Kindness = Keys to the World

worldkindnessweekToday is world kindness day and God knows we really can do with more kindness in our world…

What a year it has been. This time last year, almost at the exact time I am writing this, hundreds of people were mowed down in central Paris. It came less than a year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks which had shocked the nation to its core. Four month later, it was Brussels’ turn, and on Bastille Day, France experienced its third deadly terrorist attack. This came exactly 3 weeks after the UK voted to leave the EU in the (in)famous Brexit vote, which caused a surge in racial hate crimes. Today similar hate crimes are mushrooming in the US after Donald Trump’s (‘rigged’?) election win on Tuesday. In between all of this there have been many terrorists attacks, unfortunately often under- or unreported, a humongous refugee crisis instigated by civil wars, often exasperated by western (non)intervention, and the rise of totalitarian systems dissolving the freedom of the press in Russia and Turkey. When summed up like this, it would be easy to assume that last year has been a year of doom and gloom, and things are only going to get worse… Yet, as I wrote a year ago, we should never give up on our dreams for a better world. Difficult times like these are the best opportunities to be resilient and reinforce our efforts to bring kindness to the world. Change comes from within, and every time we opt to do an act of kindness rather than to be negative, we win – even if all we did was just opening a door for another person or let someone merge in front of us in busy traffic.

Earlier this year, I stumbled upon this amazing TED talk by Orly Wahba on the power of kindness. It really inspired me and I signed up for the Live Vest Inside Daily Kind newsletter. For months I have been experiencing the contagious character of kindness, reading their energizing and stimulating messages first thing in the morning. In turn, I have noticed how this has triggered me to include more random acts of kindness into my life. And just as with my gratitude bowl, I experienced that kindness applied, just as gratitude, multiplies the acts of kindness received (and hence even more to be grateful for!!). This is why I signed up to host the Dance for Kindness event here in Champagne in August. In the end ‘my event’ did not pan out in any way I had envisaged it; in fact just as I got a little momentum going the event was cancelled by the Reims town hall for security reasons. Upon reading the news I went through the 5 stages of grief, luckily rather quickly, before I looked for a way to circumvent the system. After all the city had only prohibited me to organise a public event; this did not mean I could not still participate in the world wide Dance for Kindness event in private :-) And as you can see from the video here above, with the help of friends, I danced!!

I wanted to share this, for since Wednesday, or in fact since the end of June, I have been seeing two very different attitudes in my FB feed. There are the people who are disappointed with the way the Brexit and US presidential elections went, and who are sharing all all the negatives attached to the results; often times they wish to overturn the democratic process and somehow undo the results. In the UK people argue the referendum is not legally binding whilst in the US people feel hard done by the electoral college rules which meant that the candidate who lost the public vote, still won the presidency.

kindness-keeps-the-world-afloat

Whilst I can see the validity of these points, I much prefer the other attitude which consists of people looking for ways to change things from within; generally by fighting even harder to look out for one another and by many different acts of kindness. I love this way as it is within our reach and control and more importantly it comes from a place of love. As many people have said in the past, hatred cannot be eliminated by more hatred; only love can defeat hatred. And every act of kindness is a small battle won, and eventually will us help to win the war. We should realize that neither Brexit or Trump are the underlying problem. The real problem is FEAR, fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of differences. It is here that I feel we should focus our attention and break down this fear with acts of kindness, rather than feed it by finger pointing. By actively fighting for a more integrated world, where we reach out to everybody, including the people we most disagree with (or even blame right now), we will enable change and eventually create a better world. It really is very easy, all we need is caring more about everything in our world (the rights of people, of animals, the environment, sustainability…) and blanketing it in kindness and love! Like the title of the DFK song for this year, we really hold the keys to the world :-)

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Kick off of the 2016 Champagne Harvest in Cumières

