2017 PRINTEMPS DES CHAMPAGNES TASTING
For their 8th tasting edition and their 2nd year of participation to the Printemps des Champagnes, the association called ACB gathered Sunday 23rd April, more than 30 winegrowers at the beautiful and cultural center of Le Manège de Reims. The opportunity for the winemakers to introduce their 2016 clear wines as well as their champagnes made from certified organic and biodynamic estates. The opportunity for the professionals from all over the world to discover the diversity of methods respecting the environment and creating refined individual wines.
The Organic approach in Champagne
To be certified organic, the winegrower must respect the european legislation on organic production – which means no synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The objective is to respect, look after and improve the quality of the soils, to preserve the quality of air and water. It is also to favor the biodiversity by banning all GMO and synthetic chemicals as well as by reducing use of natural elements like sulfur, copper, clay… An approach allowing also the winegrowers to let the terroir express its individuality. The organic methods include the use of natural predators, natural mineral materials, medicinal plants or friendly bacteria. It protects the soil using more green manure, compost and relying on natural green cover.
Organic or biodynamic methods: the approaches have the same basis. Nevertheless, the biodynamic viticulture is also based on a deep understanding of the laws of life acquired through a qualitative and global vision of nature. Indeed, it considers that nature is currently so damaged that it is no longer able to cure itself and so it is necessary to restore the fertile vitality of the soil thanks to therapeutic methods in order to have healthy and quality vines. The biodynamic approach also takes into consideration the lunar cycle and the cosmic influence.
Regarding the vinification, the winemakers have to follow certain rules as well. Indeed, the winemaking process must use only organic certified ingredients – grapes, sugar, must -, additive and processing components that are referenced and not more than 150 mg/l of sulfur dioxide for champagne wines. Adding to those rules, the organic vinification also have a list of forbidden oenological practices that the winemakers must not apply.
In Champagne, organic wine-growing started in the 1970’s. However, it was officially recognized only in 1981 in France. In 2015, the Champagne area – Marne, Aube and Aisne – registered 127 estates and more than 666 hectares of vineyard putting in practice Organic approach – including 143 hectares in the process of conversion (source : Agence Bio statistics). The winegrowers have to wait their 4th harvest following the conversion to be certified and to use the AB label for his cuvées. Of course, he will have to wait patiently the winemaking process and the aging to be finished before being able to sale his organic wine bottles.
In 1998, initiators of the organic movement in Champagne and other pro-active wine producers decided to create the A.C.B. – Association des Champagnes Biologiques (Association of Organic Champagnes). Growing larger and larger, the association now regroups around 60 members. All the winegrowers part of the group share the same convictions. They are highly motivated by being in harmony with nature, devoted to cultivate living soils and to respect them by banning any chemicals or synthetic products. The A.C.B association has different objectives and purposes: to organize different trainings for the winegrowers and to promote the exchange of technical knowledge, to mutualize the experiences and knowledge of its members, to promote the organic champagnes upon professional manifestions, to be a referent for journalists, organisms, associations and any person interested by the organic growing practices or to protect the certified winegrowers from usurpation of the label.
2017 Tasting – Zoom in on 9 winegrowers
It is in a friendly atmosphere that we meet with the 34 winegrowers of the association. Each one of them settled at his table to present his clear wines of the year and their champagnes. Present that day to offer to professionals a tasting around the respect of nature and full of joy : Champagne Robert Barbichon, Champagne Barrat-Masson, Champagne André Beaufort, Champagne Laurent Bénard, Champagne H.Blin, Champagne Jérôme Blin, Champagne Colette Bonnet, Champagne Bonnet-Ponson, Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz, Champagne Charlot-Tanneux, Champagne Cordeuil, Champagne Déhu Père et fils, Champagne Pascal Doquet, Champagne Didier Doué, Champagne Bulles de Comptoir par Charles Dufour, Champagne Durdon-Bouval, Champagne Fleury, Champagne Gaiffe-Brun, Champagne Hugues Godmé, Champagne Olivier Horiot, Champagne Georges Laval, Champagne David Léclapart, Champagne Leclerc Briant, Champagne Christophe Lefevre, Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot, Champagne Marguet, Champagne Pascal Mazet, Champagne Bruno Michel, Champagne Mouzon Leroux et fils, Champagne Piollot Père et fils, Champagne Ruppert-Leroy, Champagne Solemme, Champagne Val’Frison and Champagne Vouette-et-Sorbée.
