Wine Terroirs

The new premium Champagne trend

The legendary Champagne is celebrated worldwide and epitomises French winemaking excellence. Among the high-end offerings geared to quality, brands and winegrowers have broadened their standard range to include unique labels that showcase both terroir and the art of winegrowing.

Tastes and trends change, mirrored in the ebb and flow of the market place, but despite this, Champagne continues to scale the heights. As the range of sparkling wines continues to burgeon around the world, wines from this unique region located 150 kilometres East of Paris remain an undeniable benchmark and a staple of all those memorable moments in life. The appellation area, whose boundaries were defined in a 1927 law, covers 34,300 hectares and 319 localities, farmed by 16,000 winegrowers. According to the Champagne wine marketing board CIVC, shipments rose by 1.6% in 2022 compared with the previous year, reaching 326 million bottles. The increase underscores the Champagne industry’s global vitality, exemplified by its ever-popular standard range and unique high-end labels that offer considerable added value compared with a standard Brut. The concept of limited edition and artisan production methods that fully encapsulate flavour is allowing the industry to leverage the brand equity perceived by consumers.

 

 

Champagne G.H. Martel & Co: a rich history

For over a century, this household name in Champagne has been developing and sharing its heritage and focus on excellence. For four generations, the Rapeneau family has been the epitome of meticulous care in nurturing its high-end labels. Its art of blending encapsulates its incredible array of vineyard sites which cover 100 hectares and are certified High Environmental Value. Among the unique collection of Champagne houses with a presence in 72 countries, the Paul Louis Martin independent grower brand stands out for its single-vineyard selections and its inimitable style combining heritage, passion, terroir and elegance. “Our five labels all show different aromas and exuberance”, explains cellar master Vincent Rapeneau. “We aim to market them as Brut nature. The vineyard blocks have been chosen based on their location and the quality of the wine they produce over several vintages. The aim is to market Champagnes offering unique pleasure in a limited amount of 3,400 bottles to a clientele of informed experts”. The specific winemaking techniques reveal the elegant site-expressiveness of the Grand Cru classified village Bouzy. The wines are made in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks from a balanced blend of three grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier. Maturation for over 24 months produces the perfect aromatic maturity. The wines are fruity, powerful and generous and are popular both in France and export markets among both private customers and professionals aiming to find that rare gem.

 

Vincent Rapeneau and his three children

Vincent Rapeneau and his three children, Victorine, Martin and Line.

 

Champagne De Saint-Gall: collaboration at its finest

This Champagne house has been driven by talented winegrowers with a passion for what they do and strong commitments for over fifty years. In 1966, several co-operative wineries founded Union Champagne in order to guarantee supplies of grapes from the finest vineyard sites, whilst pooling skills. The 2,300 grape growers belonging to 15 co-operatives nurture their Chardonnay and Pinot noir vines with an expert touch, combining their skills and energy to benefit their collaborative project. Through the De Saint-Gall brand, they craft quintessential artisan Champagnes in a pure, elegant style.

 

The vines of Champagne De Saint-Gall

The vines of Champagne De Saint-Gall.

 

“We produce terroir-driven Champagnes that reflect our location and the unique situation of vines belonging to our members, 90% of which are classified as Grand and Premier Cru”, explains cellar master Cédric Jacopin. “Virtually all the range displays defining features stemming from the different vineyard sites and promotion of the Cru, with lengthy maturations, distinctive winemaking techniques, partial malolactic fermentation, oak maturation and low dosages”. These techniques bolster terroir characters, particularly the Côte des Blancs Grands Crus, but also the Pinot noir from South of the Montagne de Reims, in Bouzy and Ambonnay. “For these unique labels, we don’t have any specific restrictions, aside from impeccable traceability”, adds Jacopin. “Investments promote small-batch winemaking using beautiful fruit from vines that show real site-expressiveness”.

 

Harvesting at Champagne De Saint-Gall

Harvesting at Champagne De Saint-Gall.

 

Champagne Drappier: natural authenticity

The Drappier family has been driven by a passion for excellence for over two centuries. Founded in 1808, this family-run property covers 62 hectares of owned vineyards and 50 under contract. Since 1979, it has been managed by Michel Drappier.

 

Michel Drappier tending his vines with his three children

Michel Drappier tending his vines with his three children, Hugo, Antoine and Charline.