Pinot Noir in les Hautes Chèvres

Pinot Noir in les Hautes Chèvres

It is hard to believe harvest is upon us once again. This year marks my fifth Champagne harvest, five years living in the same place really is something of a personal victory! Especially when you consider that I stil am as excited as I was in 2012 when Onne and I picked at Jacquesson! Like 2012, 2016 has turned out to be a ‘difficult’ year: after a mild winter, the Aube was hit badly by late spring frosts, and on average lost 2/3’s of their crop. The wet growing season brought more losses, as mildew thrived among the champenois vines. The hail storm of the 14th of July made for more losses in some areas, and the heatwave at the end of august caused heat damage. Needless to say there will be less grapes than other years, a lot less… Yields are estimated at 7,000 kg/ha, well under the appellation maximum, which was set at 9,500 kg/ha in July, and a long way away from last years average of 12,000 kg/ha. But even if the season has been hard, it looks that the result will be beautiful. The August sunshine worked its magic and the grapes and juices I tasted so far are very promising. Well at least the dark grape varieties; the Meuniers and Pinot Noirs ripened in a record time of 80 days, but the Chardonnays need still more time.

Meunier from Les Longues Viols  at Vincent Laval

Meunier from Les Longues Viols at Vincent Laval

So even if I started my harvest campaign once again at Vincent Laval in Cumières, this time it was not the tropical Chardonnays from Les Chênes in the press, but the very elegant old vine Meuniers from Les Longues Viols, a vineyard which never has been treated with synthetic products… It was the second marc for Vincent; he had started on Thursday with the old Meuniers from Les Hautes Chèvres. The grapes at les Hautes Chèvres were picked at 11% potential alcohol and the average yield was 6,000 kg/ha, and Les Longues Viols were slightly less ripe at 10.7% potential alcohol. Vincent had decided to pick them because the hot temperatures at the beginning of the week had caused more heat damage. In the end the yield averaged 7,000 kg/ha, and it shows that organic farming still is economically viable, even in this difficult season. Vincent explained:”We worked with 4 and sometimes 5 people in the vines all the time; we stayed on top of the grass, sometimes hoeing manually and managed the leaves with vineyard shears. I treated 18 times, alternatively with the tractor and the chenillard, using very small doses of copper and stayed well within authorised limits.”
I tasted both juices, Les Longues Viols as it ran off the press and Les Hautes Chèvres as they were being racked and love the precision and tension the juice has this year. I feel the balance between the sugars and acidity is extremely harmonious; in fact both juices were very morish, and that means a lot from a person who has never been too crazy of grape juice ;-)

I also spoke to Vincent’s uncle François, who has vineyards worked organically by Vincent and conventional vineyards worked by another service provider. According to François there is a difference in quantity, with conventional vineyards averaging about 30% higher yields. This was echoed the next day by Johann Merle and Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon of team Roederer, though it seems that Roederer has suffered bigger losses in Cumières. “We average around 5,500 kg/ha in Cumières and Aÿ; but these are our oldest vines so the quantities will go up when we harvest younger vines”, says Johann. Jean-Baptiste added: “After a lot of internal discussion we decided to apply a (chemical) antibiotic at time of flowering for all our vineyards bar the 10 hectares which are certified organic. A second dose was applied just after flowering, and afterwards the teams went back to treating with copper and sulphur. As soon as we applied the product, the situation stabilized, whilst we had around 20% more loss around flowering in our organic vineyards.” As Roederer had not begun to harvest the organic vineyards on Saturday, they could not give exact yield numbers. The vineyards will be harvested tomorrow and Tuesday – both flower days and I will go and have a look and taste at that time :-)

Pinot Noir waiting to be pressed at Champagne Roederer

Pinot Noir waiting to be pressed at Champagne Roederer

Roederer started the harvest in Cumières and Aÿ on Thursday and in Verzennay on Friday. They will not open their press centre in Avize till the 22 or 23rd, a few days after the official starting dates. Apparently many growers are not very happy about his decision, but they will have to wait till Jean-Baptiste and Johann feel the time is right to pick. Jean-Baptiste elaborates: “Normally we need to be very careful and precise with the Pinot’s from the Montagne de Reims. This time we will have to pick the right dates for the Chardonnay. I prefer to wait and pick the fruit ripe. In another week we will be closer to that time.” It is the first time since the forties that Roederer opens its press centre in Verzennay before Avize; in fact, in 2014, they had closed Avize before they started in Verzennay :-) Both Jean-Baptiste and Johann are very happy about the quality as well, and especially about the balance in the juice and the potential alcohol levels, which average between 10.5 and 11.5%. I tasted some Pinot Noir which ran off the press, one lot from young vines replanted from clone massale in Aÿ and another glass from older vines in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. The Aÿ juice was amazing with a beautiful finesse! I also tasted many Pinot Noir grapes both at the press centre (grapes were waiting to be loaded in the press) and in the vines in Hautvillers and Aÿ and again there was a lovely balance and plenty of sugars. Jean-Baptiste explained: “It is amazing but after only 80 days the grapes have reached full maturity, the skin is crunchy, the pips are ripe and there is no bitterness left. The fruit is ripe and will not change in sugar levels anymore; if we do not pick now we will just loose acidity.”

