VISIT AND TASTING AT CHAMPAGNE FLORENT BERGERONNEAU-MARION
In the Bergeronneau family, there are Florent – the father -, Véronique Marion – the mother -, Virginie – the daughter – and Fabien – the son – ; all sharing the fire in the belly for the champagne. Their estate is in the family since 1590 and the new generation is now here to work hand in hand with their parents. Virginie did not resist the melody of the Champagne lands where she came to take her place near the parental figures. Joined by her brother, Fabien, they are together conductors of this estate of 15 hectares where they create with their parents wines with great generosity and tension without any wrong note. Located on terroir of Ville-Dommange in the Montagne de Reims area, we met with Virginie and Fabien, two young winegrowers who have at heart to continue the long tradition of their family while making their own contribution to the estate. A unique opportunity to understand the philosophy and the winemaking process of the estate as well as to discover a bit more the range of champagnes of the Domain.
The family spirit in Champagne…
Located in the village of Ville-Dommange in the Montagne de Reims vineyard, Champagne Florent Bergeronneau Marion has passed on its know-how to every generation. Spread over more than 15 hectares of vines classified Premiers Crus and mainly planted with Pinot Meunier completed with 25% of Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, this family estate practices a sustainable and respectful viticulture. The champagnes of the House are made from the three traditional grape varieties of Champagne with a dominant for Pinot Meunier which represents half of the vineyard. The house has a wide range of cuvées : mono-cru, blendings or single varietal champagnes… regularly medals awarded.
One thing to know about the Bergeronneau is that they are a family of precursors in the Champagne region. Lets take the grandfather for example, he was one of the first to make organic wines or to install an elevator in his cellar. He was also one of the last to continue to plow and earth up the rootstock to fight the freeze.
If we go back in time, it all began in Ville Dommange – a village of the Montagne de Reims – where generations have succeeded each other on this land since 1950. From coopers to wine-growers, the know-how of the family have grown as time passed and now form the rich heritage of Véronique, Florent, Virginie and Fabien. Two families with different stories and paths, but both the paternal and maternal sides have long generations of winegrowers and the Bergeronneau family are coming originally from Jouy les Reims. At the beginning, the paternal grandfather – François – fell in love with the profession when he discovered it during a visit at his grandmother – Adèle Savant – who was winegrower. At that time, the family is at the village cooperative, but quickly as a big passionate about vines and after his training at the Viticultural College of Avize he decided to take things even further in his approach. Pride of being a winemaker, he shared and transmitted his know-how. As for the maternal grandmother, she has done a lot of work as well and was a highly respected person in the village notably for her rigor. François and his wife Pierrette got three children including Florent – born in 1963 – to whom François transmitted his know-how.
Ambitious, Florent Bergeronneau gradually came back to the estate in order to help his parents in the vineyard. But in order to bring his personal touch, he also attended an alternating training course at the Gionges Training Centre. Taking his time, doing things step by step guided by his passion and his love for vine, he got as a gift from his parents his first plot when he was 18, keeping the tradition and creating wines as member of the cooperative but already with the goal to become an independent winegrower.
Few years later, he met Véronique Marion – a winegrower originally from the village of Trigny in the Montagne de Reims and with a training background from the Avize Viticultural College. As they got married, they decided to group their estates and produce together their own champagnes reflecting their common passion. Thanks to their ambition, they accomplished the wish of Florent to become an independent winegrowers thanks to the purchase of a wine press. It was the beginning of the Champagne F. Bergeronneau Marion…
Together, Véronique Marion and Florent got two children : Virginie the elder and Fabien the youngest, who both decided to take a part in the continuity of the estate. Throughout their childhood, Virginie and Fabien were quickly immersed in the world of champagne and vines. Their grandfather spoke to them very often about wines and vines and their parents were able to transmit their passion about their job, making their mouth water and more exactly their ‘mouth wine’. No click so called for those two ambitious winemakers, but rather a growing understanding of what surrounds them. Indeed, their parents have always sought to innovate, to stand out in order to offer products more original from each other. Their external internships and apprenticeships opened them to different ways of conducting vineyards and different types of winemaking. Experiences that allowed Virginie and Fabien to expand their know-how and their passion.
Virginie pursued her studies after obtaining her scientific high school diploma with a Viticulture-oenology BTS near Macon and a business license. Courses that allowed her to get a better understanding of the viticulture and the winemaking process thanks to training periods in well-known Beaujolais and Côte-Rôtie estates. She decided to return to the family estate after an experience in Australia in order to work with her parents. As for Fabien, he got his Vine and Wine vocational diploma thanks to a school and work experience alternating training ; experience in the vineyard of the Alsace region and in his uncle’s estate allowed him to deepen his knowledge and to accentuate his open-mindedness to other wine region approaches.
