I don’t find myself out in the very far reaches of the Vallee de la Marne very often. Just before you get to Chateau-Thierry, Le Surmelin, one of the tributaries to the La Marne branches off to the South. Following the river to it’s North and East are a string of villages and associated vineyards. One of the first you come to is Connigis. Nestled just North of this village is Chevreux-Bournazel, one of the exciting new producers in Champagne. I first heard of them from Vincent Charlot of Charlot-Tanneux who is a friend of Julien’s, one of the couple who manage this tiny venture.
Julien and Stephanie run this lovely little Recoltant with a tiny 0.4 hectare vineyard in Barzy sur Marne, a village just north of Connigis on the Marne. Julien has worked for over 20 years in the vineyards for a number of negociants including Duval-Leroy. 15 years ago he began a society of labourers and in 2012 bought a plot to produce his own wine. He works hand in hand with his wife Stephanie sharing the work in the vineyards and in the winery. The vineyard is south facing and on a precarious 45 degree slope. They have played with the idea of working with horses but it is just too steep! The clay soil, between 10cm and 30cm depending on the position sits on a bed of limestone. The vines were planted in 1984.
The winery is tiny. I can’t stress how small. Stepping down through an ancient doorway you are graced with 4 barrels each with chalk scribblings indicating the size, 225L, year (2015), and the word BIO (biodynamic production). There is a small steel transfer vat but otherwise all vinification and maturation occurs in these 4 oak barrels. The wines spend 11 months in these and do not undergo malolactic fermentation. Through another door you see 3 or 4 further barrels which hold the last 3 vintages of Ratafia.
In the next door building you can find the even smaller cellar with it’s tiny selection of wines, a muddled few boxes of the odd magnum sit alongside last years production and a cramped pupitre with bottles in the process of riddling.
What you notice very quickly is there is something missing…no press. I put this question to Julien who informs me that the pressing and bottling are done at the Viticultural college in Crezancy. On a side note Stephanie is studying the art of pruning there at the moment.
Out of this tiny production comes one wine, La Parcelle. Well two actually. The wine being released with either 4g/ltr or 0g/ltr. The dosage is made from biodynamic grape juice.
La Parcelle 4g/ltr:
We sit with Julien, Stephanie and their production. Two bottles of wine. Pure 2012. One Brut Nature one Extra Brut. 100% Meunier. Both disgorged 19/2/15. What is so fascinating is just how different they are. With sugar there is an immediate opulence to the nose, a faint prune note is blown away by an explosive, smokey, saline palate. There is a gripping acidity and a really beautiful finish that lingers for 30 seconds or more. I was smitten and immediately declared this the fairer wine. That was until I gave the zero dosage some time.
La Parcelle 0g/ltr
A touch leaner on the nose, it seemed purer, more vegetal. The mid palate possessed the same intensity and tension but it wasn’t until 30 minutes had passed that you started to get the complexity and energy that felt a little missing from the other wine. Another 30 minutes and the finish knits together. And with all of this the texture builds and builds and builds, the salinity becomes more pronounced and it gains focus and linearity. What was so impressive was how the acidity seemed to pull the back of the palate together so beautifully.
We sat for a good few hours watching, tasting and drinking these two great wines. Rarely are you given the opportunity to experience this when visiting a producer and it was so amazing to spend time with Stephanie and Julien, both lovely people and obviously excellent and passionate winemakers.
One must always be wary of new ventures, 2012 being the first vintage, but this really looks like it is going to be fabulous!
Region: La Vallee De La Marne
Contact: Stephanie Chevraux and Julien Bournazel
Cuvée De Prestige:
Year Founded: 2012
Bottles produced: 1000
Style: Textured, layered, saline, expansive.
Terroir: Barzy sur Marne
Vinification: Oak throughout. Small barrels. 11 months in oak. No malolactic fermentation.
Recent Tasting Notes from Chevreux-Bournazel