Loading the press at  Champagne Geoffroy

Loading the press at Champagne Geoffroy

His namesake Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy said the same thing almost word for word later on Saturday afternoon when speaking about his Meuniers and Pinot’s. As I arrived the press was just being loaded with Meunier and I tasted the free-flow running off the press. The juice came in at 10.7% potential alcohol and again it had a great freshness. I should note here that acidity levels in Meunier are generally lower than the other two grape varieties, but according to Jean-Baptiste they are in line with the Pinots up till now. The Geoffroys began to pick in Cumières on Thursday as well, and the press loads has come in between 10.3% and 11.8% potential alcohol, with an average yield of 8,000 kg/ha. All grapes come from Cumières bar 2 plots which were picked in Hautvillers on Friday to make the Blanc de Rose. Jean-Baptiste fears that the vineyards in Fleury-la Rivières will be more complicated as they were particularly hard hit with mildew in June, but all in all he is quite happy.”I cannot complain, the quantity is a little less but we are harvesting some exceptionally beautiful grapes!”, exclaims Jean-Baptiste. I am very happy he decided to make a little amount of Coteau Champenois Rouge for we both agreed that this year would be excellent for still wines. But as Jean-Baptiste explains:”If I make a lot of red wine I will not be able to make enough champagne…” The Pinot for the red came in at 11.8% potential alcohol and I was blown away when I tasted the macerating grapes in the cask: amazing freshness, rosewater and hibiscus notes with tart red fruit. This is a Coteau Champenois I will stock up on in a few years time!
Whilst I was there team Geoffroy destemmed some more Pinot to make the Rosé de Saignée, and once again I had no problem drinking several sips, pulp, skins and all!! So after two days tasting different Meuniers and reds from Cumières and Aÿ, I can but say 2016 is very quickly getting under my skin.

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The Bioenergetic movement in Champagne

Marc Augustin at Dvine Cellars introducing his bioenergetic Champagnes to UK press

Marc Augustin at Dvine Cellars introducing his bioenergetic Champagnes to UK press

Last week I was in London helping Marc Augustin to introduce his bioenergetic Champagnes into the UK market. In order to gather a bit of interest for his wines we had invited a handful of writers and Champagne aficionados to come and taste his Champagnes and talk about bioenergy over an apero at Dvine Cellars. We were both surprised to find out that bioenergetics is still very much uncharted territory for most of the wine world as nobody seemed to have heard of it. Strange as it may be, especially if we look at the organic and biodynamic numbers of the region, it looks that Champagne is actually at the forefront of this movement with 5 producers working according to the bioenergetic principles.

So what is Bioenerergetics? According to the free dictionary Bioenergetics is “the study of the flow and transformation of energy in and between living organisms and between living organisms and their environment. Translated in vineyard/winemaking terms this means the energy from the soil, vine and fruit is conserved during the pressing and winemaking process, so we find it back into the glass. The idea is to capture all the goodness of the terroir and mutate this into a pure terroir wine which infuses us with the same goodness coming from nature; a wine with an almost healing energy.

If we look at a bigger picture, we know that everything consists of energy, and that we are effected by whatever energy we mix with. In more scientific terms, according to the laws of quantum physics everything is energy in motion; all material can be broken down to quarks and gluons which are probably easiest described as waves or vibration. Everything in this universe has its own unique vibrational frequency and the law of vibration teaches us that we attract what we are sending out. In other words, positive vibrations attract positive vibrations.