Whether Virginie or Fabien, they do not have any preference from one part of the winemaking process since as winemakers they must be attentive to both vine and wine. They look for a balance between what they grow and what they create which means that they are paying close attention to every step of their approach and love both part of the process. But what they enjoy especially is also the encounters – gardening friends, Chinese tourists, international business partners – and to be able too touch emotionally people in the field and with different life stories ; every meeting is different and rewarding. If for the now Virginie officiates on the family estate, she is creating her own brand to make a champagne that will be just like her when Fabien will take care of the longevity of historic family brand.
Through their work, both the parents – Florent and Véronique – and the new generation – Virginie and Fabien – manage to stay humble and take nothing for granted in front of nature and the world of wine.
A Delicate and precise process
Located on the village of Ville Dommange – from the latin Villa Dominica, meaning ‘House of the Lord’ -, the estate covers a total of 15 hectares from the Montagne de Reims to the Massif St Thierry in Trigny both with young and old vines. The terroir in mid-hills benefits from advantageous exposures offering a perfect balance to the grapes and is made of soils with clay and limestone with scattered chalk and flint as well as some plots with sands and silts soils. In order to value and respect their precious lands but also to protect the biodiversity, the Bergeronneau family chose a sustainable viticulture.
First of all, as conscientious winegrowers, they seek to limit inputs on their vines – insecticides have been banned for 12 years now -, reduce the phytosanitary products and use special high-tech equipment to ensure the least possible spraying. Most of the plots are natural green covered and soil enrichment products are targeted under the row where there is no vegetation cover. However, no insecticides are used against the grass growing around the rootstock. As the grass cover helps to promote the exchange of fluids in the soil – air and oxygen -, it also offers a natural habitat for the auxiliaries of the vine and so, helps to have perennial vines protected on a long term basis. In some steep vines, this also helps to avoid destructuring the soil by gully effect. As for vineyards with lighter soil texture – sands or silts -, they do a light plowing as natural green cover would be too competitive with the vines. It allows to ventilate and decompact the soil, with the aim of improving the exchange of fluids and therefore to have more perennial vines. Nevertheless, some weeds – grasses not desired by the winemaker – will still be presents on the plots but in a sparse way to provide again shelter to the auxiliaries of the vine. The landscaping or the maintenance of hedges and trees along the plots provide the same benefits to the plants. Finally, the water used in the whole wine-making process comes from a used water recovery system.
To conclude about the viticulture, the winegrowers question themselves permanently in order to be able to improve their method in the vineyard at any time.
Lets not omit the treasure of the estate : a plot of 2.10 hectares surrounded by walls also called Clos and of great rarity in the region – about 20 in census. It all started with the grandfather of Virginie and Fabien who was already taking care of the vines as he rented the 1.80 hectares at that time. It is in 2006, that the family bought the parcel and created in 2007 the Clos Bergeronneau. Soon after, they decided to grass part of the plot in order to stick to their viticulture philosophy and to have more living soil. Finally, 200 roses have been planted for biodiversity and aesthetic reasons. Today, the parcel is partly planted with vines over 70 years old – around 30 acres – and is composed of Pinot Meunier completed with Pinot Noir – between 15 to 20%. The winemakers create outstanding mineral vintages thanks to the precious soil of this Clos made of clay and limestone with a little scattered chalk and flint bringing smoky notes to the wines.
In the press room, once the grapes are picked, they go through a pneumatic press of 8000 kg before juices then wines can be vinified in the second cellar of the estate. At this stage, Virginie, Fabien and their parents value through a precise and delicate process their works in the vineyards and the high-quality of their grapes. The family cellar is divided in two parts : a 19th century vaulted cellar as well as an other more modern and built by the grandfather. The cellars has been air-conditioned for an ideal and constant aging temperature for the wines and everything has been renovated – insulation, air conditioning … and as for the a new part, it has been rebuilt by the grandfather late 90s – around 20 years ago. Before this renovation, the family used to press at a winemaker and before that were at the cooperative of the village which they left in the 80s – a choice Florent made as the spirit did not match him and his philosophy.
The family counts 12 large vats and 15 small ones which are not thermoregulated as there is no need for it since the temperature of the cellar remains constant thanks to the ventilation system. The house also owns a beautiful collection of barrels from the cooperage of the region – La tonnellerie de Champagne – as well as from the Bordeaux region. Each barrel has already seen wines before being used for the cuvées of the estate as the use of wood is only to magnify and make more complex the wines with elegance and finesse. During the winemaking process, the champagnes are chaptalized and filtered but do not undergo the malolactic fermentation in order to keep all their freshness and persist in time. No fining or thermo-regulation is performed as well on the wines : the objective is to be as little interventionist as possible. For the riddling, wooden racks are used for the special bottles due to their specific and elegant shapes. All the wines go through an aging on lees longer than what the legislation requires -15 months for non-vintage and 3 years for vintage – and everything depends on the cuvée : for the entry-level champagnes it is about 20 months and for the top of the range the family waits around 9 years before releasing the wines.
