In a region recognised around the globe, where large, historic producers sit side by side with family estates, Domaine Georges Laval piques our curiosity. Join us in Champagne, where we’re finding out about Vincent Laval, the current owner of the property.
Here we are on the right bank of the Marnes, in Cumières, a village with a terroir classed as premier cru due to the characteristic features of its chalky soil and warm micro-climate. This is where we find Domaine Georges Laval, a family estate that stands out for its small size – spanning just three hectares – and its eco-friendly roots.
Let’s keep things short and sweet. Vincent Laval took up the family domain in 1996, when his father reached the fine age of 60, after having already fallen in love with the art of the vineyard. This is a passion that had been nurtured from a very young age, and Vincent started getting properly involved on the domain when he turned fifteen. A few years later, his keen palate was introduced to the world of tasting and, despite the protestations of his father, went off to Avize where he completed a BTS diploma in viticulture and oenology. Ambitious and audacious, this young man set out to prove that it was more than feasible for a small domain to emerge in a market dominated by big names who, though successful, were not necessarily so interested in being eco-friendly.
To put this passion into practise was to retrace the steps of his predecessors. Vincent Laval always wanted his farming methods to be ‘clean’. Being at the heart of one of the region’s historic terroirs, he owned some minuscule parcels that he then exchanged to move away from neighbours who cared less for the health of their vines. His prerogative is to treat every vine individually. The work is therefore, of course, carried out by hand, and the surrounding flora and fauna are encouraged to flourish, bringing their own energy to the development of the vine.
As you can imagine, such a philosophy requires quite an investment. Vincent Laval works with his wife, as well as Dylan and Esteban, two young men who learnt the ropes on this estate. Perhaps this seems like a lot of people when we consider the size of the vineyard. However, this producer wants his team to enjoy their work, avoiding unnecessary pressure. The harvests here are done by hand and alcoholic fermentation takes place in oak casks, instigated only by indigenous yeasts. He has also opted for relatively small barrels, as these tend to induce a natural clarification. There is, thus, no need to fining or filtering processes, two techniques that risk denaturing the wine. The cuvées develop their bubbles in the bottle and mature on lees for between 16 and 72 months.
The end-goal of this patient work in the vineyard and the winery is to craft fine wines that are pure, complex, and persistent. Vincent explains how he divides his produce into two categories: ‘vinification wines’ and ‘terroir wines’. The former, like the Garennes cuvée, are the fruit of seeking a particular taste by blending vintages and terroirs. The latter, like the Cumières cuvée, are single-parcel wines reflecting their terroir.
The meticulous work carried out on this domain, as well as its excellent produce, makes this a must-try gem of the Champagne region. We hope you enjoy discovering these wonderful wines which are, unfortunately though logically, made in minuscule quantities. You’d do well to keep them in the cellar for a few years, too!