Franck and Isabelle Pascal explaining their bioenergetic winemaking techniques

Franck and Isabelle Pascal explaining their bioenergetic winemaking techniques

The practice of bioenergetics aims to re-balance the energy body to remove disease and heal the physical body, by redirecting the excess energy to places where it is needed. It has been primarily developed in the world of alternative medicine in the last 15 years, even if it has been around for thousands of years in eastern cultures (think Quigong). In wine, the redirecting happens in the vineyard and in the winery. In Champagne, the forefathers are without a doubt Franck Pascal and Hervé Jestin, who have been working together since 2005, to develop a protocol for bioenergetic winemaking. Franck and Isabelle Pascal as well as Herve have trained in bioenergetic healing and are qualified practitioners. Applying the energy redistribution procedure at different moments in the transformation process from grape to must and from must to wine has allowed them to make very stable wines without the use of sulfites. Franck Pascal’s resulting Pacifience and Sérénité cuvees, both released in 2014, are mind blowing. This has probably a lot to do with the fact that Franck converted his whole domain to biodynamic farming in 2004 as well as the bioenergetic work. In 2013 Franck and Isabelle took the bioenergy method one step further by using the same principles in the vineyard. The result has been the purest, richest, most energy filled Champagne must and vins clairs I have ever tasted.

In 2013, Marc Augustin also decided to work according to the bioenergetic principles. Marc had converted to organic growing in 2012 and like Franck found his way to bioenergetics via the medical path his wife chose in 2012. However Marc opted to work according to the rules of Homsham (a sensitivity driven way of homeopathy, practiced in a bio-modular way, without chemicals or machines) with the help of geobiologist Alan Gauda in the vineyard and Hervé in the winery. More info can be found in this preview of Marc’s profile for my terroir champagne book,which will come out next month.

Hervé Jestin filling up barrels and informing the must

Hervé Jestin filling up barrels and informing the must

Hervé Jestin also has been making bioenergetic cuvees from 2006 onward. From 2006 till 2012 he produced the cuvee Jestin, a blend of organic and biodynamic grapes purchased from Vincent Laval and David Léclapart and from 2007 onward also some grapes from Benoit Lahaye. He made the wine together with Benoit Marguet, who is selling the same cuvee under the Sapience name after the partnership broke up in 2013. In the light of this brief bioenergetic champagne history, I have always very much seen this wine as one of Hervé’s creations, especially since I have not resonated with the 2014 or 2015 vins clairs. This is maybe because Benoit Marguet has been applying Hervé’s formula without the help from a person qualified in energy channeling and the energy has not quite balanced the way we would expect it.

Two other producers have also been experimenting with bioenergetic grape growing and winemaking: Stephane Hardy, who is bottling his first bioenergetic cuvees later this year, and Eric Schreiber, one of the three biodynamic pioneers of the Champagne region. Both Eric and Stephane have worked with geobiologists in the vineyard; Since 2008 Eric has also been working closely with Hervé in bioenergetic winemaking whilst developing his cuvee Astral (the same cuvee as Fleury’s Sonate but with a dosage of 3.5 g/l), without added sulphur. Stephane has been advised by his uncle, the original organic oenologist and Quigong trainer Georges Hardy.

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No I am not at war…. I continue to have a dream!

power-of-the-heart_web__largeTwo nights ago 129 people, most of them youngsters, were mowed down in the horrendous terrorists attacks in Paris. Whilst all the drama was going on, I was blissfully unaware. I had lost the internet earlier that day, and I was a bit lost so I decided to watch a movie friends had lent me the night before. The film I saw was “The Power of the Heart”, and I feel so blessed I did. I went to bed feeling very grateful for all the goodness and abundance in my life. I fell asleep thanking the Divine for all the opportunities I have had; for all the wonderful experiences I have lived; for all the beauty and love around me; for all the self love I have, which allows me to see the good in almost anything.

