2017 PRINTEMPS DES CHAMPAGNES TASTING
For the 9th edition of the Printemps des Champagnes week, the group called Des Pieds et des Vins organized their annual vins clairs and champagne tasting on the 24th of April at the beautiful Hotel Ponsardin. A unique opportunity to discover the potential of the last harvest wines and the philosophy of each member of the group.
Des Pieds et des Vins
Created by 12 young winegrowers from Champagne, the association Des Pieds et des Vins aims to get things moving in Champagne and to federate around a shared philosophy : the respect of the environment and tillage. Located in Vrigny, Chamery, Villers-Allerand, Verzy, Vandières, Romery, Cumières, Avize, Villenauxe-la-Grande, Meurville and Gyé-sur-Seine, the winemakers represent through the association their passion, their terroirs and their know-how and create wines of unique and authentic characters which the visitors discover during the event organized by the group. One thing is certain for those passionate producers is that soils, climate and vine are central in their work to create wine before champagne.
2016 was a challenging season for sure. It started with a gentle and sunny autumn followed by a late and just as gentle winter. A mildness which was the first sign of an off-balance year… The end of March – and beginning of spring – brought extraordinarily heavy rains with a cumulative rainfall which was already representing a surplus of 50%. 2016 offered so a fresh spring with torrential rains. April was marked with cold including frequent frosts which at the end of the month affected nearly a quarter of the Champagne appellation area and destroyed the buds. Rains, hailstorms, late frosts and thunderstorms followed one another and spring did not spare the winegrowers with rainfall amounts to two three times the average observed over 20 years helping developing a lots of mildew and making the growing conditions in the vineyard very difficult with treatments that could not be spaced.
The flowering finished at the end of June, with a ten-days delay. The vine had suffered damage : the winegrowers already knew that the volume would be affected. Freshness persisting in early June. However, August and beginning of September finally brought back the sun with heavy heat. The summer was therefore drier with local rains and an unhoped end of season but still with excesses resulting in sunscalding during the hottest days. But the very present sun lifted the winegrower spirit, stopping cryptogamic diseases. Finally, the dates of the beginning of the harvest were set, starting on 10/09 for the earliest villages. However, it was a longer harvest due to the disparate maturation depending on grape varieties and areas.
Diluvian rains to begin, heat and dryness to finish… 2016 was not an easy year in the vineyard. However, the quality of the grapes were more than satisfactory in the end and the Vins Clairs are already showing a great potential for the future cuvées of this unpredictable year…
12 winegrowers, 12 personalities… but a shared passion
The overview of the Champagne area starts in the Vallée de la Marne with Champagne Aurélien Lurquin. Located in Romery, the vineyard of Aurélien is made of 2,3 hectares divided in five plots with marl soils. The winegrower chose the organic and biodynamic method – certified since 2012 – to create rich intense and terroir expressive champagne and allowing to express the identity of each wine – energy, purity and minerality. The estate also possesses one of the old grape variety allowed in Champagne : Petit Meslier. The tasting starts with the Coteaux Champenois of the House. The red 2016 Coteaux Champenois – 100% Pinot Meunier 2016 – is ample and complex with mineral notes whereas the red Coteaux Champenois Les Forcières – a single plot and 100% Pinot Meunier 2016 wine – offers freshness and chalky notes with ripe berries aromas. To finish two single plot cuvées from the parcel called Les Crayères : first an opulent and mineral Blanc de Blancs expressing saline and chalky notes but also an elegant, pure and fruity 100% Meunier champagne with a lot of fineness and racy tension.