At Champagne F. Bergeronneau-Marion, the range counts a dozen of cuvées including two Blanc de Blancs even if the sector is not an area of preference for Chardonnay. However, the family chose to create one Blanc de Blanc expressing the character of grape variety and an other going deeper in the vinification process. Each cuvée of the estate is very different from the others, for example the Blanc de Blancs offers freshness, lightness and finesse whereas the Blanc de Noirs aged in oak barrels brings roundness and power. However, all the champagnes develop an aromatic complexity and a present freshness, with a good length on the palate. Virginie and Fabien also reveals that a Future set of the 3 vintages of the Clos des Bergeronneau is going to be released in order to show the influence of the climate of a year – 2007, 2008 and 2009.
A tasting through the family know-how
CUVEE SAINT LIE 1ER CRU
«Suppleness and minerality»
This cuvée created by the grandfather – François – comes from a single lieu-dit located at the foot of the Saint-Lié chapel. This blended champagne is made 60% of Chardonnay, 30% of Pinot Noir and 10% of Pinot Meunier from a single harvest with an addition of reserve wines of previous vintages. The wine was vinified in stainless steel vats, without malolactic fermentation and lied 48 months on lees until the dosage and at least 6 months after the disgorgement.
The color is a pale gold. The nose is fresh and fruity with peach, citrus and plum notes opening on maturity aromas – butter, under-wood, brioche. The palate offers balance between roundness and acidity enhanced with highly elegant fruit aromas.
«Generosity and freshness »
This blended rosé champagne is made of 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay with an addition of 10-12% of red coteaux champenois – still wine from the region. The vinification is done is stainless steel vats and without malolactic fermentation.
The color is orangey pink. The nose is vinous and floral expressing little red berry fragrances. As for the palate, it is elegant and generous with a beautiful freshness and vinosity on the finish as well as blackcurrant notes.
«Complexity and minerality »
Predominantly made of Pinots – 60% Pinot Meunier and 30% Pinot Noir – completed by 10% of Chardonnay, the grapes of this champagne come from several plots of the estate. Mainly from the 2011 and 2012 harvests, it also includes the addition of reserve wines in order to complete the style of this cuvée. The wine underwent the first fermentation in stainless steel vats without malolactic fermentation and is aged 4 years minimum in the cellar of the house.
A golden straw colored wine. The nose expresses fresh bouquet with biscuit and brioche aromas as well as ginger hints. The palate is round and fresh at the same time and offers a beautiful minerality but also elegant floral notes. A smooth, complex and persistent champagne with a pinch of bitterness on the finish.
PRESTIGE BLANC DE NOIRS
«Power and roundness »
This Blanc de Noirs is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Meunier coming mainly from the 2013 harvest. The wines are entirely vinified in oak barrels without malolactic fermentation and is aged 48 months on lees .
The color is pale golden yellow. The nose is expressive, honeyed with plum, hazelnut and tobacco notes. The palate is round and woody with white flower aromas. The long finish leaves its place to an incisive minerality.
BONUS : CLOS DES BERGERONNEAU – 2008 vs 2007
Created in 2007, the Clos des Bergeronneau is the fruit of an idyllic dream of the champagne vineyard located right in the heart of Ville Dommange, at the foot of the church of the village and surrounded by 19th century restored walls, hedges and wrought iron gates. Once you passed the gates, the Clos reveals 2.10 hectares of vines with 75% of Pinot Meunier and 25% of Pinot Noirs. The vines benefit from a sustainable viticulture – notably to preserve the 70 years old vines – and an ideal south east exposure for a perfect and accelerated maturation of the grapes.
Made 100% from Pinot Meunier old vines coming exclusively from the Clos des Bergeronneau, each of the vintage cuvées produced evokes its quintessence the grapes with delicacy and voluptuousness as well as the character of the harvest. An exceptional and rare champagne expressing all the specific minerality of its terroir.
The tasting starts with the 2008 vintage, one of the excellent year for vintages in Champagne : the spring was humide following a quite cold winter and moving on to a sunny and dry summer. The harvest offered a perfect maturity of grapes with well-balanced acidity and good concentrations. The champagnes from 2008 offer great potential.
The color is a pale gold. The nose is round with honey and candied aromas. The palate is mineral, complex and taut developing freshness and bread notes.
The second Clos is the 2007 vintage – first year that family produced this cuvée. After a clement winter, the vegetation started exceptionally early. April offered sun and unusual heat accelerating the precocity of the vine. However, the bad weather of May disrupted the flowering which was very heterogeneous. Finally, as July brought mild temperature, August offered a cold and rainy weather slowing down the ripening of the grapes and allowed the worst to be feared but fortunately nature was lenient offering great harvest in quantity and quality.
The color is golden yellow. The nose is generous and round with honey and floral fragrances. The palate is more mineral than 2008 with freshness as well as light and elegant vinosity. It offers power and candied fruit notes.
F. Bergeronneau Marion
Responsable : Florent, Véronique, Virginie and Fabien Bergeronneau
Location : Ville-Dommange (Montagne de Reims)
Majority grape variety : Pinot Meunier
Other grape varieties : Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
Vineyard surface : 15 ha
Viticulture : Sustainable culture
CHAMPAGNE FLORENT BERGERONNEAU-MARION
22 rue de la Prévôté