On Saturday I woke up early, still feeling great and was pleasantly surprised to receive a FB call from one of my oldest and dearest friends. As I answered I was extra happy as I realuized that getting a web call meant that the internet had been restored overnight. My friend seemed very happy to hear my voice, and kept on asking me if I was ok, so I asked him what was happening. He told me about the shooting and the line went dead. As I could not get through again I googled “Paris shootings” and read what was happening. The more I read the colder I got; I was cold because the crimes committed were unjust and incomprehensible; the chill became even worse when I saw the reactions and realized what was going to happen next. I showered and under the hot water, I remembered the movie I watched the night before and the power of the heart. I felt blessed again and returned to being mindful. Most of the day I was fine, no I was happy, I spent time with friends, we talked about our blessings in life. At lunch time I saw another friend, he shouted me lunch and later that afternoon I got to share my passion for biodynamic champagne with the group he had traveled to Champagne with. On my way home I started to think of the shootings again and from there things went pear shaped…

12238237_1187809517926202_8003789413844687420_oI watched a bit of the news at my neighbor’s and found out our President had declared WAR and a National State of Emergency. To be honest I was a bit confused, for doesn’t the fact that we talk about war mean that we tacitly accept that Friday nights shootings are just one battle among many to come??? When I came home I was overwhelmed by the international support and union on my FB timeline and again I felt blessed; blessed for the love that was sent my way and blessed for being able to express my views, for being able to say that I do not want to be part of this ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ business. Blessed for the message a friend posted saying eye for an eye would only make the whole world blind; blessed for another friend posting we, each and everyone of us, can take responsibility by choosing love over fear. Another friend posted an article about why changing our profile picture on social media was not enough which which made a lot of sense. It pinpoints the cause of why people go off the rail and dramas occur. The reason is not, like so many would like us to believe, radical Muslim beliefs; no the reason is loneliness, isolation, a feeling of not belonging, feeling unloved and hurting badly. If we look a little closer we see that the same reasons lay behind the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012… In fact the same reason is behind most domestic homicides and suicides…

Yet we prefer to ignore this; ignoring means we have no responsibility and we can point the finger at someone or something else and by doing so create more divisions and more outcasts… Ignoring helps us to react from a position of of fear which is a lot easier than respond from a position of love. But ignoring also means the problem continues to fester and other eruptions will happen… How many more more people will have to die before we finally get it? How much more blood do we want on our hands?? Because as long as we avoid responsibility and continue to actively sow division things will not improve. All the States of Emergencies in the world will not be able to protect us from people who have been pushed so far outside of society that they feel they have nothing left to lose…

It will only push them further into the arms of whatever extremist association which promises inclusion, a sense of belonging or a better life after death. And these associations, just like most of our governments, are run by egotistical narcissists; people who are just as lost, but believe the answer to their problems lies in the control of others. They are most often not willing to sacrifice their own lives; instead they brainwash vulnerable outcasts into becoming martyrs for the ‘good’ cause. And by declaring war on them, we only give them more ammunition for we widen the divisions by creating even bigger outcasts.

© Spirit Science

© Spirit Science

Not much good has ever come from war; we may proclaim victory, yet no-one really wins in a war situation. We only have to listen to the atrocities committed under the banner of war in Rwanda, the old Yugoslavia, Afghanistan or Irak. Many people on both sides of the fence are still paying the price, even though the wars have been officially won a while ago…

This is why I feel the French President should maybe deploy more means to integrate the French society, invest more in stimulating a sense of community and belonging rather than scaremongering the people with talk of war and take their freedom away. War can only mean more battles, more retaliations and more innocent victims…

This is why I am not at war and put my energy in doing whatever I can to bring hope, bring light, bring love… Instead I dream of a better world where we chose to live in peace from a place of love rather than wage war out of fear; a world, where we give a helping hand to those in despair; a world where we focus on the good and beauty all around us, and create an environment for it to flourish; a world where we are grateful for what we have and who we are; a world run by the power of the heart…

“I have a dream” Martin Luther King famously shouted on August 28th 1963 at Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Today, 52 years later his words ring truer than ever. He was right when he said: “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

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Champagne harvest – the bioenergetic cuvée Liberance en primeur at Franck Pascal

The amazing bioenergetic rosé de maceration in the making

The amazing bioenergetic rosé de maceration in the making

My last visit this harvest season was at Franck and Isabelle Pascalle in Baslieux-sous-Chatillon. I arrived at the same time as the last grapes for the day.

Franck and Isabelle have been farming biodynamically since 2002 and for the last 5 years they have taken things another step forward by applying bioenergy in the winery and in the vineyard. “We aim to raise the vibrations in the vineyard and in the winery. Bioenergy heals blockages and bring extra life to the vine and later the wine”, explains Franck.

