VISIT AND TASTING AT CHAMPAGNE GEORGES REMY
There are some secrets in Champagne that are worth revealing… Force of nature with golden hands, talented winegrowers, Georges Remy is a discreet man who has in his hand a mythical terroir. Not afraid to roll up his sleeves, he started from almost nothing. He looks to the future cultivating and perpetuating the first virtue of the winemaker : the respect for the terroir. A producer who creates brilliant wines with unique texture and ineffable charm but never forgets to put things into perspective, his feet firmly anchored in his soil. Located on the terroir of the Montagne de Reims in the village of Bouzy, we met this phenomenon who boldly traced his own vineyard path. The opportunity for us to present this secret winemaker and his wines which holds the brilliance of the soil that carry them.
Starting from scratch
In Champagne, the feet of the Remy family have been planted in clay and limestone since 1812 on the terroir of Bouzy. The vine will come later… Indeed, it was not until 1829 that they become winegrowers with the search of the grand-father who vinified the first wines in 1950 – after the wars everybody started to vinify in order to value their grapes. Georges’ father followed this path but decided in 1989 to abandon the commercial part, selling all the material and trading in the bottles to the Négoce via a small cooperative to produce them. It is important to understand that at that time, it was an other vision of the work of winegrower. One more reason for that decision is that as a true landsman, he did enjoy the commercial side of the job. However, today this turning point suits Georges Remy as he realizes it also allowed him – 3rd generation of growers of his family – to begin at the beginning, to do what he wishes for and to build his own clientele – the vision of his parents would have being probably totally different than the products Georges wished to craft.
As a Champenois, Georges has always been fascinated by the Montagne de Reims, the favored terroir of Pinot Noir. His career path started with a baccalaureate in Reims followed by a Viticulture Oenology BTS certificate in Avize Viti Campus. He decided to come back to the estate to join his father but only after his studies and some work experiences in the Bordeaux region. Therefore, it is quite naturally that after this training, he first took pleasure in crafting reds before champagnes. So then he returned to the Champagne region, but at that time he did not vinify his wines yet, he started as a vineyard service provider in order to reinvest for his estate – an activity he still has today allowing him to reinvest for the production of his wines (new building, new cellar, new warehouse..). From the beginning, he worked the vineyard – a part he knows very well thanks to the work with his father and he owe a lot to him for that but also thanks to his own experience. However for the wine-making process, he discovered everything by himself doing red winemaking tests every year for fun – including some following the Bordeaux method – until one day, two winegrowers of the village – notably Benoit Lahaye – told him to ‘stop to keep his wines for him but to vinify officially and to share them with others’. Today, Georges is very thankful to them for pushing him to do so…
For the winegrower, 2011 marked the first harvest of Bouzy Rouge – starting with only 15 ares of vineyard that his parents gave him, supporting the project and the philosophy of their son – whereas 2014 was the first harvest for the champagne production. So from his experiences in the Bordeaux region, Georges started to do only red Coteaux Champenois vinification – even though he was told by others it was crazy to do so in Bouzy, as at that time the success was mainly on champagnes. However, the winemaker continued on his path – he finally ended up creating champagnes anyway. He took delight in vinifying red still wines and meeting with people who enjoyed his products as well as his philosophy but everybody kept asking him ‘why is there no champagnes?!‘ raring to taste what the winegrower could craft with the flagship product of the region as the Bouzy Rouges wines were so brilliant…
It was not until 2013, that Georges started the first tests of vinification in casks for champagnes – nothing official but just to have an insight of what direction he could take. Then, in 2014 he vinified and kept one barrel from each of his plot in order to understand even better his terroir, but from a champagne point of view this time, as the vinification for red wine is a completely different approach. Indeed, for the red wines Georges knew perfectly what sector is well oriented and has old vines which – as his father told him when he started to vinify red wines – is great for Bouzy Rouge : the Vaudayants parcel. As for the second plot – Chapeau de Fer -, it was a wish for him even though his father told him it was senseless as the family never did any Coteaux from that parcel. However, he now realizes when he tastes it that Georges was right to do so. Today, his two Bouzy Rouge cuvées are served at L’ Assiette Champenoise and Les Crayères – holder of Michelin stars restaurants – as well as Chez Ginette or Au bois joli and are exported in the Czech Republic and Australia.
