The world of Champagne has many styles and producers. It’s hard not to notice the huge, established houses making fabulous bubbles. I do enjoy several but am drawn to the lesser know, the smaller producer deciding what he or she wants to make and how. This is the essence of grower Champagne and two fourth-generation grower producers that are on my map: Pierre Péters Champagne and Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz.
This post is in conjunction with August’s French #Winophiles exploration of grower Champagne. Grower Champagne you ask? It’s when the person growing the grapes (the grower) owns the vineyard(s), makes and markets the Champagne at his or her own winery which he or she owns. The person grows, makes, labels, markets, and sells the Champagne owning every aspect.
Our host this month Martin Redmond has a nice grower Champagne overview on his blog ENOFLYZ Wine Blog including information on french terms associated with wine production.
And the third Saturday monthly- 8am PT, 11am ET, 17:00 in France- the #Winophiles join in a Twitter chat sharing topic discoveries. This month it’s on August 18th. You can join us to comment, ask questions, or just enjoy!
Biodynamic Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz
I met the charming Jérôme Bourgeois pouring a few of his Champagnes at a cozy wine shop in Bordeaux on a rainy November evening. The fourth generation of his family to make Champagne, he decided to leave a former career and join them; his first harvest was 2001. Jérôme watches over 6.5 hectares of vines: 3.5 h of Pinot Meunier, 2 of Pinot Noir and 1 of Chardonnay. First organic now biodynamic, his Crouttes-sur-Marne location in the Vallée de la Marne is a good one for Pinot Meunier. It’s a late budding, early ripening variety able to better handle this area prone to frost. However it’s not an easy grape to grow.
The Marne Valley Location
Vallée de la Marne is one of the five Champagne growing-regions located northwest of the town of Épernay. The growing regions you can see in the above map are:
- Montagne de Reims
- Côte des Blancs
- Vallée de la Marne
- Côte de Sézanne
- Aube (Côte de Bar) which is closer to Chablis but part of Champagne
The Bourgeois-Diaz vineyards are planted on mostly clay and limestone soils. The grapevines average 35 years of age overlooking the Marne River with southwesterly slope aspect. Farming biodynamically in this area poses difficulties due to heightened humidity from the river which can cause mold and rot.
Jérome uses a traditional Coquard shallow press followed by primary fermentation in either stainless vats or old barrels with indigenous yeasts. He avoids sulfur and additives with an aim of producing harmonious, terroir expressive Champagne with vintage variation.
And here are two of his six wines tasted:
Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz Trois Cepages “3C” Extra Brut – $49
46% Pinot Meunier (adding fruitiness), 32% Pinot Noir (adding structure), 22% Chardonnay (giving freshness).Oat straw in color with a fine mousse, these bubbles burst with quince, white nectarines and ginger; a blast of freshness, followed by lemon curd, oven fresh apple Tarte Tatin, and a thin layer of savory pastry notes on the palate. The finish is apple tinged and tangy with toasty biscuit brioche flavors. This Champagne carries complexity for a lively discussion! The dosage (amount of sugar solution added after disgorgement to top up bottles) is just 3g/L giving a pure, assertive character. Mark and I enjoyed our purchased bottle with a mixed platter.
Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz Cuvée “M” Brut – $55
A blend of the best Pinot Meunier vinified with 35% used oak.
About one third of Champagne vineyards are planted to Pinot Meunier. I haven’t tasted a huge number of 100% Meunier Champagnes but am seeing more and more from the Marne Valley, the heartland for this grape.
This wine is very pale salmon in color. The nose is wonderfully complex with dried flowers, pear chutney, papaya, lemongrass, faint dough and smokey minerality. As with the first time I tasted it an infusion of red berries, dried flowers, citrus and fruit cake, the mouthfeel is round and frisky yet seriously structured. A rustically fresh and initially assertive Champagne that was fantastic with Beef Carpaccio. But I can image it delicious with a Tortilla Española slathered with caramelized onions too. Here is a previous article about Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz.
Next Up: Fourth Generation in the Côte des Blancs
Perpendicular to the Marne Valley and spreading from northeast to southwest lies the Côtes des Blancs. This is where Chardonnay thrives in the majority of the region on mostly chalky cliffs producing the “white of whites” or Blanc de Blancs. Pierre Péters Champagne is located here in Le Mesnil sur Oger.
And this is where Rodolphe Péters assumed control of his family’s 17-hectare estate in 2008 after twelve years of winemaking experience. He stresses environmentally sustainable viticulture in 100% of their vineyards, avoiding pesticides or herbicides and using cover crops to aid in soil health and vine vigor.
Tasting Pierre Péters Champagne
Pierre Péters Champagnes are all about mineral power, acidity and elegance. And as such these wines age gracefully.
Cuvée Millésimée L’Espirit de 2012, Blanc de Blancs – $79
L’Espirit is only made in top vintages blending from four of their grand cru vineyards: Le Mesnil, Avize, Oger and Cramant. According to my local Caviste (wine shop owner) Le Mesnil usually makes up the largest percentage of Chardonnay in the blend and is responsible for the wine’s racy finesse and stoniness (think crushed rocks, flint and saline). And that finesse and mineral aspect wraps around your palate. After one sip a “Wow!” was the response from each of us.
To expand on that wow, the wine is a clear, pale gold; fabulous aromatic complexity with quince, pears, grapefruit, crushed oyster shells and almond; fine, dry mousse; maze of flavors include dried stone fruits, candied ginger, roasted almonds and a mineral driven backbone (think sea shells on a pier after it rains). I wished I’d purchased the magnum!
Grower Champagne With the French #Winophiles
Your bound to find champagne you want to try, recipes you want to make and learn a thing or two you didn’t know from this group:
- Jeff of FoodWineClick is “Taking a Saber to Farmer Fizz“
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla says Skip The Butterbombs and Pair Champagne with Alpine Cheeses Instead
- Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles dives into Farmer Fizz? An exploration of Grower Champagne
- Jane of Always Ravenous is Pairing Pizza with Grower Champagne
- Nicole of Somm’s Table offers 5 Champagne Toasts
- Payal of Keep the Peas serves up Champagne: Le Vin du Diable
- Jill of L’Occasion takes A Closer Look At Grower Champagne With Champagne André Jacquart
- Gwendolyn of the Wine Predator shares #Winophiles In Epernay’s Grower Champagne Heaven with author Caroline Henry and winemaker Elodie D
- Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog, is taking a sip of Grower Champagne From The Chalky Slopes Of Avize: Franck Bonville Prestige Brut Blanc de Blancs
- And here at Savor The Harvest I share Fourth Generation Grower Champagne – Pierre Peters and Bourgeois-Diaz