Champagne– the word alone elicits reactions and thoughts that often put it into a ‘special occasions only’ box. Yet, life is short and the world unfolds in strange ways. So I do not hesitate to pop a cork and enjoy the present moment because every day is infinitely rich and beautiful. Especially when a fall day seems more like summer and you have a chilled bottle of Champagne Briaux Lenique just waiting to be opened ahead of Champagne Day.
Discovering Champagne Briaux Lenique at both a Champagne and Vignerons Independent tasting in Bordeaux was no mistake. The gracious and down-to-earth sisters Nathalie and Stéphanie walked me through their offerings while sharing details about the operation.
For instance, their parents started the brand in 1965 in the heart of the Marne Valley, three kilometers from Epernay. In 2008, Nathalie came back to take over after a successful career. She combines tradition and modernity and now offers five cuvées (wine blends) each expressing a majority of the three grape varieties of the terroir. Their four-hectares of vineyards include 21 plots on clay-limestone slopes, half of which are planted with Pinot Meunier, then Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the remainder.
From the Beginning
Their father chose the récoltant manipulant (RM) status to control all the stages of wine making on the property. We more commonly know RM as a grower champagne– all the grapes used to produce the Champagne are grown on vines owned by the producer versus purchasing grapes from somewhere else.
Nathalie continues this and also eliminated all herbicide and chemical use on their land. They obtained both High Environmental Quality (HVE) and Viticulture Durable en Champagne (VDC) certifications. Each center around protection and respect for the environment.
On the winery side, Nathalie rethought the entire structure of the cellar, modernizing the premises to provide direct access for her wheelchair. She succeeded in making the winery accessible for independent travel, but also opened it up to wine tourism with a bright and pleasant tasting room. And I note an entire visit throughout the winery is accessible for people with reduced mobility.
Annual production: About 35,000 bottles of Champagne, most are sold in France.
Tasting Cuvée Perle de Craie – Millésime 2015
As I said, it was no mistake I met the Lenique sisters. Their Champagnes tick many boxes– woman owned, operating sustainably, always looking for ways to improve, and they are top-notch, like my favorite, Perle de Craie. The name means pearl of the limestone chalk, referring to their limestone soil. This cuvée is 60% Pinot Noir with 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier.
In the glass it pours pale golden-yellow in color with aromatic white peach, yellow pear and apple, brioche, sweet spice and mild hazelnut. On the palate it’s dry, medium-bodied and expressive with a fine mousse and apple, pear, and raspberry flavors with energetic crushed stone acidity, an appealing brush of white pepper and a long, lemony-brioche finish. Three words to sum it up: complex, rich and generous.
Where ever you are, I hope you are able to open a bottle of Champagne and celebrate the day – cheers!