Working with energy also allows him to not add any sulphur when pressing, which is a really great thing as it allowed me to taste all the juice from the beginning of harvest! Tasting the different juices I immediately knew that the intensity and vibrancy of the juice is something which is rarely experienced in Champagne. The Meunier tasted like freshly pressed peach juice and showed no signs of imbalance or oxidation. The only thing I can maybe compare it with is the juice from the Clos de Cumières I tasted with Hervé Jestin; probably because Hervé and the Pascals have worked closely together for the last 5 years to further explore this way of working.

The grapes arriving on the truck were from the 3 hectares Franck and Isabelle took over from Franck’s father in November last year. They immediately converted the new vineyard to organic and biodynamic farming, in line with the 4 hectares they have been farming this way for over 10 years. From past experience Franck has learned that it is a lot better to work the soil by horse so this is what he chose to do for the 3 hectares in conversion.

Whilst in conversion they want to keep the grapes separately and thus have created a new cuvee, Liberance. Liberance will be 3 way blend of Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, made according to the principles of bio-energy. The cuvee will be the little brother of the Sérénité, Franck’s top cuvée, as both chamapgnes are elaborated according to the same principles. The only difference is that Liberance is,not certified yet and that it will only be on sale en Primeur.

Whilst en primeur is a very well established system in the Bordelais, it is a first for the Champagne region. Franck chose to go down the en primeur route to be able to reinvest the sales profits back into the vineyard. “The biodymic conversion is expensive, especially when one wants to work the soil by horse. However, it was the only way for us to take over my fathers land. It really did not make sense to convert bit by bit. Selling en primeur willhelp pay for the investments we have been making. At the same time the customer will be able to buy a top cuvee at a fraction of the price”, elaborates Franck

The cuvée is called Liberance, because it allows Franck and Isabelle to stay true to themselves by converting the new vineyards all at once whilst at the same time providing champagne lovers with an affordable unique bioenergetic cuvée. Total production for Liberance will be around 25,000 bottles.

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Champagne Harvest 2015 – tasting Meunier on the vines and straight out of the press at Champagne Loriot

La retrousse

La retrousse

I love visiting the Loriots in harvest, I love eating their delicious Meunier grapes whilst listening to all the banter, laughing! This year I took Jess, a friend from New York whom I had spend a day with working selling wine more than 7 years ago; almost another lifetime if you want. But Facebook has ways to keep us connected and as destiny had it Jess was in Champagne to enjoy a few hours of Meunier immersion at Champagne Loriot :-)

Michel Loriot has Meunier vineyards on the steep hills of Festignty and the neighboring village of Nesle-le-Repons, where the pickers where on Thursday when we visited.

We arrived just before lunch, in time to see the second retrousse of a press load of Meunier and taste the juice, before joining the family, winery workers and drivers for a spaghetti harvest meal, prepared by Michel’s mother.

Harvesting Meunier in Nesle-le Repons

Harvesting Meunier in Nesle-le Repons

AAlban Petit, Michel’s son in law, is in charge of the pressing of the grapes in the traditional coquard press. He is very happy with the grapes he has received so far: “We started on Monday (7 September), and the grapes have just been beautiful! Up till now we have predominantly pressed Meunier and we are all very happy with the quality”, he says. Michel adds: “The grapes are being picked at perfect maturity, our average press load has a potential alcohol degree of 10.5%, which is great for Meunier; 2015 is looking to be a fantastic year for Meunier.”

fter lunch Martine took us to visit the vineyards and see the harvesters. The Loriots have 16 harvesters which they pay by the kilo. The vines were very green as Michel had left the grass grow in between the vines, never cutting it during the very dry summer, resulting in it turning into straw. The September rain brought life back to the grass just in time for the harvest.

Martine expected harvest to finish on the 12th.