Staying in the Vallée de la Marne area, we met with Yann, 9th generation at Champagne Vadin-Plateau in Cumières. Yann takes care of 7 hectares spread over the chalky and clay terroirs of Aÿ, Pourcy, Hautvillers, Cumières, Damery, Venteuil and Château-Thierry. Through his work, the winegrower wishes to create emotion thank to a respectful and sustainable viticulture, a vineyard with the HVE certification and a vinification adapted to the peculiarities of the terroir. The champagnes of the estate are complexe and elegant reflecting perfectly the know-how and the philosophy of the House. The tasting started with Renaissance: a complex, mineral and vinous 100% Pinot Meunier Blanc de Noirs from Cumières. As for the Bois des Jots cuvée – single plot and 100% Meunier Blanc de Noirs from Cumières -, it offers intensity, complexity and roundness with bitter almond notes. The Chêne la Butte cuvée – a single plot Blanc de Blancs from Cumières – is elegant and delicate with a lot of freshness on the finish. Finally, Ovalie 2012 – 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay from 2 plots : Chêne la Butte and Bois des Jots – is complex with a delicate vinosity and lightly smoky notes.
The last estate from the Vallée de la Marne is Champagne Nowack in Vandières managed by Flavien Nowack, 4th generation. The family cultivates 3,6 hectares of vineyard on a terroir known for its soils of clay-limestone sand on marls as well as its outstanding and expressive Pinot Meunier grapes. Flavien is managing the family estate with a clear goal : to respect the soils in order to underline the purity of the terroir. Thanks to his meticulous work, the winemaker creates wines with pep, precision and complexity. The winegrower brought for the tasting three cuvées but not only… The first champagne, La Tuilerie – 100% Chardonnay -, is well-structured and lightly woody with a great and fine minerality. Then, La Fontinette – a 100% Pinot Meunier wine – is expressive, precise and elegant with light sour apples. Cru d’Origine the third wine – a 100% Pinot Meunier micro-cuvée – offers finesse, freshness and elegance with a floral touch.. Finally, Flavien also brought Jus de Meunier 2016 – a cellar release – which is a grape juice highly expressive on fruit but also round and well-balanced.
On the Côte des Blancs this time, in Avize precisely, Champagne Corbon is managed by Agnés who represent the 4th generation. The estate is spread over a total of 2,7 hectares, including 1,1 hectares in Avize and its lands of chalk but also in Vandière, Verneuil, Vincelles – right bank Marne Valley – and its marl soil. In order to value her precious terroir, Agnés chose a sustainable and reasonable viticulture respectful of the soil and the environment. Thanks to this method she forces the roots to go deeper into the soil and creates mineral wines. The winemaker brought 4 champagnes. First, Absolument Brut – 50% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier – is fresh with expressive fruity and mineral notes. Grand Cru 2005 – 100% Chardonnay from Avize – is an elegant and refined wine with yellow fruit and citrus notes whereas Brut d’Autrefois – a 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir perpetual cuvée – is both complex and delicate and offers honey and dried fruit aromas. Finally, Cuvée Perdue n°2 – 1/3 Chardonnay, 1./3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Pinot Meunier – offers complexity and elegance with intense fruit notes.
Coming from Avize in the Côte des Blancs as well, Champagne Etienne Calsac is represented by Etienne Calsac. The winegrower takes care of the 2,8 hectare family estate. The vineyard is spread over three villages : Avize and Grauves for the Côte des Blancs and Bisseuil for the Grande Vallée de la Marne. However, Etienne also have the chance to own a Clos in Avize – true rarity in Champagne. The winegrower chose the HVE certification and a sustainable viticulture for his vineyard exclusively planted in Chardonnay and with limestone and marl soils. Etienne produces champagnes with a lot of fineness and character. Four cuvées were offered to the visitor of the tasting. First, L’échappée Belle, a rich and fresh Blanc de Blancs with intense mineral notes and lemon zest aromas. The second champagne, Les Rocheforts, is a complex and mineral Blanc de Blancs from a plot in Bisseuil and with pineapple notes. The Clos des Maladries 2013 cuvée – a single plot Blanc de Blancs from Avize – offers great structure and complexity with saline notes. Finally, Rose de Craie – a 89% Chardonnay, 11% Pinot Noir rosé – is both fresh and fruity with red berry aromas.
