Just a country boy, born and raised in Champagne
I took the Champagne train goin’ around the World
Although university-trained , champagne-experienced and born into a family of vignerons in the grand cru Champagne village of Verzenay, my winemaking style may owe something to my extensive New World Experience. My wines are always technically A1 and display a perfect balance of fruit and yeastiness always with elegance and character.
With over 40 years of experience in the production of Champagne and Sparkling Wines, I will assist and guide you through the important steps of the « Champagne Method ».
Epernay, France (7th, September 2018)-Precocity, quality, volume: nearing its end in Champagne, the grape harvest is definitely out of the ordinary.
Beginning in the earliest sectors on 20th August, it is the fifth grape harvest started in August over the last fifteen years.
After an exceptionally wet winter, the Champagne region has since April been experiencing sunshine and temperatures well above the 10-year average. Thanks to these exceptional conditions the vines developed rapidly; flowering and then ripening benefited from ideal conditions and, when harvested, there were plenty of healthy bunches, very rich in sugar and aromas. Harvesting, necessarily by hand, took place unhurriedly under summery skies although the early morning temperatures were sometimes quite low (0°C in Reims on 26th August).
The available yield of 10,800 kg/ha will be achieved in all sectors. In addition, this magnificent harvest will allow wine-growers and houses to rebuild their reserve (wines put aside in good years), which will enable them to face the possible vagaries of the climate in the future.
The quality of the musts is an excellent omen for the future cuvées. We will have to wait for the first tastings in autumn and in spring to confirm these expectations of a great vintage.
Could we see still wines becoming the norm and the region gaining a reputation for Pinot?
By James Lawrence | Posted Tuesday, 11-Dec-2018
Another day, another climate-change story. This time it was Louis Roederer president Frédéric Rouzaud and cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon causing a stir, admitting that the eponymous house was looking at the possibility of making still wines.
The idea of Champagne becoming renowned for Burgundy-style reds and whites seems ludicrous today, but it's a thought increasingly being entertained by the region's top producers. Every winemaker and owner I've interrogated recently, from Benoit Gouez at Moet & Chandon to Monsieur Rouzaud himself, employs a half-joking reference to making still wines for a living.
Except that they're not joking at all – on the contrary this is something on everyone's mind after the 2018 growing season, which produced Chardonnay more akin to Cote d'Or imitation than blending material for a steely blanc de blancs.
Of course, students of history will recognize the irony – Champagne is coming full circle. The region was a still wine producer centuries before the traditional method made an appearance, supplying Parisians with their weekend tipple.
That being said, the pale, pinkish Pinot Noir made in the Middle Ages has little in common with the best of wines of Ambonnay and Aÿ today. Indeed, a time-traveling vigneron from the 19th Century would scarcely recognize the region in 2018. They'd marvel at the growing emphasis on single-vineyard Champagnes; ripe, generous vin clair; the cult of the grower; corporate ownership and the zero-dosage trend, all of which are relatively recent occurrences. No other French wine region has changed so much over the past few decades, and no other region may be forced to completely give up its signature style – premium-grade fizz.
But in the short term at least, there is little danger of Champagne losing its sparkle. It's just that the time-honored "rules" governing what makes an exceptional glass of bubbly are being adapted and rewritten as global warming moves the goalposts.
Take the prestige cuvée. For decades, Champagne prestige cuvées have been marketed as a wafer-thin slice of an enormous pie; rarefied, glamorous and, naturally, far more expensive than an everyday NV bubbly. Or at least, this is what I was led to believe, both from my collection of wine literature and from my many visits to this venerable region. "Prestige cuvées are only made in the exceptional vintages," my hosts and respective textbooks would chorus.
Hand in hand with this mantra came the accepted wisdom that lean, barely ripe base wine with plenty of acidity leads to the best sparking wine. A browse through my father's almost inexhaustible spate of wine literature from the 1980s makes constant references to the fact that you cannot make exceptional fizz if the climate is too warm. Such wisdom was considered sacrosanct, to question it was considered sacrilegious
But no more. Prestige cuvées are increasingly becoming an everyday occurrence in our wine stores, while several houses declared vintages following the torrid 2003 vintage. Suddenly lean, barely ripe base wine was no longer required.
"I don't understand this fear of ripeness in Champagne – it's ridiculous," said Dom Perignon's ex chef de cave Richard Geoffroy, during a heated discussion several years ago. "I'm a winemaker and my job is to produce something worthy from the gift that nature gives us. It's nonsense that ripe vintages are automatically unworthy for prestige cuvée production."
Benoit Gouez is on the same page. There is rarely an interview with Gouez in which he doesn't take the opportunity to sing from the ripeness hymn sheet.
"2003 is a classic example of a vintage being prematurely written off and unfairly judged; too many brands gave up on 2003, before they had the chance the harness the vintage's potential for a powerful, vinous expression of Champagne," said Gouez recently.
"2009 was another excellent year, proving that this irrational fear of ripeness in Champagne is ludicrous. High acidity is not essential for a Champagne to age gracefully."
However, others continue to argue that maintaining vital acidity levels will be the defining headache of the 21st Century.
"Climate change is a reality. The challenge for the future of Champagne is to bring as much freshness as possible to our reserve wines. Acidity levels are much lower than they used to be. Reserve wines now need to add complexity and richness but also freshness," said Antoine Malassagne, AR Lenoble's co-owner in a recent interview.
"The harvest in Champagne is getting earlier each year, which means the acidity levels in the wines is going down. In order to maintain the right acidity level in my Champagnes, I decided to completely block malolactic fermentation this year."
The heatwave this summer provided excellent conditions for English wine, according reports from the winemakers.
In July, winemakers praised the ‘near perfect’ conditions. And optimism has grown in the subsequent weeks, with some now hopeful that 2018 will be a ‘benchmark’ year for the fledgling industry.
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