As for the champagnes, through the vinification plot by plot, Georges was able to prepare blended champagnes and future single plot cuvées. Gradually through time, the future coming champagnes – 6 in total – include : one blended cuvée called 4 terroirs – Bouzy, Ambonnay, Louvois and Tauxières –, one single-plot Blanc de Blancs – Les Muits, a parcel from Tauxières – aged under caps, another single-plot cuvée made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir – Le Mont de Tauxières, a parcel located in the village of Bouzy – one 100% Pinot Noirs from the plot called Les Hauts Clos in Bouzy – a parcel where George has many souvenir with his grand-father and where his grand-father planted as a child the oak tree overhanging the plot – aged under cork as well as one Blanc de Noirs cuvée blending different plots from Bouzy made from 100% Pinot Noir – launch in 2018 – and finally one blended Rosé from the plot of Les Vaudayants – same plot as the Bouzy Rouge. The 4 terroirs cuvée is going to be released at the end of the year 2017 and expresses the style of the terroir of the estate. The blending of different years 2014-15 and the 17 months of aging in cellar offer already an impressive and expressive champagne. The Blanc de Noirs will wait 2018 to be release whereas the others will need more time to aged…
Not only Bouzy offers an exceptional terroir to create mineral wines but it is also a dynamic village : shared vegetable garden, the associations of Académie des Vins de Bouzy – promotion of the Bouzy Rouge – and Echevins – ‘the defense and illustration of Bouzy wines’… An energy that boost the ambition of the winegrowers of the village and the collaboration between them enhancing together their terroir. With the aim to do so, Georges Remy has a precise approach and philosophy through his wine-making process…
The magic of great wines…
In order to craft red Coteaux with great finesse, it requires great terroirs and a cellar master that knows how to unravel the mysteries of the hill of the Montagne de Reims… Young and still relatively unknown, the estate of Georges Remy is farmed following the organic viticulture delivering wines of great beauty and virtuoso pinot noir with impressive mellowness. Located on the Montagne de Reims area where Pinot Noir is the king grape varieties, the vines of the estate are spread over 17 plots on the terroirs of Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois and Tauxières with their clay-limestone soils. For now, about 10 to 20% of the 4.67 hectares of the House are vinified, increasing every year a bit by bit. The vineyard of the Domain offers a great diversity but the exposures of the parcels located in Bouzy are almost all south offering great maturity to grapes.
On the viticultural side, the estate of George is under organic conversion – it will obtain the certification in 2018. In fact, he started ploughing the soils in 2006 and was tilling all the plots in 2012 – a viticulture method fitting in with his choice of wine approach. It is by tasting the wines of other producers following an organic approach that he noticed there was a terroir effect highlighted thanks to this cultural method. Today, the winegrower is proud to value his terroir and to use a respectful viticulture for the environment even if the first reason he converted his viticulture was for the wine approach : it brings a perfect balance and an elegant acidity – which is higher with tilled soils than with chemically weeded plots. The winegrower is also planting hedges on the border of his plots in order to favor the auxiliary wildlife.
So Georges put into practice the organic viticulture which uses sulfur and copper but he has been using the biodynamic approach as well for two years now, observing the results of what it brings to his vines. Confident about the benefits of this method, he now feels even closer to his land thanks to this viticulture via for example, the preparation of herbal tea for the vineyard used to reduce the copper amount. A natural viticulture which is better for him but also better for his plots as well as his terroir and he learns even more about vineyard from this approach as he used to treat, today he nurses and look after his vines.
Regarding the fertilization, Georges is banning industrial fertilizers and has been making its own compost for 2 years now bringing bacteria and fungi to revive the soil – an approach sometimes poorly understood in the vineyard. All year long, he makes this compost – spraying, controlling it and checking the temperatures – going back to the work of the elders from 50 years ago. But it is also a human adventure for him as he produces and spreads this home-made organic compost after the harvest with two other winegrowers of the village – Benoît Lahaye and Antoine Paillard – sharing the same vision and getting things moving on many aspect of the viticulture side together. Finally, George also scatters Bouse de corne 500 (Cow Horn Manure) – cow patty in jar kept in the dark – in the vineyard. Through this different techniques, the winemaker is building his viticulture on the wisdom of the seniors.
