Rest in Peace Charles Doyard

The moon had only just began to wane and still looked full over the Mediterranean sea, and the night was balmy and star lit. We were eating a pizza paired with champagne in the sheltered garden of our cute B and B. Just when I thought everything was oh so perfect, I read on Facebook that Charles Doyard had passed away earlier that day. I shivered as a chill went through me and my mind went blank. I rubbed my eyes as I could not believe what I had just read, surely something was not right. Charles was still so very young. I continued to check FB till late into the night and by 5 AM I was wide awake again thinking about the Doyard family.

It was not that I knew Charles well, or that I had been a huge fan of his wines; yet I felt the loss profoundly. As outbreaks poured out on social media and I got up to see the sun rise over the sea, it slowly dawned on me that I was mourning the loss of life itself. Charles was so young, only 31; it really did not seem fair. I remembered the one day I had spent with him and his family, one faithful Vendredi Gras party during the 2014 harvest. I had heard about the party before, yet I had forgotten about it when I contacted Charles to ask if I could stop by to ask some questions on the harvest. He told me to come around noon and stay for lunch; I still did not click. In fact I only realized once we had arrived. I came with a NZ winemaker/lover, who was in France to help me mend my broken heart from a recent break up. Thinking back about it all now, it really was too surreal for words.

As everybody got stuck into the champagne, I asked Charles my regular harvest questions, watched the press being loaded and went to taste the grapes. In fact we were still at the press talking about the harvest – a difficult one because of the abundance of Drosophila (fruit flies) – when we were called to take our place at the table. Charles was opposite us and often disappeared when more grapes came in and press loads needed organizing. He was the only one working. I remember his eyes lit up when his wife and daughters came in, he simply was besotted. As we moved down to the cellar where rare magnums were opened, Charles only made a fleeting appearance; after desert he had gone back to work. As we all became more and more inebriated, things became really crazy when we took a last magnum to drink in the vaults of the church of Vertus. Charles was not with us…

Today I stood outside of that same church in Vertus, and once again Charles was not with us. We had come in droves to pay our last respect to this quiet, talented and humble young man. A man, like his father Yanick said so beautiful, who had been in love with life itself. As Yanick spoke about Charles’ love for his family, I remembered his eyes sparkle as he cuddled his little girls. My heart went out to those little girls, who would have to forgo that special daddy’s girl bond, which allowed me to become the person I am today. I made a mental note to ring my dad again, being overwhelmed with gratitude that I still have him in my life… I remembered seeing that same love my dad has for me in Charles’ eyes, and I prayed that there were pictures showing just that for his little girls to treasure.

Yanick also talked about Charles’ love for his work, saying how he would stay next to the fermenting barrels till deep into the night. It was so easy to visualize after having seen Charles’ commitment that sunny harvest day… I remember him showing me the enclosed vineyard at the back of the press centre; it was teeming with life. I told him I would come back to ask questions for my book, as I had been very taken with his passion for the vines and the wines. Yet I never returned… I never returned because I had seen some of the other family vineyards, soil destroyed by herbicides… As I listened to Yanick talk, it dawned on me that I stood next to a winemaker whom I had included in my book, even though he only worked the soil in parts of his property, as his family did not agree. Changing old habits is often the hardest part of the domain transmission… I remembered those sparkling eyes, and his enthusiasm and passion for his vines, and realized I had denied Charles the chance of telling me his story; even though he had shown me nothing but kindness…

I felt a deep regret, mostly for having denied those two little girls, who had lost so much already, a story of their father’s humble desire to improve the family’s viticultural practices. And as sadness washed over me, I realized that even in death, this ever humble man had shown being humble is just as important as loving life…

Thank you for all your kindness Charles, may you rest in peace…
#acharles

About Caroline

Caroline is a certified Sommelier (by the CMS) and WSET diploma student. In order to specialize in the wines of Champagne she moved to the region and currently works as a wine consultant, wine educator and wine writer. She is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers and writes for several international publications including Palate Press, Snooth, Wine-Searcher, Decanter and Vinogusto; further activities include teaching Champagne related courses at Reims Management School and organizing personalized tasting experiences at http://www.tastingswithatwist.wordpress.com as well as being a regular judge at international wine competitions.
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