André Beaufort – The unconventional expression of champagne
In Ambonnay, the estate of 7,5 hectares has been farmed organically since the early 1970s. Indeed, in 1969, Jacques Beaufort developed a serious allergy to synthetic products and decided two years later to convert his vineyard. The estate is managed with careful care, without any “chemical” intervention, the plants are grown with essential oils according to the requirements of “homeopathy and aromatherapy” and the yeasts are natural. As for the living chalky soils, they allow a free expression of the grape varieties for structured, full-bodied, fruity and highly aromatic wines. The 2016 clear wine – a 100% Pinot Noir from Ambonnay – is fruity and vegetal with light menthol notes. The 1997 Vintage champagne – 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay from the terroir of Polisy – offers generous honeyed and vegetal notes with a nice minerality on the finish. As for the 2003 Grand Cru Vintage – a 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay cuvée from Ambonnay terroir -, it develops expressive and generous stewed fruit notes. Finally, the 2004 Demi Sec Vintage – 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay derived from Polisy terroir – is fine, refined and elegant with mirabelle plum aromas.
Charlot-Tanneux – The passion for nature
Settled in Mardeuil, Vincent converted entirely his 4,20 hectares to biodynamic practices and got the certification since 2010. The winegrower has at heart to respect the nature and what it offers as well as to let the terroir express itself. And for that, Vincent developed an excellent understanding of the plant world, he even makes his own compost – different according each types of soils. His champagnes are complex with very distinct terroir character, loaded with purity. The Basses Ronces 2016 clear wine – a 100% Chardonnay from Mardeuil – is round and ripe with an expressive terroir minerality. The mineral Fruit de ma Passion 2013 champagne – a 50% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir wine from Mardeuil – offers the complexity of the Pinot Meunier with ripe and well-balanced aromas. L’Or des Basses Ronces cuvée – a 100% Chardonnay champagne from vines planted in 1955 in Mardeuil – develops an elegant vinosity as well as stewed black fruit notes. Finally, L’Extravagant “sans souffre” 2013 – a no added sulfure Blanc de Blancs champagne from Mardeuil and Epernay – is expressive and round with a floral and vinous character.
Benoît Déhu – Refined interpretation of Pinot Meunier
Located in the Vallée de la Marne in Fossoy, Benoît Déhu perpetuates the tradition on the family estate but also bring his own touch of modernity. The winegrower manages his vineyard with a high-respect of nature and following organic and biodynamic principles. He tries to be the least interventionist possible. As for the vinification, he chose to use its own oak barrels and mastered perfectly the use of wood. Through his work, the winemaker creates nuanced and multi-facet aromatic wines expressing the minerality of a terroir, a plot and the typicity of a grape variety. The Rue Des Noyers clear wine – a 100% Meunier single plot wine – is fresh, delicate and expressive. For the champagnes, the winegrower was presenting one of its future wines called 41B – a grapevine rootstock cuvée, a micro-plot champagne from La rue de Noyers plot in Fossoy. The wine is lively, taut and mineral with vegetal notes. After a few minutes, it develops profound and iodic notes. The second champagne, La Rue Des Noyers – a single plot cuvée made exclusively from Pinot Meunier – is generous, vinous and mineral with honey, almond and vanilla notes.
Hugues Godmé – The tenderness expression of a terroir
Fifth generation in his family to produce champagnes in Verzenay, Hugues owns 7,6 hectares spread over 4 villages of the Montagne de Reims – Verzenay, Verzy, Villers-Marmery and Villedommange – and not less than 40 different plots. This spread estate offers to the winegrower a great diversity of terroirs. Fond of his vineyard, Hugues uses a biodynamic approach since 2006 and is certified since 2010. As for the vinification, all the plots of the vineyard are vinified separately or in small groups : at Godmé estate, it is important to cherish what nature provided to create mineral, generous and expressive wine reflecting the quality and typicity of its terroir. The 2016 Les Romaines Villedommange clear wine – 100% Pinot Meunier – offers delicate, generous smoky and spicy notes with a taut minerality and roundness. As for the tasted champagnes : Les Champs Saint Martin – a 100% Pinot Noir wine from Verzenay – expresses the power of the Pinot Noir balanced with a great freshness and minerality. Finally, Les Alouettes Saint Bets – a Blanc de Blancs from Villers-Marmery – is voluptuous, fresh and fruity with pear and white fruit aromas as well as light menthol notes.
Georges Laval – Emotional terroir wines
Based in the village of Cumieres, Vincent Laval dignifiedly pursues the organic farming established by his father since 1971 on the 2,5 hectares of the estate. The winegrower carries out his work with the greatest respect for the final wine, preserving all its original savors and creating pleasure, round, vinous and mineral champagnes with an incredible density and salinity. Vincent even decided to ban any techniques and products which are likely to present a risk to the environment and public health or to alter the quality of the wine. The 2016 “Garennes” clear wine – 90% Meunier, 9% Pinot Noir, 2% Chardonnay from Chambrecy and Cumières – is already honeyed and perfectly well-balanced with yellow flower notes. The second clear wine “Cumières” – Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir from Cumières – is fruity, powerful and harmonious. After the second fermentation, Garenne – 90% Meunier, 5% Pinot Noir, 5% Chardonnay from Cumières and Chambrecy – offers complexity, minerality with butter and woody notes whereas the Brut Nature Cumières cuvée – 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier – is generous, complex and rich with an elegant vinosity.
