Demarville to leave Clicquot and join Laurent-Perrier as cellar master

Dominique Demarville

Veuve Clicquot cellar master Dominique Demarville is leaving the company at the end of the year to take up the position as chef de cave at Laurent-Perrier. Recruited to replace him at Clicquot by the retiring cellar master Jacques Peters back in 2006, Demarville has apparently again been sought out by the soon to retire incumbent chef de cave at Laurent-Perrier, Michel Fauconnet, planning his succession. Fauconnet is 67 this year and has worked at Laurent-Perrier since 1973.

This news about one of the highest profile winemakers in the whole of Champagne, comes from the reliably well informed website of Sophie Claeys. It was Claeys who was first with the similarly surprising, if less shocking, news last September, that the newly appointed chef de cave at Piper Heidsieck, Séverine Frerson was leaving Piper after only weeks in the job, to take over from Hervé Deschamps when he retires as chef de cave at Perrier-Jouët. Deschamps has been at Perrier-Jouët since in 1983, and head winemaker there since 1993.

Dominique Demarville with Jacques Peters his predecessor at Clicquot

The Veuve Clicquot cellar-master position is traditionally a ‘job for life’. Demarville now 53 is only the sixth man to hold the reigns since 1890 and his five predecessors have all retired in the position, three of them spending over 40 years in the job. One of the nicest people you could wish to meet in Champagne, with a top-class reputation for his winemaking skills, before Clicquot, Demarville worked at G.H. Mumm for a dozen years, making great strides in restoring the reputation of this house’s wines. The move represents quite a coup for Laurent-Perrier. No-one at either Laurent-Perrier or Veuve Clicquot was available to comment on this dramatic news.

Dom Pérignon launches 2002 P2

Dom Pérignon 2002 P2 and the original release

Bruno Paillard, who has long championed the use of disgorgement dates on his own champagnes, and those of the brands in the wider BCC group, has an anecdote he is fond of bringing up to emphasize the importance of post-disgorgement ageing. He feels the more venerable the wine, the longer it needs to recover from the shock of disgorgement. In much the same way as an older person is likely to take longer to recover from a serious operation than a younger one. It makes sense. Champagne is unlikely to perform at its best immediately, post l’Opération — as the cellar hands refer to the process of dégorgement.

Somewhat mischievously, Paillard likes to reference an annual consumer tasting in Paris of the big-name prestige cuvées, where he claims that historically two wines in particular were largely avoided by attendees. The two wines in question were Dom Pérignon Oenothéque, as it was then called and Bollinger RD. The implication being that both these ‘recently disgorged’ wines were still suffering from the shock of disgorgement and didn’t show at all well at that point in their evolution.

Dom Pérignon Chef de Cave Vincent Chaperon

Over the years I have not been a fan of the Dom Pérignon Oenothéque wines when they were first released, finding them generally rather harsh and unfriendly. And, when the opportunity occasionally came up to taste them against the original release of the same wine, always preferring that. At one such tasting given for MWs a few years back by Benoït Gouez, then working with Richard Geoffroy before he took over as Chef de cave at Moët, I was one of the very few people in the room voting that way on a show of hands.

It is to their credit that the team under Geoffroy, now led by Vincent Chaperon, recognised this problem with the second release of Dom Pérignon, and they have gradually extended the length of time the wine gets on the cork, post-disgorgement. With the 2002 Dom Pérignon second plenitude release, now simply called P2, tasted a few hours ago today, this post disgorgement rest has now been extended to two years.

While the wine making has generally evolved so that the first releases of DP in the ‘noughties’ have been noticeably more user friendly — softer and more generous — this is the first time I’ve really noticed the difference this extra time makes. When comparing the new 2002 P2 that has had some 15 years lees ageing, plus two years on the final cork, with the original 2002 release that has about a decade of post disgorgement ageing, the step-up intensity, vibrancy and energy shown by the P2 is clear. Chaperon’s assertion that this is a wine still on an upward curve with a long future ahead of it, seems totally reasonable too.

Champagne shipments fall as exports overtake French domestic consumption in 2018

Worldwide Champagne shipments dropped by 1.8% in 2018, falling some 5,523,085 bottles from 307,379,350 to 301,856,265. This is the lowest level since 2009, when the market suffered a significant fall in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis dropping to 293.3m bottles, and close to the level in 2004 of 301.4m bottles, though at Continue reading “Champagne shipments fall as exports overtake French domestic consumption in 2018”

Ten pink champagnes to delight (and fit different budgets)

Pink champagne ticks all the boxes. It looks great in the glass, it is softer and often more generously fruity than white champagne, making it more approachable for those that dislike champagne’s inherent acidity. It elevates an ordinary occasion into something special. And many feel that, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, it’s a must.

Pink champagnes tend to be more expensive than their white counterparts, sometimes, and notably in the case of a handful of prestige cuvées, Continue reading “Ten pink champagnes to delight (and fit different budgets)”

Leclerc Briant: a house rejuvenated

I was fan of Leclerc Briant wines back in the days when Pascal Leclerc Briant, the fifth generation of the family involved since the house was founded in 1852, ran the business. His father Bertrand was one of the first to move away from the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and Pascal followed the same path, going further when he began experimenting with biodynamic vine cultivation back in 1970 at a time when such methods were very rare in Champagne.

Leclerc Briant: Frédéric Zeimatt and Hervé Jestin

After ten years farming their Cumières vineyards biodynamically, following the 2000 harvest he decided to convert all the house’s Continue reading “Leclerc Briant: a house rejuvenated”

Earliest harvest ever in Champagne but also a plentiful, ripe crop

While the official Champagne harvest dates announced last Saturday gave this Monday (20 August) as the start date for picking, not Tuesday as has been widely reported, in fact picking began in the Grand Cru of Ambonnay last Friday, 17 August, making it the earliest harvest in Champagne on record.

By the process known as derogation, producers can apply to the local INAO office to start picking earlier than the official start date Continue reading “Earliest harvest ever in Champagne but also a plentiful, ripe crop”

The 2018 Champagne harvest has officially started

The Champagne harvest officially started today, Monday, 20 August. The secateurs were out in a number of villages, in the Côte des Bars region, including Buxeuil, Polisot and Polisy, where all three varieties may be harvested. The isolated cru of Montgueux, due east of the city of Troyes, renown for its super charged, ripe Chardonnay, that is set to start on Wednesday, will be cutting Meunier and Pinot Noir from tomorrow (21 August).

The secateurs will be out in Verzenay before the end of this week

Further north in the Marne department the dates for all varieties are largely set for later in the week. The premier cru of Cumières, that’s often one of the earliest crus to pick, begins on 24 August. Top Chardonnay villages like Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Oger and Le Mesnil may all begin on 27 August. While in the Montagne de Reims, Bouzy and Ambonnay are on Thursday (23 August), Aÿ on Friday (24 August) and even on the usually cooler northern slopes of Verzy and Verzenay the picture is similar –24 and 23 August respectively.

Nearly all 318 crus can start picking before the end of the month, there’s only a handful that are expected to wait until 1 September, and that’s the latest start date in any single village, bar Grauves which begins on 2 September.