One more thing to know about Georges’ 4.67 hectares is the average of the vines : not less than 40 years-old. Indeed, the winegrower chose to keep old vines, as in fact if he pulled them off he would not know with which young plants he would replace them – the new selection being clonal, there is nothing fitting in with his philosophy. It means he needs to study the old vines of his terroir and create massale selections from it to be able to replace his vines when he needs it – a project actually initiated by Antoine Paillard in order to create a collection of Champagne historical young plants selected by their grand-parents in order to preserve this heritage. For now, Georges replaces only the dead feet by selecting high-quality and low yielding plants from Burgundy. The work in the vineyard is all the more important as Georges substitues only the dead vines : only 200 rootstocks a year for the 4.67 hectares of vineyard thanks to this upkeep. Through this approach, he wants to keep historical plots : Les Hauts Clos plot for example, has old vines from 1960 planted by his grand-father so he does not wish to remove them – this plot is used for the future massale selection as it was never interplanted i.e no clone at all in this plot which is of great rarity. As for the oldest plot, it dates back to 1953 and is located in Tauxières. Furthermore, those plots possess an important diversity of individuals of massale selection.
After the tasks in the vineyard, the date of the harvest matters a lot for Georges. Once the dates of the village are set, the winegrower harvests later in order to have a high maturity perfectly balanced with the acidity from work on the soil. The objective is to avoid to the chaptalization. For the red wines, the harvest is even later than for the champagnes – up to 15 days to 3 weeks later depending on the year – and same thing : no chaptalisation either. One thing to know about the Coteaux of the estate is that Georges is very selective and produces red wines only if the quality of the harvest allows it – around 12 ° of maturity and the higher, the better it is. When the harvest arrives in the cellar, the berries carry in the expression of their terroir and the precision of the work of the winegrower in the vineyards.
Once the grapes are harvested, the winemaker realizes two sortings : one directly at the plot and one at the press. The desteming is done by hand thanks to a custom table specially designed not to spoil and keep perfectly intact the grapes : trapped in the holes of the table they detached themselves delicately remaining perfectly undamaged. Georges owns two different presses : one of 4000kg and one of 2000 kg – of great rarity in Champagne and perfect for single-plot cuvées – both are pneumatic Bucher for a gentle press which is required for champagnes. In 1989, his father left the cooperative and created his own pressing center with new and pneumatic presses, thanks to that, Georges benefits today from late-model materials.
Once the juices are collected and casked plot by plot, the settling of the musts is done in the new wine warehouse for the most part in 228L Burgundy barrels – only a few 225L Bordeaux barrels. Georges owns as well a 600L and a 500L barrel for the red maceration to bring out the fruitiness of the Pinot Noir. Some of the casks are second-hand but most of them are new in order to allow the winemaker to mark the wood with his own wines : every year, he buys 2 or 3 new barrels – marking them with his wines is essential for his approach. With casks coming from other wine regions, it is easy to feel the previous grape varieties it has vinified, an interesting addition for blendings but not what Georges is looking for. At that stage, nothing is done on the wines until the bottling in July : the malolactic fermentation occurs naturally during spring, no racking, no filtration… Anything that could wear the juices out or alter the quality of the wines is banned. The winemaker has one aim : to preserve the quality and the energy of the wine so bitterly acquired thanks to his meticulous work in the vineyard. No stirring either – even though the winegrower is curious to try this method in the future : Georges Remy tries out a lot of different things, never staying on track, never taking things for granted ; for him pondering a lot of questions is an essential part of his job.
