MEET THE GROWERS
In 1986, Eric Dhondt and Edith Grellet decided to stop selling off their grapes to négociants and started Dhondt-Grellet.
Their focus on biodynamic farming has translated into vivid champagnes from great parcels across the Côte des Blancs. The domaine is around 6 hectares of Grand Cru and 1er Cru vines, with an average age of 40 years.
Their son Adrien is now at the helm, together with his sister Alice. Inspired by the great white winemakers of Burgundy, Adrien is taking his family’s wines to another level, focusing on Chardonnay and terroir and was voted Winemaker of the Year 2017 in the Trophées Champenois.
There are few wines in this world that exude such laser-like precision, finesse, delicacy, and power as the Champagnes of Marie Courtin.
The domaine is run by the feisty and energetic Dominique Moreau and is named after her grandmother. Covering about 2 hectares in the Aube, the most-southerly part of Champagne, where, for generations, growers have sold their fruit to the Grand Marques.
The farming here is biodynamic, yields are low and ferments are natural with élevage in old French barrique. Wines are bottled with no dosage and express both varietal and vintage with excruciating clarity.
Run by Eric and Isabelle Coulon (8th generation) and their children. They tend to 10.8-hectares of Premier Cru vineyards, separated into over 100 well-selected parcels of older vines.
Eric learned the job with his grandfather, who has always stuck to the tried and tested methods of previous generations, working as naturally as possible.
The recent arrival of their son Edgar, who previously worked for renowned grower Philippe Pacalet in Burgundy, has sparked several changes in both vineyard and cellar, now taking a step further by following organic and biodynamic practices.
Varnier-Fannière estate is small, but formidable. With four hectares of vines, averaging 45 years of age, in Avize, Oger, Oiry and Cramant, this estate has been producing outstanding wines for the last 30 years.
Valérie Varnier has taken over the mantle at this estate in 2017 after the death of her husband and 3rd generation producer, Denis Varnier. He was a believer in old vines and work in the vineyard and after his passing, Valérie said that there was “no question” about whether she would continue making the wines and she completed her first solo harvest a few months later.
Based in the Premier Cru village of Rilly-la-Montagne in the Montagne de Reims, Champagne Hubert Paulet is run by Olivier Paulet. The fourth generation of winemakers, he took over the estate in 1998 at the age of 25.
While not fully organic, Paulet uses a sustainable approach to viticulture alongside some organic preparations for his 8 hectares of vines - planted to Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
Benoît and Valérie Lahaye make exceptional Champagnes from superb terroirs, including four from single vineyards.
They have just 4.8ha of vines in Bouzy and Ambonnay that they work together with their two sons, and their incredible hulk of a horse, Tamise, who helps with plowing.
Since going biodynamic in the late 2000s, they have observed that grapes attain higher levels of ripeness whilst retaining the same level of acidity, leading them to avoid the use of dosage in most of their wines.
Founded in 1964 by Michel and Marie-Claude Jeaunaux, the estate is now run by husband and wife Cyril and Clémence Jeaunaux-Robin.
They have just 5.7 hectares under vine, which merges with the end of their garden, and have been fully biodynamic since 2010 and organic for far longer.
Jeaunaux-Robin is located at the very southern tip of the Côte des Blancs and produces only about 40,000 bottles in their tiny cellar. There are two basket presses in their garage and grape must flows by gravity into settling tanks under the back door, and into the winery beneath the house.
Frédéric Savart is a boutique producer of Champagne from tiny organically-farmed parcels in the villages of Ecueil and Villers-aux-Noeuds.
Frédéric's grandfather had planted his first vines in 1947 and later passed his tiny property to his son. Frédéric worked alongside his father whilst purchasing more holdings, until taking over completely in 2005.
He immediately did away with herbicides and pesticides, and took a much more labour intensive approach. His wines have a balance of vibrancy and flavour that is utterly compelling and their scarcity is testament to their already high global demand.
Champagne Collard-Picard is based in the pretty village of Villers-sous-Châtillon, located in the Marne Valley and run by husband and wife Olivier Collard and Caroline Picard.
The vast majority of growing is dedicated to Pinot Meunier, with a small amount of Chardonnay previously owned by Caroline's family.
With an impressive new winery and a brand new boutique in Épernay, this relatively small grower is certainly looking well into the future.
Sébastien Mouzon is the 7th generation grower of this family domaine in Verzy, which was founded in 1776.
Sébastien is one of just 6 to be farming Grand Cru, practicing biodynamic viticulture. Totally hands-on, he crafts minuscule amounts of spectacular wines, that exhibit incredible purity of fruit, verve, and energy.
He works with all the varieties allowed under the Champagne appellation, which include 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, and the remaining 5% is a mixture of Arbane, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier and Petit Meslier.
The Laherte family has a long history in the region. Set up in 1889 by Jean-Baptiste Laherte, the estate now covers over 11 hectares - most of them organically or biodynamically farmed.
Since 2005, Aurélien Laherte - the 7th generation, has been giving a new dimension to the estate, while following in the footsteps of his father Thierry and his uncle Christian, the Laherte brothers.
Part of a dynamic, young generation of vignerons making waves in Champagne and producing a fine array of terroir-driven wines using a natural approach to viticulture, the estate has become one of the most progressive and dynamic "rising stars" in the appellation.
BÉRÊCHE ET FILS
A historic grower-producer established back in 1847. Parents Jean-Pierre and Catherine now work alongside their sons, Raphaël and Vincent.
They have built up their holdings to 9.5 hectares, most of which are dotted around the Montagne de Reims area with their ethos being focused on working with nature rather than against it.
They make their wines using 'élevage sous liège', where the second fermentation takes place under cork instead of a crown capsule. It is believed that it allows slightly more oxygen to get to the wine, producing a Champagne with finer bubbles and seamless texture.