Wine Spectator (Autumn 2015)
Wine Spectator (Autumn 2015)
About this WINE
Champagne Leclerc Briant
Champagne Leclerc Briant focuses on organic and biodynamic viticulture, working in harmony with nature to produce some of the region’s most exciting wines.
Lucien Leclerc founded the estate in 1872 in the village of Cumières. In the mid-20th century, in the hands of Lucien’s great-grandson, Bertrand Leclerc, and his wife, Jacqueline Briant, the operation was moved to the beating heart of Champagne, Epernay, where it also took a new name – Leclerc Briant. It was around the same time that the house started practising biodynamics (one of the first in the region), eventually earning certification in the 1980s.
Since 2012, Chef du Cave Hervé Justin, formally of Duval-Leroy, has refined the House’s style. Working with organic and biodynamic fruit, he also practises biodynamic principles in the winery. The House has taken on new vineyards, renovated its facilities and has a renewed, uncompromising focus on quality.
The wines are low dosage, vineyard-specific and extremely interesting. Its Abyss cuvée is aged underwater
Brut denotes a dry style of Champagne (less than 15 grams per litre). Most Champagne is non-vintage, produced from a blend from different years. The non-vintage blend is always based predominately on wines made from the current harvest, enriched with aged wines (their proportion and age varies by brand) from earlier harvests, which impart an additional level of complexity to the end wine. Champagnes from a single vintage are labelled with the year reference and with the description Millésimé.
Non-vintage Champagnes can improve with short-term ageing (typically two to three years), while vintages can develop over much longer periods (five to 30 years). The most exquisite and often top-priced expression of a house’s style is referred to as Prestige Cuvée. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
Which grapes are included in the blend, and their proportion, is one of the key factors determining the style of most Champagnes. Three grapes are used - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
26% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay and it performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk slopes south of Epernay. It is relatively simple to grow, although it buds early and thus is susceptible to spring frosts. It produces lighter, fresher wines than those from Burgundy and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape in Blancs de Blancs, which are some of the richest long-lived Champagnes produced.
Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 40% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends - it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and particularly so in the southern Aube district.
The final component is Pinot Meunier and this constitutes nearly 35% of the plantings. Its durability and resistance to spring frosts make the Marne Valley, a notorious frost pocket, its natural home. It ripens well in poor years and produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks ageing potential, but this does not deter Krug from including around 15% of it in their final blends.