Welcome to Genuine Wines:
Champagne Louise Brison
January 6, 2020
While many people ring in the new year with a bottle of Champagne, we are even more lucky this year to ring in 2020 with a new Genuine Wines Partner: Champagne Louise Brison!
This past December, we went to visit the Louise Brison estate in Champagne, a 15-hectare family estate located in Noé les Mallets in Côte de Bar, now managed by Delphine Brulez. Louise Brison, the great-grandmother of Delphine, planted the first hectare in 1910.
The twisting roads leading to the estate are charming; immersed in the morning light and shrouded by early winter’s mist that softens the colours of the reliefs, layering a camaïeux of grey – it is as if we are driving through a living painting.
Geographically, we are closer to Chablis than to Epernay or Reims. The region is strongly reminiscent of Burgundy with its quaint stone villages.
We cross the Riceys, 3 villages famous for the production of its champagnes but also its still rosés. Finally we arrive at Noé les Mallets.
History of the Domaine
Louise Brison began cultivating vines in 1910. In the 1950s and 1960s, her daughter Antoinette (with her husband Germain Brulez) took over and extended the vineyard, notably with a very beautiful 8-hectare plot of land in a single block near the winery.
Francis Brulez, their son, settled in 1977 and restructured the vineyard. The majority of the vines exploited today are the ones they planted. Passionate about history, it is he who gave a new lease of life to the estate and very quickly directed the production towards gastronomic wines. He makes his Champagnes known abroad and starts developing the collection of old vintage Champagnes available today at the estate.
Today, the estate has 15 ha and since 2006, Delphine Brulez, daughter of Francis, representing the 4th generation, manages the estate. For several years now, the vineyard has been cultivated according to the practices of organic agriculture and the estate has just been certified organic.
The Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Noir (70%) grape varieties in proportions very typical of the Côte de Bar make up the vineyard. Only the estate’s grapes are vinified to produce a range of 3 low dosage (extra-brut) champagnes: a Chardonnay/ Pinot Noir blend, a blanc de blanc and a rosé champagne (made from 100% Pinot Noir in rosé de saignée).
All the champagnes produced are vintage and disgorged after a minimum of 5 years of ageing in bottle.
The estate also has built a library of old vintages in small quantities. These old vintages are available in magnum. They are kept on head ready to be disgorged upon request.
Terroir and Pruning Work
The hillside plots are planted on soils that are not very frost-susceptible, on an average elevation of 280m (upto 320 metres) in altitude with a South-East exposure, the optimal exposure for the region, allowing the vines to enjoy the sunshine from the morning onwards.
Here the soils are reminiscent of those of Chablis. They are shallow at the top of the hillsides, with the characteristic layer of marl and limestone dating from the Kimmeridgian era at a depth of about 25 cm. On the lower slopes, the soils are deeper and the marl-limestone layer appears at a depth of 40/60 cm.
Not only do grapes excel in the calcaire-soil – so do truffles! These soils are perfect for growing truffles and the estate has planted hazelnut trees and truffle oaks to harvest black truffles between the end of November and the beginning of January.
The estate practises “Chablis pruning” – a type of pruning style practised in Champagne only, and not in Chablis (despite what its name might suggest). It is based on alternating vine sticks and allows the harvest to be spread out, thus minimising the risk of rot. A pre-pruning is done in winter and then the pruning really starts in March.
Soil Health and Work in the Vines
Particular attention is paid to the vineyard, which is worked meticulously.
The soils are worked mechanically to develop their physico-chemical properties and organic inputs; crushed vine shoots and microbial fertilization are added.
An alternation of natural vegetation and sowing of leguminous plants is also practiced between the rows.
For a vine to be healthy, it must be able to feed itself. At the Louise Brison estate, natural fertilizers and composts are not applied lightly. These inputs only make sense if the vine is really able to benefit from them.
This nourishment is made possible by the mycorrhizae of the vine: a symbiosis of fungi which develop on the roots of the vines and which allows the transformation of mineral nitrogen into organic nitrogen.
Analyses to quantify the percentage of mycorrhizae are therefore carried out regularly. Today, in 5 years of working the vines and thoughtful contributions of compost, the vine has gone from 18% to 60% mycorrhizae (knowing that it is necessary to reach 50% to consider a good feeding of the vines).
Harvest and vinification of the base wines
The manual harvest is carried out by a small team over 12 to 15 days. The plots are harvested one by one to be vinified separately and a series of small stainless tanks allows the team to work small batches.
The date of harvest is decided following maturity controls and tasting the berries in the vineyard to pick the grapes at optimal maturity for bubble production. It is important to keep in mind that the wine will gain about 1.5° of alcohol during the development of the bubbles, and that acidity gives the backbone to the wine.
On arrival at the estate, the grapes are pressed in a Coquard vertical press, and for the past two years in a Bucher pneumatic press equipped with the Orias system. This is a press equipped with sensors that measure the real pressure exerted by the skin from inside the grape, and to adapt the pressing so as not to extract any vegetal notes.
In Champagne, there are generally three pressings, but the Louise Brison estate makes one more in order to be even finer in the separation of the musts and in the ageing process.
- The tête de cuvée is half as large as the traditional size with a first tête de cuvée of 10 hL.
- Then the 2nd cuvée gives the following 10.5 hL
- The 3rd press produces the following 3 hL
- and the fourth press is the last 2 hL.
The free-run musts and pressings flow down by gravity into the underground tank room (semi-buried) and the settling is done in stainless steel tanks. Then the juice is put into barrels and the vinification is done in barrels in its entirety.
The stainless steel tanks are again used for the blends. There is no malolactic fermentation in order to maintain the acids necessary to balance the champagnes, that will age a minimum of 5 years on lees.
The estate does not practice any cold passage (cold-settling) of the wines as the long maturation period on lees minimizes the problems of tartaric precipitation.
Champagne Extra Brut blanc – millésime 2014:
Vintage had excellent ripening conditions, grapes harvested at 11° natural, on this vintage 50% of the malolactic was done.
Nose very slightly brioche at the opening, extremely fine bubbles.
Very pure wine with floral notes (white flowers and Bay Leaf / laurel). Fruit and citrus fruit notes develop on the nose and then on the palate when aerated. Long and saline mouth.
Champagne blanc “Tendresse” blanc de blanc 2011
Very difficult vintage with a particularly wet year and important sorting made during the harvest.
Very fruity wine, beautiful round texture with a hint of hazelnut on the aftertaste. Very fine bubbles.
Suggested Pairing: with creamy dishes with morel mushrooms, gingerbread.
Champagne rosé 100% Pinot Noir:
Rosé saignée from a 3-day maceration.
Very precise Pinot notes with plum, cherries and spices. Very fine bubbles, fresh and delicate palate.
Where to Taste Champagne Louise Brison?