to follow the 6 month program at Beaujeau… It is the second revelation for David, the biodynamic one…
For the winegrower, organic and biodynamic approches offer a multitude of possibilities in the vine ‘management ‘: they are a living thought ; they take into consideration full of elements and create a biodiversity in what is cultivated.
David first gained a previous experience at Leclerc-Briant during an internship followed by an employment contract thanks to his professeur François Bouchet – a way to gained a 2-year practice of the Bouchet approach. In 1996, he is about thirty when he came back to the family estate after his father passed away but on the only condition to change the estate to a biodynamic viticulture. In 1998, David transitioned the vineyard to biodynamic viticultural methods and obtained the Ecocert certification in 2000 as well as Demeter in 2001.
First, David started with some old equipments as well as quite some loans but built his own experience. At that time, he worked with what he has and got to know the wines ; He also learnt how to taste wine through his travels and trainings. Bit by bit he built his palate but passionate he learned relatively quickly….
Stubborn and strong-willed, he does not give up – even during difficult conditions like in 1997 for example when, as David explained himself, that : “that year, I made many mistakes in the vineyard and everything went wrong”. The first years were rather challenging for the winegrower, but he managed with talent and strength of character to create pure and nuanced style for his champagnes but above all, living wines guided by the principles of purity, energy, pleasure and ecology.
Philosophy : one village, different terroirs and multiples identities
The Léclapart estate covers 3 hectares – 2.97ha exactly – spread over 22 parcels in Trépail Premier Cru Village with 80% Chardonnay and 20% of Pinot Noirs. Particularly interesting, traditionally planted with Pinot Noir, Trépail has been replanted with Chardonnay in the 50’s. The terroir of the village is located in the southern part of the Montagne de Reims and offers soils composed of a mix of Clay and limestone, rich in flint stones and loaded in water thanks to the spring nearby. Because the terroir is quite cold, it offers a slow maturity and an higher acidity for a great aging potential. Moreover, the vineyard of the village is split in two parts by the road with a soil composed of clay and limestone from the Cretaceous period on both sides but with one side is from upper Campanien whereas the other is from lower Campanien.
David manages alone the estate with as only help one apprentice – as dedicated and passionate as he is – and workers in the vineyard. But the winegrower has at heart to continue to keep up with his vines : working in harmony with nature is essential for him. For him, ‘the biodynamic approach is common sens‘, a vital need to respect the energy of life, from the vine to the glass thanks to the creative forces behind biodynamics that let the nature expresses itself through the wines. Dedicated to biodynamics, he learns his craft, gets inspired and overcomes the difficulties and the doubts. Natural green cover, giving up the use of fertilizers, herbicides and chemical pesticides, … the winegrower even decided with the humidity of the weather of 2016 to try to use clay to struggle against the mildew : as the aluminum hampers the development of the mycelium. Thanks to biodynamics, the grapes offer great purity and quality.
The work of the winegrower continues in the press room. In fact, he has access to a press at a friend’s who owns an old vertical Coquart press from the 50’s reserved especially for David’s grapes – just like if it was his own press. During the pressing, he takes care to respect the quality of what nature gave him : static settling of the musts, only 2gr/hecto of sulfure then nothing else during the rest of the wine making process and no chaptalization.
In the cellar, David’s work complements the work in the vines as well. Indeed, the winegrower avoids as much as possible to intervene during the winemaking process. All his work in the cellar reflects exactly his viticultural convictions ; all oenological technology or techniques that could alter the soul of the wines are avoided, he uses only old barrels for the vinification in oak and the malolactic is induced naturally, no fining, no filtration or cold stabilization.
David produces only non-claimed single vintages which means that he does not use any reserve wines; it allows to understand through his wines the influence of time and of the conditions of one year. The winegrower creates highly individual champagnes ; pure and elegant with savory complexity from the chalky soil of Trépail. Low in sulphur and without any dosage, all the cuvées express the maximal and striking purity of the wine with a racy, energetic and fresh tension.
The range of the winegrower includes 3 Blancs de Blancs : L’Amateur – a 100% steel tank cuvée -, L’Artiste – 50/50 – and L’Apôtre – 100% oak barrels.
The other difference on the 100% Chardonnay champagnes is the parcellaire approach : 6 plots for L’Amateur and 2 plots for L’Artiste whereas L’Apôtre is a single plot cuvée.
In Pinot Noir, David created from 2001 to 2009 a Rosé de Saignée by maceration called L’Alchimiste and a Coteaux Rouge. Since 2010, he chose to switch to a Blanc de Noirs by pressing instead and created L’Astre. Unlike the Blanc de Blancs, all the Pinot cuvées are made in 100% oak barrels.