Then comes the time of maturation… In the cellar, Georges chooses the release dates of his wines depending on their evolution – as an example, 4 terroirs cuvée has 17 months of ageing. After 10 months on lies – quite long time in Champagne – the wines are really stabilized allowing him to gain some times for the aging on lees which explains why 4 terroirs is ready to be released after 17 months. As for the Bouzy Rouge wines, it takes more time : they spend around 20 months in barrels – until May to July of the year after the harvest- before being bottled. For some of his cuvées, Georges chose cork aging rather than with caps. As for the dosage, 4 terroirs will be an extra-brut with 3.5gr/L whereas for the others champagnes Georges is waiting the moment of the tasting to decide on the dosage. However, he already knows that some of them are going to be without any dosage for sure but the winemaker is choosing depending the amount of sugar the wine accepts best.
About the Bouzy Rouge, the wines from the 2014 harvest are currently on sale – elegant Coteaux Champenois, with fine structure, high acidity and smoky profile of Pinot Noirs from Bouzy revealing their chalky terroir as their tangy, crunchy red fruit slips away. The tasting is the expression and the discovery of the geological richness of the Montagne de Reims – the soul of a terroir blended with the know-how of the winemaker.
Before heading back to the tasting room, Georges offers a tasting of the last harvest Vins clairs, the opportunity to understand the vinification work of the winegrower :
- 2017 Vaudayants vin clair in oak : The color is lightly rosy. The nose is expressive and round with generous fruity notes. The palate is powerful, round and mineral expressing white fruit notes.
- 2014, 15 and 16 blending in stainless steel vats : The color is pale and the nose is fresh, fine and fruity. The palate is fresh and refined and develops peach aromas.
- 2016 Red still wine in oak : The color is a light and pale red. The nose offers a great finesses and red fruits notes. The palate is mineral with stewed and mashed fruit flavors.
A perfect introduction of the following tasting. Indeed, Georges Remy had the kindness to invite Portraits de bulles to a preview tasting for his future champagnes, the first – 4 terroirs – being released for 2017 year’s end celebrations…
« Complexity, intensity and minerality »
Champagne made from a little bit more than 60% of Pinot Noir blended with around 40% of Chardonnay. Georges Remy selected grapes from all the plots of the estate and from the harvest 2014 and 2015 to create this cuvée aged under caps. An impressive tasting for this future 3.5gr/L dosage champagne.
The color is goldenrod with golden hints. The nose is fresh and complex developing elegant butter and vegetal notes. The palate offers a great freshness and balance as well as the complexity of the oak aging and fruity notes – apple and pomelo. Thanks to the precise ploughing of the soil the minerality is impressive. After few minutes, the champagne opens on butter notes. A vibrant wine with a chalky intensity.
« The brillance of a single terroir »
This champagne is the balance between 50% of Pinot Noir and 50% of Chardonnay. Made exclusively from the 2014 harvest of a single plot – Mont-Tauxières, Georges Remy chose the aging under cork to value this single terroir cuvée.
The Color is goldenrod with silver hints. The nose is fresh, generous with butter, brioche and yellow fruits as well as an intense mineral expression. The palate is taut and perfectly balanced between minerality and acidity offering a great freshness with elegant lemon notes. After few minutes, it opens on brioche notes unveiling all the potential of this exclusive champagne.
«Bouzy and Pinot Noir mineral expression »
A 100% Pinot Noirs champagne coming from 3 plots of the terroir of Bouzy – Vaudayants, Huriault and Les Hennepe. Two versions are going to available for this cuvée : one aged under cork and the other under caps.
The color is a pale yellow. The nose is balanced between freshness and minerality and offers the power of the Pinot Noir with generous fruity notes. The palate is elegant and fresh expressing power and complexity with ripe yellow fruit, walnut, butter and crispbread notes. After a few minutes of aeration, it develops fruit crispness. An elegant, precise and mineral Pinot Noir champagne.
Out of the question to talk about Georges Remy without broaching his intense and elegant Bouzy Rouge. In fact, the winegrower started by creating red still wines before even considering to create champagnes…
LES VAUDAYANTS 2014
«The chalky expression of the Pinot Noirs from the Montagne de Reims »
The maceration of this single plot and Pinot Noir wine is partly done in stainless steel vat and partly in oak barrel. Les Vaudayants plots offers a clay-limestone terroir. The wine is neither filtered nor fined.