David Léclapart – The audacity of the terroir nature-style
At his return on the 2.97 hectare family estate in Trépail, David was determined to convert the vineyard to biodynamic. And despite all the challenges, the winegrower managed with elegance and humility the conversion and went even further using a natural viticulture combined with a natural wine making process for natural and pleasure champagnes. Exclusion of any chemical synthesis products, total grassing of soils, the use of biodynamic preparations, sheep in the vineyard, no reserve wines – only vintages -, no dosage to express the energy and purity of the terroir… The winegrower is not sparing with his efforts to respect his terroir and create highly individual terroir wines. His 2016 clear wine – 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir – is well-balanced and very aromatic with a profound, delicate and complex minerality. Two champagnes to taste : the first one, L’Artiste – a 100% Chardonnay from the 2011 harvest – offers power, elegance and generosity with an elegant vinosity and vegetal notes. The second cuvée, L’Astre – a 100% Pinot Noir wine from 2013 – offers delicate spicy and woody notes with vanilla aromas. A wine with a lot of structure and minerality.
Lelarge-Pugeot – Pure essence of terroirs
Settled in Vrigny since 1799, using an organic approach since 2010, the family works hand in hand at the estate creating terroir wines from their 8,68 hectares. The vineyard is spread over 42 distinct plots – all under the organic certification – with a clay and chalk terroir. For Dominique and Dominique and their three children – 7th and 8th generation – it is essential to let the nature take it course and to preserve the equilibrium between the environment, the vineyard and the terroir. The champagnes develops a great purity, finesse and minerality, expression of the family attachment to the local soil of Vrigny. The clear wine of La Côte des Glaises – a 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir wine from a single plot and futur Brut Nature cuvée – is fresh, delicate and taut but also striking and complex. For the champagnes, Les Meuniers de Clémence – a 2013 and 100% Pinot Meunier cuvée – is expressive, complex and saline with yellow fruit notes as well as an elegant minerality. The Rosé de Saignée – 60% Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir from Vrigny – offers an orange pink color and is elegantly astringent, metallic and gastronomic. To finish, the Nature – a without dosage cuvée and a 50% Pinot Meunier, 25% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Noir wine – develops fresh, mineral and lightly woody notes on the finish.
Mouzon Leroux – Chemistry between soil, climate and vines
Winemakers since 1776, the Mouzon-Leroux family from Verzy farms a vineyard of 7, 5 hectares spread over 50 plots. Using environmentally friendly farming techniques since 1997, a biodynamic approach since 2008 and certified sinced 2011, Sébastien helps the clay and limestone terroir to express itself through the wines. Cultivating Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir but the old grape varieties as well, the winegrower creates champagnes with distinctive and authentic characters. His 2016 clear wine from the 7 grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir but also Arbanne, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier, Pinot Gris – is fruity with exotic, pear and apple notes and offers freshness and minerality. L’Atavique, the first tasted champagne – a 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay from Verzy – is taut, mineral, iodic with a frank attack : a mouthwatering cuvée with white-fleshed fruit aromas. L’incandescent – a 100% Pinot Noir from 100% Verzy as well – offers vinosity, suppleness and intensity with a generous, refined fruity palate. Finally, the Ratafia L’Exaltant – a 100% Pinot Noir liquor from 100% Verzy – is smoky, profound and perfectly well-balanced with spicy notes.
Ruppert-Leroy – The typicity of one wine, one year, one plot
Located in Essoyes in the Côtes des Bars area, Bénédicte Ruppert and Emmanuel Leroy manage together an estate of 3.79 hectares. In 2009, they decided to take over the Domain and as they were living already in a farm, surrounded by nature and farming their garden with a the biodynamic method… it was unconceivable for the couple to do otherwise than using organic and biodynamic approaches for their vineyard. Today certified, the farm is nearly in self-sufficiency, the vines are covered with grass, trees are planted in the vineyard to enrich the biodiversity. The winemakers create vinous, taut and mineral wines. The Rosé clear wine – a 100% Pinot Noir from grey clay terroir – is fresh, powerful and mineral with expressive spicy notes. As for the champagnes, Fosse Grely – a 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay cuvée made from a red clay on limestone slab terroir – is round, subtle and complex with mineral and fennel notes. Martin Fontaine – a Blanc de Blancs from clay and chalky soil with a majority of white clay – is a profound and mineral champagne with a frank attack whereas Les Cognaux – a 100% Pinot Noir from a clay and grey marl terroir – is fresh, chiseled, taut and mineral.
This year again, the Bulles BIO tasting of the Association des Champagnes Biologiques (Organic Champagnes) offered a great diversity of organic, biodynamic terroir champagnes in a relaxed atmosphere. The opportunity for the visitors to discover different identities of the Appellation.