 

Emphasis is placed on very low dosage and moderate usage of sulphites – the Brut Nature Sans Soufre is the culmination of this policy as are the unique labels that account for 50% of releases. “The alchemy is all about revealing the uniqueness of the terroir by overstating the character of the wine with little or no sulphur and dosage so that it can express itself”, explains Michel Drappier. “This requires more work in the winery and in the vineyard, with a choice of grape varieties that are more challenging to manage and use of manual techniques that are certified organic”. This production method reveals remarkable site-expressiveness which is often more difficult to grasp in a non-vintage Brut Champagne. “We are witnessing renewed appeal and demand for unique labels at the moment”, adds Drappier. “We haven’t adjusted our wines to suit individual markets for a long time – sweeter offerings for Eastern Europe or more mature styles for England for example. Today’s enthusiast is the same whatever the continent. Customers are curious and are looking for authenticity. Our curiosity in probing the geological and genetic heritage of our grape varieties has been passed on to our customers”.

 

The cellar at Champagne Drappier

The cellar at Champagne Drappier.

 

Champagne Vincent Couche: the secret is in the fruit

The views sweeping down over bucolic landscapes and outstanding vineyards are breath-taking. Located in the heart of the Côte des Bar, Vincent Couche named his 15 hectare-vineyard after himself in 1996. As a well-informed winegrower who treats the land with respect, he farms his vines organically and biodynamically.

 

Vincent Couche

Vincent Couche.

 

“Our production methods are in total symbiosis with nature”, he explains. “My specifications require perfectly balanced fruit to be able to turn it into wine without using any inputs, chaptalisation, yeasting, filtering or sulphur”. The results are spectacular with a flavour profile that underscores ripeness and great freshness despite hazardous weather conditions. “I don’t feel like I’m producing unique blends”, adds Couche. “I try to draw maximum potential and expressiveness from my vineyard sites whilst showing utmost respect for the environment, soil quality and the fruit with the most accurate yields possible”.

 

A family tasting with importers in the vineyard at Champagne Vincent Couche

A family tasting with importers in the vineyard at Champagne Vincent Couche.

 

Champagne Ployez-Jacquemart: in the heart of the wine region

No self-respecting appellation enthusiast can miss a stop at this location. Behind the vineyards of Ployez-Jacquemart is a passion for outstanding Champagnes which are snapped up by demanding customers who appreciate the French lifestyle. Created in 1930 by Marcel Ployez and his wife Yvonne Jacquemart, this family-run company is now represented by Laurence Ployez who took over from her father Gérard. As a third-generation winegrower, she perpetuates the house’s founding values of tradition, high standards and a firm local footing.

 

Laurence Ployez

Laurence Ployez.

 

“Our Champagnes are first and foremost very pure, fine wines”, she points out. “All our blends are produced entirely from first-press juice so that the fruit can express its finest qualities. Winemaking techniques are aimed at producing this result with regular racking and the shortest possible time spent on the lees”. All the Champagnes are matured on racks after riddling. Their flavour profile is the catalyst for deciding whether they will be marketed as zero dosage or Brut nature. Lengthy cellar maturation hones acidity and is conducive to this approach to flavour with no added sugar. “Our 2013 Blanc de Blancs Zero Dosage and our 2015 Blanc de Noirs Vintage are perfect expressions of their vineyard sites and grape varieties”, claims Ployez. “They invariably stem from unique harvests which cannot be replicated every year and therefore account for no more than 10% of our sales”.

 

The cellars at Champagne Ployez-Jacquemart

The cellars at Champagne Ployez-Jacquemart.

 

Champagne Collard-Picard: finesse and purity

In an industry where competition is fierce, Collard-Picard manages to successfully achieve a subtle balance between power, finesse and purity in its Champagnes. The unique growths account for nearly 80% of volumes at this 16-hectare estate divided between the Côte des Blancs and the right bank of the Marne Valley. Each one of them reflects its vineyard sites, with no filters or artifice.

 

Caroline and Olivier Collard

Caroline and Olivier Collard.

