Grower champagne II.
Last year, we first introduced the family wineries and the growers of the vibrant Champagne region – those who work alongside the region’s big brands.
Then, we brought in some of the champagnes from the Béreche brothers and Fabrice Pouillon, which despite the low number of bottles produced have experienced huge success. In the same way that these producers can live in harmony beside the region’s big houses, they can also find their place easily in our selection. In order to learn more, we returned to Champagne from where, beside other things, we came back with the champagnes of two young wineries. We are writing about them now.
Neuville-sur-Seine, Côte des Bar
Clément, together with his brother, Raphaël, inherited 14 hectares of vineyard next to the village from his father. He returned to the wine region after internships in Switzerland and Australia, and a harvest with Thibault Liger, with the first of his own vintages coming in 2014. He harvests from seven hectares, from half of the family plots, on which 70% Pinot Noir grows. On the rest, alongside the Chardonnay, there’s the rarely planted Pinot Blanc. For the 13,000 bottles of champagne produced annually, they select from a small part of the whole territory, only from a few parcels, and they sell the majority of the crop to larger houses. They complement the organic cultivation of the grapes with biodynamic preparations and homemade teas, and they keep bees and animals in the vineyards. The environmentally friendly grape growing is replaced by precise and controlled winemaking at the winery. At the bright, above-ground winery only the first fraction that comes out of the Coquard press, the cuvée, is put into temperature-controlled tanks in which the fermentation starts with local yeast.
Clément is a sensitive winemaker. He prefers working in silence and in natural light. He’s obsessed with acidity and pure flavours. He makes intense, lean and elegant wines with restrained bubbles, fewer mature notes and more primary fruit.
Domaine de Bichery
Neuville-sur-Seine, Côte des Bar
The other half of the family vineyard is looked after by Raphaël, and almost the complete crop is purchased by larger estates. Since 2015, from two or three parcels of the best vineyards, they have been making their own champagne in the back garden of the family’s old holiday home (Domaine de Bichery). The grapes picked from the organically cultivated old vines are pressed in the Piconnet cellar, 400 metres away from the family home. The cuvée and taille fractions arrive together to the rustic cellar of the 1760 stone building. Old, warped beams, unplastered stone walls, some tanks and 10-15 Burgundy barrels. That’s where the winery’s 5,000 bottles of champagne are made. The must ferments spontaneously, then is aged for 10 months in barrels and tanks, and the blended base wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined. Raphaël’s wines are defined by oxidative notes and a broad, lees-aged character. As the family’s main profile is grape growing, only small batches are born at the cellar every year, but they are made with the best of patience. We could only get altogether 16 cases from the two wines of the estate’s second vintage (2016).
“Finding the best negotiants and foreign partners for large quantities is only possible if we are present at the large tastings. This would mean a lot of travelling, and we prefer being at home with our kids. We wish to leave time for the family, for cycling. That’s why we make so little wine. It’s exactly the amount that feels good to make and doesn’t put an extra pressure on us.”