On the Montagne de Reims side, Sébastien from Champagne Mouzon Leroux in Verzy manages an estate of not less than 7,5 hectares that are spread over about fifty plots in Verzy. Since 2008, the winegrower is farming his vineyard following the biodynamic method : a respectful approach to cherish his marl soils and his vines. His philosophy aims and allow him to create living and atypical wines with a great balance between fineness and roundness. The champagne individualities are vinous, authentic, and complex but also totally assumed. Sébastien cultivates both “classic” grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier – and old ones – Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. The first tasted cuvée was L’atavique : a 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay blended champagne with floral and exotic notes offering fruitiness, salinity and freshness. As for L’ascendant cuvée – a solera since 2010 with 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay – it develops a great minerality and is both taut and delicate. with yellow fruit aromas. The third cuvée is a Rosé de Saignée called L’incandescent 2014 – a 100% Pinot Noir with a 26h maceration – with safran and vanilla notes highlighting the red fruit aromas. The last champagne of the estate, L’Angélique 2011 – 100% Chardonnay – is suave and elegant with lemon blossom and smoky notes.
At Champagne Thomas Perserval in Charmery – village of the Montagne de Reims -, Thomas takes care of 2,5 hectares divided into six plots in mid-slopes and low-hills on sandy, clay-sandy and clay-limestone soils. It is a 100% Chamery estate with a rich variety of soils, subsoils and exposure offering a great panel to the winegrower to crete expressive cuvées. The domain is certified organic since 2012 : the result of a respectful philosophy. The winegrower benefits from old grape variety vines too with some Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc plant. The tasting started with the stil wine : first, the Coteaux Champenois Blanc 2015, La Pucelle – 85% Meunier and 15% Pinot Noir – : a still wine with a lot of fineness, roundness and generosity. Then, the Coteaux Champenois Blanc 2015, Le Village – 100% Chardonnay – offers delicate and fresh fruit and mineral notes. Concerning the champagnes, the Tradition 2013 – 43% Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir and 17% Chardonnay – is an expressive champagne with wild strawberry and brioche notes. The Rosé 2014 – 50% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Meunier with an addition of 20% red wine – is light and fresh with blood orange peel and red fruit aromas. Finally, the Grande cuvée 2012 – 1/3 Chardonnay from “le village”, 1/3 Pinot Noir from “la Mazure” and 1/3 Pinot Meunier from “la Pucelle” – is complex, delicate and mineral with spicy notes.
Still in the Montagne de Reims, Champagne Stroebel in Villers-Allerand was presented by Thimothé Stroebel. Third generation on the family estate, the winegrower benefits from a 3,5 hectares vineyard exclusively in Villers-Allerand and driven following the organic viticulture principles since 2008. The excellence of his terroir quality allows Thimothé to create outstanding and champagnes and produces outstanding, impressive wines. Indeed, the multiple exposure as well as the 3,5 hectares of vines in deep clay, sand or limestone soils offers a great diversity for the winegrower. The cuvées of the estate are harmonious and expressive like the champagne tasted during the event. Triptyque – 52% Pinot Noir, 36% Pinot Meunier and 12% Chardonnay – develops vinosity and fruity aromas wheras Héraclite Sous Bois – 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Pinot Meunier – is more woody with vanilla notes. Héraclite Rosée de Saignée – 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier – is tannic with a creamy texture and an elegant vinosity. As for the still wines, the red Coteaux Champenois 2015 – 100% Meunier – is complex and well-structured with spicy and red fruit notes whereas the white Coteaux Champenois 2015 – 100% Meunier as well – offers freshness and salinity with peach aromas.
