There was no way I was missing ‘Champagne Week’ or ‘Le Printemps des Champagnes’ this year. In the past, I would actively scroll through social media feeds – privately salivating over photos of champagne tastings filled with incredible producers and their sparkling wines along with the lucky people who attended. This year, I was one of those people and I hope to make it an annual event.
My introduction to ‘Le Printemps des Champagnes’ was with the ‘Bulles Bio en Champagne’ event on Sunday, April 14th. Held in Reims, as most events are, this tasting was organized by the Association des Champagnes Biologiques (Association of Organic Champagnes).
Organic certified grape growers are prohibited to use synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers in their vineyards. Since 2012, the winemaking process is also regulated by specific rules and controls. But, what is organic grape growing? From the Association Champagnes Biologiques website, “Organic viticulture is a method of production that respects, maintains and improves the soil, preserves the quality of the water and promotes biodiversity.”
As of 2018, there are 76 certified organic champagne producers and growers. Organic grape growing started in the Champagne region in 1970 but was only recognized by France in 1981. In the past 10 years, the surface area of certified organic or ‘bio’ vineyard land has tripled and as of 2017, organic vineyards accounted for 867 hectares with another 256 hectares in conversion which represents 2.1% of the total vineyard area of the Champagne appellation.
In 2018, 27 new domaines started to convert their vineyards to organic. All grapes that undergo organic conversion are certified organic as of the fourth harvest following the conversion date. With the appellation rules surrounding champagne production, this means that grapes that started to undergo organic conversion will not be available in a bottle of champagne to purchase for six years.
At the ‘Bulles bio en Champagne’ event, 47 passionate vignerons had their ‘vin clair’ wines and their champagnes on hand to taste. The room was entirely packed when I arrived at 11 AM – just one hour after the doors opened. I did not manage to get to every single table, but I did manage to have a some excellent conversations and try some incredible champagnes.
Here are a few standout champagne producers:
Champagne Bruno Michel – located in the Côteaux sud d’Épernay village of Pierry with 12 hectares of vineyard land comprised of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Meunier and 10% Pinot Noir. The house initially started first with biodynamic agriculture then started their transition process in 1998 to organic. They produce 50,000 bottles annually.
- Assemblée Rosé – 60% Chardonnay and 40% Meunier from Moussy. A very good and tasty Rosé.
- Les Brousses 2010 – 100% Chardonnay from their best vines in Pierry. An exceptional champagne.
Champagne Colette Bonnet – located in a small village called Éguilly-sous-Bois in the Côte des Bar region of Champagne with 2.24 hectares of Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. Bonnet started with biodynamic farming practices and started her certification process to organic in 2006 and produces 5,000 a year.
- Champagne 11/12 – 63% Pinot Noir and 27% Pinot Blanc – a rich and creamy blend that I enjoyed very much.
- Champagne 13/14 – 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay – this champagne made me happy with its’ buttery, ripe flavour profile.
- Pinot Noir 2014 – 100% Pinot Noir with only 4 grams of dosage – this is a red fruit glass of restrained deliciousness.
Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot – located in the 1er Cru village of Vrigny in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne with 8.68 hectares of vineyard land comprised of Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay. The house started their conversion to organic certification in 2010 and are also certified biodynamic with Demeter in 2017. They produce 70,000 bottles annually.
- Les Meuniers de Clémence – 100% Meunier with only 3 grams of dosage might have been my favourite Meunier champagne of the day. Excellent.
Champagne Georges Laval – located in the 1er Cru village of Cumières, with 2.55 hectares of vineyard land made up of Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay. Laval was one of the first organic producers in Champagne who started his certification in 1971 and produces 20,000 bottles a year. Georges Laval is a cult-figure and so he should be…everything he does in his vines goes towards promoting a cleaner earth.
- Les Chênes 2015 Premier Cru – 100% Chardonnay with zero dosage. This is hardcore #chardcore! Absolutely searing and stunning.
Champagne Pascal Doquet – located in one of my favourite Champagne villages at the southern end of the Côte des Blancs – the 1er Cru village of Vertus. The house has 8.69 hectares that is 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir. They started their transition to organic certification in 2007 and produce 70,000 bottles a year.
- Diapason Grand Cru Le Mesnil Sur Oger – Blanc de Blancs – 100% Chardonnay from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. With 3 g/l of dosage – I was an instant fan of this champagne.
- Anthocyanes Rosé Premier Cru – 52% Chardonnay with 48% Pinot Noir all coming from the Côte des Blancs villages of Vertus, Bergères and le Mont Aimé. A perfect dosage of 4.5 g/l – this Rosé had some great, zippy minerality and fresh flavours.