 

“This might seem odd, but some of our wines are sold as still wines”, stresses Olivier Collard. “I conduct a very stringent selection of the wines I want to keep that best match my requirements”. Winemaking is as hands-off as possible, with native yeast during alcoholic fermentation, no malolactic fermentation and large oak barrels that promote micro-oxygenation and avoid adding any oaky flavours. The aim is that the people drinking them can easily understand the origin of the wine by recognising the grape varieties used and their original vineyard site. “The quality of the fruit is our only restriction because we know how to manage the rest”, points out Collard. “Generally speaking, the reason we take a low-intervention approach during winemaking is quite simply because we don’t need to intervene due to the stellar quality of the fruit. Over its 25-year history, the brand has built up a solera system of ageing which produces two perpetual reserves, complemented by nine years of bottle inventories. The result is virtually the only one of its kind in Champagne”.

 

Olivier Collard in his vineyards along the right bank of the Marne Valley

Olivier Collard in his vineyards along the right bank of the Marne Valley.

 

Champagne Laurent Lequart: a natural vineyard setting

Nestled in the Marne Valley, this winery nurtures its vines with passion, showing respect for the sites and the environment over four generations. The main grape variety is still Meunier, an elegant, fruity varietal which is popular for its appetising flavours. Laurent Lequart is passionate about vines and wines and took over the family-run property in 1987. He now farms 11.4 hectares and markets 80,000 bottles a year, 60% of them in export markets.

 

Laurent Lequart with Kévin Sibille, export and French trade manager with two studying for a wine and spirits marketing degree

Laurent Lequart on the left with Kévin Sibille, export and French trade manager with two studying for a wine and spirits marketing degree.

 

“Our Champagnes show distinctive roundness, finesse, fruitiness and freshness with endless moreish flavours”, comments Laurent Lequart. “Before the winemaking process, we focus on the grape varieties, single-vineyard selections, soil typicity and then winemaking, going into granular detail to promote and showcase unique labels. You have to be well-equipped to succeed and need to devote some time to thinking about technical conditions, starting with planting and expertise in winemaking and packaging, whilst taking typicity into account. This is true of our Coeur de Cuvée, which sports a label in stone as a nod to its minerality”. Among the extensive range, a collection of outstanding mature vintages highlights the efforts poured into crafting Pinot Meunier, which shows incredible ageing potential and is highly appreciated.

 

Tasting at Champagne Lequart

Tasting at Champagne Lequart.

 

Champagne Collery: richness and harmony

This superb Champagne house illustrates the beginnings of Champagne and how far it has come along its journey to fame. Jules-Anatole Collery created the brand in 1893. This pioneering winegrower was one of the first to conduct a secondary fermentation and to market bottled wines in an era when selling grapes was the norm. His innovative approach won him his first gold medal in Paris in 1904, then enabled him to grow his business and produce Grands Crus. “Our Champagnes are appetising, elegant, balanced and entirely unique”, comments managing director Romain Lévêcque. “Each one of them epitomises an iconic focus of Champagne winemaking. The Brut is the house’s exercise in style; the Extra Brut underscores a particular interpretation of the role of dosage; the Blanc de Blancs is a true icon; the Blanc de Noirs is still unfamiliar; and the vintage has to reflect the unique weather conditions of that particular year”. All of them are made entirely from fruit sourced in Champagne Grands Crus vineyards. The wines are made by village, the rationale being complementarity, and the aim is to create a USP where all the mineral and fruity characters mesh with each other.

 

Winemaker David Chaboche and managing director Romain Lévêcque taste still wines at Champagne Collery

Winemaker David Chaboche and managing director Romain Lévêcque taste still wines at Champagne Collery.

 

A trip out to the vineyards to check fruit ripeness by cellar master Julien Lefèvre and managing director Romain Lévêcque

A trip out to the vineyards to check fruit ripeness by cellar master Julien Lefèvre and managing director Romain Lévêcque.

 

Champagne chooses terroir as a focal point

This is a fundamental trend. As consumers move upmarket, Champagne is no longer viewed solely as a drink for celebrations but increasingly as a pleasurable experience that has a strong connection with food. Against this backdrop, the unique labels have become extremely popular as quality spirals upwards. As virtually stand-alone offerings, they display their specific features, site-expressiveness and vintage characters as with any fine wine, through a specific and unique alchemy. The marketplace, particularly overseas, shows demand for products that are different, impeccably crafted and have a history created by the winery and the winemaker who makes them. Consumers are increasingly open to these quality wines driven by strong typicity and personality. Although prices are often higher due to increased production costs, this particular style of Champagne adds value to the vineyard sites, the work involved, experience and skills, whilst at the same time providing pleasure. This is a great illustration of how a region can ‘reinvent itself’, to use a popular current expression.