Last estate from the Montagne de Reims area, Champagne Guillaume Sergent is located in the village of Vrigny and managed by Guillaume Sergent. The 1,9 hectares of vineyard are spread out on the terroirs of Vrigny, Coulommes and Chenay and gives prominence to the Pinot Meunier. The winegrower is dedicated to his vineyard and the terroir of the family estate, this is the reason why he chose an alternative viticulture to farms his hectares with the biodiversity at the center of his work. The champagnes of the House are fresh, fruity and elegant and reflect perfectly the philosophy of the winegrower for the viticulture and the vinification. The winemaker presented two cuvées this year. First, Les Prés Dieu – a Blanc de Blancs from 2 plots with sandy terroirs – which is taut, expressive and complex with white fruit notes and a great freshness on the finish. The second, Le Chemin de Chappes – a 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Meunier Blanc de Noirs champagne coming from chalky and sand soils – is round, delicate and mineral at the same time with vibrant and intense red berry flavors but also toast and dried fruit aromas.
At Champagne Barrat-Masson in Villenauxe-La-Grande in the Côte des Bar, Aurélie and Loîc take care together of 7 hectares of vines located in Bethon and Villenauxe-La-Grand,. A vineyard farmed following the organic viticulture approach in order to respect nature and to highlight the character of the terroir. A method the winegrowers are truly dedicated to. In the cellar of the House, each plot is vinified separately to allowing them to create wines revealing the identity of their precious terroir with clay and limestone soils.The champagnes of the estate are intense, elegant and authentic. Grain d’Argile – 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir – is a generous and fresh champagne with vinous notes and intense redcurrant aromas. The second wine – Fleur de Craie cuvée – is a fresh and elegant Blanc de Blancs with biscuit and white flower aromas. An other Blanc de Blancs – Les Margannes – is more complex and highly aromatic with honey and candied citrus notes. Finally, Rosé de Saignée – 100% Pinot Noir – is elegant and powerful at the same time with intense red fruit aromas and light spicy notes.
In Meurville – a village located in the Côtes des bars – Rémy Leroy is at the head of Champagne Remy Leroy : a 8,5 hectares family estate with clay-limestone soils dating back from the upper Jurassic period and predominantly planted with Pinot Noir. Rémy uses organic practices to promote biodiversity and chose to vinify each plot separately to maintain the outstanding typicity, the integrity and individuality of the terroir. Passionate about oenology, the winegrower creates precise, seductive and elegant terroir wines. The first champagne tasted was the Brut Nature : a fresh 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay champagne with iodic notes with generous brioche and fruit notes. Then, the Rosé cuvée – 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay with an addition of 20% Pinot Noir red wine – is fresh and well-balanced with red fruit aromas including cherry notes. Last but not least, the Blanc de Noirs 2010 – 100% Pinot Noir – . Blanc de Blancs 2011 – a 100% Chardonnay vintage from the 2010 harvest – is complex and generous with persistent brioche and mineral notes.
Finally, Champagne Robert Barbichon from Gyé-sur-Seine in the Côte des Bar area is managed by Robert Barbichon who represent the 4th generation on the family estate. The vineyard covers a total of 9 hectares divided into not less than 17 plots spread over 5 villages around Gyé-sur-Seine. The terroirs are made of clay and limestone and are highlited by the hard work of Robert. Truly passionate by his work, the winegrower puts his ideological philosophy into practice including an organic and biodynamic approach. A method allowing to let both the “classic” grape varieties and old grape variety of the estate – Pinot Blanc – express their quality through the wines he creates. The Blanc de Noirs cuvée – 92% Pinot Noir and 8% Pinot Meunier – is well-balanced with a lot of freshness and delicateness. As for the Rosée de Saignée – 100% Pinot Noir – it develops fruity and vinous notes and is a délicate and feminine wine. Finally, Coteau Champenois 2014 – a red still wine press wine made exclusively from Pinot Noir grapes – offers freshness and is both fruity and well-balanced.
The winegrowers of Des Pieds et des Vins group produce champagne but surely create great wine before anything else. They offered this year once again a great tasting around wine reflecting their philosophies highlighting their unique terroirs.