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Champagne harvest 2015 – the end of harvest at Champagne de Sousa and Champagne Moussé

Eric de Sousa filling up barrels

Eric de Sousa filling up barrels

On Thursday I visited Champagne de Sousa, getting ready for the end of harvest. I had wanted to visit a few times before but somehow always something came up preventing me. Charlotte told me they started harvest on the 8th of September and they are expected to finish today. The de Sousa family have 10 hectares of own vineyards which they farm biodynamically and they also buy grapes of a further 2.5 hectares. All grapes are pressed in the 2 press centers in Avize. 70% of their grapes are Chardonnay, 20 % Pibnot Noir and 10 Meunier.
Charlotte is very happy with the quality of the harvest:” All the marcs have been between 10.6 and 11.5% potential alcohol. We harvested most of the grapes before the rain, but the rain did not really have an impact as we had a lot of wind as well. We have seen very little disease, barely any oidium, and no grey rot since the rains either. We have sped up the tempo since the rain, but up till now everything is really looking very beautiful; I don’t believe things will change in the next few days”

Wooden egg at Champagne de Sousa

Wooden egg at Champagne de Sousa

De Sousa have 2 4000 kg presses, one Coquard à met incliné and one pneumatic press. Charlotte feels the Coquard presses more precise and gives clearer juice.

Just before harvest, the de Sousa’s received a wooden egg, made by Taransaud. The egg is semi flat at the bottom and top, and is held together by metal wire in between the wood. It is a first in the region and will be used for this years vinification of the cuvee 3A. Eric explains: “The currents in the egg will cause natural movement of the wine, just as in the cement Nomblot eggs; however, we will have the added benefit of micro oxygenation associated to vinifying in barrel. We are very excited to see the results in a few months time.”

The rest of the must is either fermented in enamel or stainless steel tanks or more often in barrel. “I really like to vinify in wood, I believe it adds more complexity to the wines”, explains Eric. The barrels are generally several wines old as the idea is not to oak the wine, rather to add complexity through micro oxygenation and lees steering.

The wines will remain on their lees till early spring.

groups photo at Champagne Moussé

groups photo at Champagne Moussé

Later in the afternoon we stopped off at Cédric Moussé just as his harvesters pulled in hooting and cheering to celebrate the end of harvest. Céderic is very happy with this harvest, both in terms of quality and quantity. ” I had a few parcels of old Meunier with really low yields but overall I was surprised by the abundance of grapes”, says Cédric. He adds: “This is amazing especially as it is the second year we have worked completely without using chemical products and the year has been very dry.”

He believes that working of the soil made a huge difference this year, especially for the quality of the grapes. ” We have not had to sort the grapes, we had no rot or other diseases, the grapes were very ripe, coming in at average around 10.5 to 10.8% potential alcohol, which is unheard of for Cuisle!”

Cedric with his Rosde maceration de Meunier

Cedric with his Rosé maceration de Meunier

With such beautiful grapes, Cédric decided to make two rosé de maceration, one of which he will bleed off to make some red wine for his regular rosé.

Just before harvest Cédric invested in smaller tanks, which allows him to vinify per press load and vineyard. “With our new tanks we can keep the different vineyards separately all the way, allowing us to decide at the last moment to blend them or to make a single vineyard cuvee”, elaborates Cédric. Just before harvest I tasted Cédric’s first single vineyard Meunier which blew me away, so I am very excited about this new development!!

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Champagne harvest 2015 – choucroute at the Boulards to lift the mood on this rainy last day of harvest.

lady bird hiding from the rain in between the chardonnay

In between class preparations I managed to visit the Boulards on this wet Wednesday. It rained cats and dogs when Delphine Richard took me out to the winery to talk about this years harvest. It was her first of being totally in charge now that Francis Boulard retired in July. 

Delphine started harvest on the 9th of September with the old Meunier vines which came in at around 10,5%  potential alcohol. “I am very happy with the quality of the Meunier, even if the quantity was a little less than expected”, says Delphine. She adds:“the yields were higher in the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, so we made the appellation with a little left for the reserve inviduelle.”

Delphine is all smiles as the old vine chardonnay runs out of the press

The last vineyard to be harvested were the old vine Chardonnay in Courcy. It was coming in around 10,8% potential alcohol despite the heavy rain. “We had 80 mm of rain between the 25th August and today, yet it did not dilute the grapes. Instead we have plenty of flavor, good acidity and low pH’s”, explains Delphine. 

