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Intro: Montagne de Reims

Bérèche have 9.50 hectares of vines averaging 38yo in 21 parcels including three villages classed as premier cru and one village as grand cru. Their principal holdings are on the Montagne de Reims in the villages of Ludes, Chigny les Roses and Trépail, and from Mareuil-le-Port and Festigny in the Vallée de la Marne (essentially pinot meunier). There is a four-strong team at the helm, with sons Raphaël and Vincent, both in their thirties, joining forces with their parents. Work in the vineyards is meticulous with eight people employed full-time, they work with no herbicides and plough both between the rows and vines. Work in the cellar is equally detailed and thoughtful with, for example, wines being aged in 350 litre barrels, the taille in 205 litre barrels and reserve wines in 600 litre demi-muids. The malo-lactic fermentations have been blocked to help preserve finesse and ensure longevity.

In Oct 2013 Bérèche changed their status from RM to NM. Principally so that from the 2013 vintage they could buy two hectares of grapes from three trusted growers working along organic lines in Ludes, Mailly and Rilly. These grapes will only go into the Brut Réserve. At the same time they decided to use their new status to launch a micro project designed to spotlight different premier and grand cru terroirs, and show the intricacies of terroir when given extended ageing in bottle. The ’range’ (which changes every year) comprises just 6,000 bottles in total, under the Raphaël and Vincent Bérèche Crus Sélectionnés name. I would particularly draw your attention to an incredibly fine and very good vfm Avize 2005 Cote (bottle aged for 10.5years!) that is new to the list this year.

Benoît and Valérie Lahaye make quite exceptional champagnes. They have just 4.8 hectares of vines here worked by them both, two full time employees, and a beautiful horse for ploughing to avoid compaction of the soils. Since changing to bio-dynamic viticulture the most notable benefit has been that the grapes attain higher levels of ripeness whilst retaining the same level of acidity. As the grapes regularly give 11% alcohol for the first fermentation, since 2008 they have been able to carry out the malolactic fermentations, which they had previously blocked by sulphur. This has made the champagnes more user friendly, easier to drink with a purer fruit, but as with Boesch in Alsace who also carries out the malos it has enabled greater exchange between the lees and the wines, giving better depth of fruit, structure and mouthfeel. They also now age all their champagnes in oak (except for the rosé) which again adds a little extra complexity.

Benoît is a very thoughtful vigneron, who works with touch and feel, for example using either corks or caps for his vintage champagne entirely dependent on the strength and structure of the initial wine, with more structured vintages aged under cork and richer vintages aged under cap. He never uses sulphur at disgorging, and after several experiments, now bottles one cuvée Violaine with no sulphur used at any stage.

Benoît Marguet, a one-time assistant winemaker in Washington State and ex-sommelier took over the running of Marguet Père & Fils in 2005. Today he farms bio-dynamically a total of eight hectares in Ambonnay and Bouzy – all are 100% ploughed by horse (they have their own stables). In the cellar all the work is done according to the lunar calendar and increasingly with lower dosages and without sulphur – for the 2012 harvest 80% of the production was vinified sans soufre. Benoît is meticulous in everything he does, and his champagnes are outstanding, both with ripe, dense fruits and real energy and finesse.

Organic & Bio-dynamic

See our list of organic and bio-dynamic growers.