The color is a light ruby. The nose is complex and elegant with red fruits aromas. The palate is astringent and fresh with morello cherry notes. The finish is vinous with delicate tannins.
CHAPEAU DE FER
«Suppleness, complexity and minerality»
A 100% Pinot Noir and single plot still wine from 2014 – in fact the harvest was the exact same day than Les Vaudayants plot. The grapes are coming from a plot more south facing with a steeper slope than Les Vaudaynts and the terroir has clay-limestone soils. The vinification is been done in stainless steel vat with 21 months of aging in barrel and the wine is neither filtered nor fined. 147 bottles produced per year.
The wine unveils a dark ruby color. The nose is vinous nose with stewed red fruit, cherry and mineral notes. The palate is generous and expressive with crushed and ripe red fruits aromas. The finish is mineral with licorice notes. A tremendous wine both in the nose and palate, it is accomplished, complex. smooth.
LES VAUDAYANTS 2015
«Ripeness, generosity and elegance »
A 100% Pinot Noir red still wine with a maceration partly in oak barrel. Neither filtered nor fined. Only 300 bottles produced per year.
The color is ruby with orange hints. The nose is fresh and ripe with delicate fruity aromas. The palate offers a beautiful maturity with ripe morello cherry and marmalade notes.
2005 : TRESOR DE CAVE (NOT FOR SALE)
«Intensity, concentration and vinosity »
A red wine made with Pinot Noirs from the plot called Les Huriaults and vinified according to the Bordeaux method. Georges Remy created this wine when he came back in Champagne and at the time when he was performing tests.
The color is a deep red with strong orange hints. The nose is complex, mature and expressive with deep black fruit notes. The palate is structured, full-bodied and concentrate with vinous, fruity and almond notes.
BONUS : FOOD-PAIRINGS AROUND CHAPEAU DE FER
The wines of Georges Remy especially love the company of generous terroir or gastronomic food. For the Bouzy Rouge, the aromatic intensity of the Pinot Noirs, the complexity the vinification and the freshness of the terroir offers a great variety of food-pairing possibilities. When it comes to Chapeau de Fer Bouzy Rouge, start by opening and aerating it in advance for a perfect tasting . As you try to imagine your menu to match the wine, remember there a two principles in food-pairing : birds of a feather flock together – food and wine looking alike couple neatly – but you could also dare to try food-pairings on contrast to create a perfect balance – round with acidic, sweet with dry, …
The wine : while tasting Chapeau de Fer, the terroir intelligibly expresses itself, the red fruits of the bouquet from the Pinot Noir are joined by woody notes. As for the palate, it is supple with fruity character but without excess of tannins. The structure is both delicate, chiseled, with a tension providing a good length…
The food : a roasted poultry – capon, turkey, chicken… – offering a low fat meat, both firm and tender with its crispy and finely salted skin. On the side, some mashed potatoes with truffled butter – ideally truffles from the region with the butter of Benoît Jacquinet from La Cav’o truffes.
The beautiful acidity from the terroir highlights the finesse of the meat whereas the Pinot Noir couples perfectly to the poultry. As soft and juicy meat texture, it is echoed beautifully by the full generosity and the tannins of the Bouzy Rouge. Thus, the harmony is revealed and the respective complexities couple ideally. The truffle elegantly enhances the mineral character of wine and matches perfectly with the woody and fruity aromas of the wine whereas the butter lifts the aroma of red fruit in the Chapeau de Fer cuvée.
The tension and minerality of the wine blend perfectly with the delicate flesh of the chicken and find an ideal accomplice with the mashed potatoes.
A daily food-pairing to eat all year long but for year’s end celebrations stuff the poultry under the skin directly with the truffled butter and serve with the truffle scattered on top.
Responsable : Georges Remy
Location : Bouzy (Montagne de Reims)
Majority grape variety : Pinot Noir
Other grape varieties : Chardonnay
Vineyard surface : 4.67 ha
Viticulture : Organic and biodynamic
CHAMPAGNE GEORGES REMY
10 rue du Moulin,