We flee the rain to eat the delicious choucroute prepared by Jeanne Boulard ( or dame Jeanne as Francis likes to refer to his lovely wife). Nicolas, Delphine’s brother joined us at the table whilst telling us how wet it was in the vineyard.: “Water is running down the hill, like small streams, we will he happy up finish later today.”

We time traveled from the Chardonnay juice to the Blanc de Blanc Vieilles Vignes champagne which was delicious with the meal! 

Francis arrived later; the good grandfather had picked up Delphines kids from school. 

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Champagne harvest 2015 – a day in the vineyard and winery with the Lahaye family

Benoit and Etienne Lahaye in Le Jardin de la Grosse Pierre

On Wednesday I spent the day with the Lahaye family. After lunch Benoit first took me to the Argentière vineyard where we checked on the ripeness, before joining his pickers in the youngest part of the Jardin de la Grosse Pierre.
For the last 10 years, Benoit has employed a Turkish family paid by the kilo to pick. “We really struggled to find good pickers by the hour. So we started to work with Ismael, and have not looked back since”, says Benoit. The family works autonomously and after 10 years really knows the vineyards and the way of working Benoit requires.
They also like the fact the vineyards are biodynamic. “We work in a healthy environment; we can take some of the leaves to make dolmades”, explains Ismael.

This year there are plenty of grapes, and the bunches are big and heavy as well as healthy. Benoit did a Silice treatment a week before harvest which had a big impact on the development in the last week.

Ismael and his family in the vineyard


“The quality is awesome, all the potential alcohol degrees have been between 10,2 and 11%. The pH’s are just under 3 and the acidity levels are good. It is hard to believe there is such an abundance of grapes at this quality”, elaborates Benoit. The plentiful harvest makes for long days at the press; on top of this Benoit also presses the grapes of Stephane Hardy, a fellow organic grower based in Tour sur Marne. He has a 2000 kg pneumatic press, which allows him to press plot by plot, and does about 4 press loads a day. His sons Etienne and Valentin are very much involved in the harvest. Etienne is in charge of dropping off and collecting the cases of grapes, whilst Valentin is in charge of the running of the winery.

Tamise, Baltasar and Balsamine


Benoit lahaye uses natural yeasts for his first fermentation and this year he strted a unique project with two other Bouzy growers.“Valentin checks the yeast quality before we male the pieds de cuve by examining the form of the yeast cells under a microscope. This allows us to discard faulty strains and select healthy ones3, explains Benoit.
The Lahayes expect the harvest to finish early next week; Tamise, Baltasar and Balsamine are looking forward to bring the center of attention again at that time! 

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Champagne harvest 2015 – social gatherings at the Pressoir Rodez

 

visitors around the pressoir at Eric Rodez.

Harvest is a festive time in Champagne, and many people from young to old like to sample the atmosphere.  Especially the traditional presses speak to the imagination. This is why Eric and Mica Rodez often welcome visitors in their press center. When I visited on Monday afternoon, there was a group of students from  Chalons-en-Champagne as well as a group of pensioners from the local retirement home. “When people ask to visit. my always try to accommodate and welcome them, even if it s not always easy. But I feel it’s important to share this part of our work with the local community”, says Eric. 
The two groups gathered around the press just in time to see the retrouse whilst Eric and Mica explained the process. 

 

one of the two tradional presses

Eric has two tradional presses and is an official press centre for Veuve Cliquot growers. They started harvest last week.  Eric began to pick on Monday (14 September). He started with the Chardonnay and expected to only tackle the Pinot noir toward the end of the week. “The fruit is very healthy so I decided to wait for the optimum ripeness”,explains Eric. 

 

chardonnay about to be picked

 When I asked his opinion about the harvest he tentatively said he believed it would be a great harvest: “We only started to pick today. Everything looks great so far, but as last year was my very best harvest ever I have great expectations. We will see how things measure up in a few days.” However like many others he believed that the working of the foil and the biodynamic way of working will make a big difference this year.  “When you create a good energy in the vine, the balance is easier foubd. When a plant is healthy on top, it will also be healthy under ground and this shows especially in s dry year like 2015”, elaborates Eric. He adds: “We really can see the difference in material, minerality and length present in the juice.”

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