We already know Champagne as a prestigious wine region, but it has undergone a wonderful renewal in recent years. This is largely thanks to a new generation of vignerons who are tuned into environmental questions and wish to craft wines that reflect the character of their terroir. Today, we’re heading to Maison Leclerc-Briant to find out their role in all of this.
Once upon a time, the Leclerc family…
The history of this domain dates all the way back to 1872, when it was founded by Lucien Leclerc in Cumières. Later taken up by Bertrand Leclerc and his wife, Jacqueline Briant, the property became a trading house in 1955. The owners were quick to take up organic growing as their primary method, a decision that their son Pascal furthered in the 1980s by converting the vineyard to biodynamics. In no time at all, Pascal Leclerc became one of the first of the region’s vignerons to craft single-parcel cuvées, thus proving the true potential and beauty of its terroirs.
Winds of change from the west
Unfortunately, Pascal Leclerc-Briant was not long for this world, and the domain didn’t stay in family hands for very long. Fortunately, the Dupré-Nunnellys took a shine to the property and the American couple became its happy owners in 2012.
They called on the talents of oenologist Hervé Jestin and conferred the management of the domain to Frédéric Zeimett. Together, they’ll be the first to admit it: this renewal didn’t come easy. The passing of Pascal Leclerc-Briant had seen the domain’s vines shared between Roederer and Bruno Paillard. This left them faced with a blank page – or almost, since what remained of the house’s 30 hectares was a single, little parcel. Hervé Jestin and Frédéric Zeimett thus turned to vignerons like Olivier Horiot, Hugues Godmé, Barbichon, and David Leclapart, all of whom are well-reputed for their organic and/or biodynamic work. Over time, they acquired new vines that now cover 9 hectares of land, mainly planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay.
Thanks to this ambitious duo, Maison Leclerc-Briant has affirmed its commitment to biodynamic production, natural vinification, and innovation. It was after moving away from his role as CEO of Maison Chapoutier from 2009 to 2011 that Frédéric Zeimett found his way to biodynamics, seeing how much these methods can ennoble a wine.
But innovation doesn’t stop there, since there are always experiments being carried out at the domain. The Abyss cuvée, for example, was submerged 60 metres in the sea off Brittany’s island of Ouessant for 15 months. La Croisette is matured in wood, terracotta eggs and stainless steel containers.
All of this work has drawn their organic wines from the ashes. With very few additives or sulphites, the cuvées have a strong personality, precise and lively, which is winning over an increasing number of tasters.
Having reached such a high level in terms of quality, we’re wondering whether the Maison could get even better. From what we can tell, the owners are not ones to rest on their laurels…as is clear in their recent acquisitions in the Côte Chalonnaise (22 hectares in Rully) and Côte de Beaune (Clos de la Commaraine in Pommard).
So, to all fans of fizz, if you’re looking for a domain concerned with the preservation of its history as well as a desire to excel in innovation, this Champagne house will be right up your street! When we got the chance to meet Frédéric Zeimett, we found the cuvées absolutely splendid! The precision, finesse, and purity of these wines completely transported us, and we hope they’ll have the same effect on you!