What’s New in Champagne?
What does it mean to go beyond grower Champagne, to cultivate a more “natural” Champagne section, without being dogmatic or sacrificing the playful charm that makes Champagne such a compelling beverage? This is a region associated with large scale production “houses,” negociants, wealth, opulence, method over terroir, etc… How do we find farmers in Champagne who share our own ideals of healthy vineyards, farmed without herbicides and pesticides, cellars free of commercial yeasts in which the grower makes his or her wine with minimal manipulation? How do we find growers who believe that Champagne begins in the vineyard and is merely carried to its delicious conclusion in the cellar? Currently, we are fortunate to be able to experience a new wave of Champagne growers taking the challenge of making Champagne organically and biodynamically to the next level. Franck Pascal of Basilieux-sous-Chatillon in the Marne, for example, began to detest chemicals during a stint in the army. When he returned to the vineyard, he rejected all chemical treatments and eventually began farming biodynamically, an especially difficult feat in the humid Marne Valley. Living, chemical-free soil helps Pascal’s vines to soak up needed micro-nutrients through the roots. There’s biodiversity in his vineyards; they were beautiful even in January next to the desolate, sprayed vineyards of his neighbors. -msb
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Pascal, Franck 2005 Champagne Extra Brut Harmonie
This is Frank Pascal’s 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne. It’s an extremely elegant example of Meunier that shows this vigneron’s light-handed touch. The wine offers more fruit than some other Meunier Champagnes such as Bedel (a classic in my book), mingling with the earthy, mushroom-y quality that gives wines based on this grape their charm. The dosage (less than five grams) is done using cane sugar and the wine is fermented entirely with indigenous yeast. Franck Pascal’s wines have not been imported before and these examples of his efforts are admirable. -msb
Pascal, Franck NV Champagne Brut Nature Sagesse
Franck Pascal farms four hectares of vineyards in the Vallee de la Marne; he works biodynamically, which is extremely unusual in Champagne. His vineyards are mostly planted to Pinot Meunier on clay soil with small portions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. “Sagesse” is almost 60% Meunier and is fermented in stainless steel with 20% wood. This is a gentle and pretty style of Pinot Meunier based Champagne that offers white, fleshy fruits and rocks on the nose. The wine is quite dry but not austere and is an elegant example of the style. -msb