Last 21st and 22nd October, it was the 4th edition of the Wine-tourism festival of the Vallée de la Marne called Champagne et Vous at the Mediéval castle of Château-Thierry. A must key event to discover the champagnes and other products of the area…
Champagne For You
Part of the Champagne Appellation, the Vallée de la Marne area is a rich terroir offering a vineyard with a specific geological DNA. Indeed, the clay and the limestone from the banks of the Marne river makes unique the soil of the Vallée de la Marne. The 2 440.40 hectares of vines are planted on steep landscapes flanking countless hills where the grapes benefit from a unique combination of soils and micro-climate. In fact, Château–Thierry used to be a beach as the Marne river was a sea. The chalky dome of Mesnil stops at the bank of the Marne and offers white flower as well as white fruit aromas. As for the clay-limestone and the sand, it brings fluidity whereas the wine stick to the palate thanks to the clay that brings roundness and fruitiness. Finally, in the Vallée de la Marne, the Meunier varietal prevails in this part of the Champagne vineyard for generous, floral, full-bodied and fruity wines reflecting perfectly the character of the area.
The winegrowers of the region are passionate alchemists and since 2014, they created Champagne & You association as well as Champagne & Vous festival under the impetus of independent winemakers from the South of Aisne, from Trélou-sur-Marne to Crouttes-sur-Marne. This event accessible to all, being on the rise every year promotes the quality of the products of the area as well as the involvement of its producers. This year, it was not less than 30 winemakers presenting 90 different cuvées in a friendly atmosphere and sharing their history, their philosophy and their know-how…
The Wine-tourism festival of the Vallée de la Marne
This event is the opportunity to invite all to the culture and art of “Living Champagne”: tasting, exhibitions, performances, demonstrations of different techniques of the professions in Champagne Making and trades, workshops,… The visitors penetrate for a week-end the world of Champagne, notably discovering the cutting, grafting, ploughing, disgorging, corking, sabrage and blind-tasting method thanks to different activity booths as well as the techniques of the La tonnellerie champenoise – the cooperage of the region – with Denis Saint-Arroman who was making a demonstration of its arts : the manufacture of barrels used for wine making. However, the festival is also the chance to discover the gastronomy of the region through local artisans : French Safron with “Le safran de Béatrice“, duck specialties with “Les Canardises des 3 Vallées”, biscuits from “Billiotte Biscuits“, bread and pastries from the bakery ERGO.
And there is more… The event planner organized also a visit of the house of Jean de la Fontaine – poet but also champagne lover -, the discovery of the art of a local chocolate artisan Sylvain Chevillotte and finally a visit of a House of champagne to end the day on a high note.
Zoom in on 5 winegrowers
Once you enter the marquee of the festival, the winegrowers of Champagne For you welcome you and present their cuvées as well as explain their know-how. Let’s zoom in on 5 of the producers present for the event.
We first met with Laurent and Claire Dérot, only producers of a 100% Pinot Gris champagne. The family estate of Champagne Dérot-Delugny is settled since 1929 in the village of Crouttes-sur-Marne. Today, the 4th generation is in command and look after about 12 hectares, spread over 40 plots – including 3 planted in Pinot Gris – located on the hills of the Vallée de la Marne, in Crouttes-sur-Marne and in surrounding villages. The vineyard benefits from a terroir made of limestone marls and gypsum marls, limestone and clay with low hillsides composed of sandy loams and high slopes of argilo-calcareous marls. The estate has obtained the certification “High Environmental Value” (HVE) and the certification “Sustainable viticulture in Champagne”.
The 2008 vintage – blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Meunier – offers beautiful and complex aromas of maturity – butter, brioche notes – balanced with the freshness of the Chardonnay.
The second estate, Champagne Veuve Olivier et fils, dates back to 1922. Today, Sandrine Charpentier-Olivier, 4th generation, is perpetuating the history and the work of her family, taking care of the 18 hectares of the estate spread over 21 plots exclusively in Trélou-sur-Marne. The vineyard benefits from the three main grape varieties of the Champagne area but is mainly planted with Pinot Meunier. Sandrine has at heart to respect her marl terroir and to have grapes expressing with precision the quintessence of their soils. In order to do so, the winegrower chose a sustainable viticulture but also vinifies following the same respect for her terroir and the quality of the grapes she harvests.
The Rosé de Saignée – made from 65% Pinot Noir and 45% Pinot Meunier from 40 years old vines shortly macerated – reveals an elegant vinosity and power with fresh red fruit and spicy notes. Both aromatic and intense, fine and full-bodied, it is a gastronomic wine assuming perfectly a chocolate pairing.
In Essomes sur Marne, it has been 4 generations that Champagne Michel Hoerter has been established in the Vallée de la Marne area. Jean-Philippe – great-grandson of the founder – is taking care of the 9 hectares of vineyard exclusively in the West part of the valley with vines planted in a soil predominantly composed of limestone, clay and chalk at the top of the slope, and limestone, clay and sand at the bottom. The winegrower benefits from the 3 main grape varieties of the Champagne Appellation with a dominance of Meunier. Regarding the vinification, Jean-Philippe and his family – passionate grape-farmers – have been applying a sustainable viticulture for more than 15 years in order to create generous and fruity wines.
The Carte Noire cuvée – 75% Pinot Meunier, 15-20% Chardonnay and 3-5% Pinot Noir with a minimum of 36 months of aging – is harmonious, round and fruity with mirabelle plum and abricot notes as well as a light and elegant bitterness.
Settled in Charly sur Marne, Vincent and Fabienne from Champagne Bernard Naudé represent the 5th generation of growers of this estate created beginning of the 1970’s. Together, they cultivate a vineyard of 8.5 hectares, spread over 30 plots with clay soils planted mainly with Pinot Meunier. Vincent and Fabienne chose a sustainable approach to respect and highlight the specificity of their terroirs. Another distinction at Champagne Bernard Naudé is the small bronze Napoléon overlooking the House to pay homage to the battalion commander of the Napoleonic army who lived in the house.
The Brut Tradition – 90% Pinot Meunier and 10% Pinot Noir – offers a lot of balance, vinosity and finesse with an elegant minerality and supple fruity notes of stewed peach.
Finally, we met with Olivier and Sébastien Gratiot. Winemakers from father to son since 1657 on the sunny slopes Charly sur Marne, the Gratiot-Pillière family benefits from a vineyard with limestone soils. Today, the estate of 18 hectares is in the hands of 11th generation. Father and son vignerons – Olivier and Sébastien – work their vineyards according to the principles of sustainable viticulture. The family’s focus has always been to respect the quality and the authenticity of their terroir spread throughout the small towns of Charly-Sur-Marne, Saulchery, Bonneil and Azy-Sur-Marne.
The 2011 Heritage cuvée – 59% Meunier, 23% Chardonnay and 18% Pinot Noir from old vines and vinified in oak barrels – is elegant and complex with persistent ripe white, yellow fruit and tobacco notes. The finish is lightly and elegantly bitters.
After this rich day in the Vallée de la Marne, it is easy to say that the Champagne & Vous Festival is a perfect introduction to this area of the Champagne Appellation accessible for all…