Each bottle is easily identifiable thanks to its batch code : LV – L for batch in French and V for Vintage – followed by the year (ex : LV13 for the harvest 2013), namely the first cuvée was in 1999 (LV99).
A ‘Leaf day’ Tasting
This 18th of June was a ‘Leaf day' and vegetal aromas were obvious in each of the cuvée tasted. Without dosage, each wine is highly singular and well-balanced with the characteristic energy of Biodynamic champagnes.
The tasting started in the barrel room with the still wines of the 2015 harvest. Long to reveal themselves, the wines show now a lot of profoundness, complexity and aromatic balance. The Pinot noir brings some intense vanilla notes and both the Chardonnay and the Pinot developed a nice sapidity that lasts. A year promising lengthy aging potential…
Back to the house, the tasting continued …
L’ AMATEUR 2013
«Spirit of the Léclapart terroir»
The perfect cuvée to get to know the Léclapart terroir : 6 plots in 100% Chardonnay and 100% vinified in steel tanks. This cuvée who aged 24 months in David’s cellar is made from grapes coming from soils with a lot of flints, especially from the upper Campanien.
The wine is straw-colored with some golden glints. The nose is generous and fruity developing toasty and pastries notes. The palate offers a nice liveliness and nervousness ; vinous at first, it develops a nice acidity from the Chardonnay. The finish is on the sapidity and makes your mouth.
L’ ARTISTE 2011
«Zoom on two plots»
Each year, David tastes the grapes and select two plots for their geologic unity – located on the same geologic layer. It also means that each year the winegrower picks different parcels for this cuvée which allows him to get to know more and more his terroir over time. Partially fermented in barrels – 50% vinified in oak, 50% in steel tanks – to accentuate the complexity and the chalk-driven finesse. The wines aged 3 years before release.
The color is a deep golden yellow and the effervescence is delicate. The nose is beautifully complex. With a lot of roundness, the palate brings out the vegetal notes on this ‘leaf day’ as well as woody notes from the oak aging. Once again, it is easy to recognize the pleasant acidity and sapidity from the Léclapart terroir.
L’ APOTRE 2010
«Emotion of time»
One year, one plot, with the oldest vines of the estates – a massale selection from 1946 grafted by his grand-father and ploughed during many years allowing an important root system. After an aging of a minimum of 4 years, David re-tastes over time the different years of this cuvée in order to understand the evolution and the terroir of this exceptional plot as well as the influence of the condition of one year but also the influence of time.
The color is a deep gold. The nose is elegantly flowery whereas the palate brings a nice minerality and a great balance. Vinous with woody notes, this cuvée is intensely mineral, concentrated and with a sense of depth of old vines.
L’ ASTRE 2010 and 2013
«Complexity and elegance»
A 100% Pinot Noir cuvée. David created L’Alchimiste – a 100% Pinot Noirs Rosé de Saignée – until 2009 and switched in 2010 for L’ Astre : a Blanc de Noirs vinified in oak barrels and aged during 30 months.
2010 was a year of ’emergency’ – big thunderstorms and a maturity which turned quickly – whereas 2013 was humide at first but with a great summer with long period of sunshine with just enough rain to complete the maturity of the grapes.
The color is a light gold with light pink glints. The nose is discreet but complex : spicy and woody with some vine peach notes. The palate is well-structured and brings vanilla aroma.
BONUS : L’ ARTISTE 2008
2008 is a great year for vintages in Champagne : the harvest delivered grapes with extraordinary purity, balance and finesse ; qualities increasing already the ones of the cuvée of David, offering an surprisingly pure and vibrant wine expressing the chalk-minerality of the terroir with saline notes. This champagne is the perfect meeting of a great vintage and an exceptional know-how of a strong-willed winegrower.
A cuvée illustrating perfectly what explained Samuel Cogliati : ‘champagne, when it’s a success, is an exceptional blend between cooling and source of euphoria, elegance of aromas and incomparable subtlety'.
ADVISED READING BY DAVID : ‘The hidden messages in water’ by Masuru Emoto.
Responsable : David Léclapart
Location : Trépail (Montagne de Reims)
Majority grape variety : Chardonnay
Other grape varieties : Pinot Noir
Vineyard surface : 2.97 Hectares
Viticulture : Biodynamic
CHAMPAGNE David LÉCLAPART
10 Rue de la Mairie,
 The biodynamic calendar follows the moon’s rhythms and defines : Fruit Days – Best days for harvesting grapes -, Root Days – Ideal days for pruning -, Flower Days – Leave the vineyard alone on these days and Leaf Days – Ideal days for watering plants.
 ‘Champagne, Le rêve fragile’ by Samuel Cogliati (2013)