1/30/14 Bereche & fils
To go from Krug to Bereche was quite a contrast. The reserved and hospitable compared with Raphael Bereche who is quite passionate, but seeming more comfortable in the cellar than the tasting room. Raphael is fascinating to speak and taste with as he is very knowledgeable about the terriors of champagne and at the same time is also quite opinionated. The bombshell opinion of the whole trip is his thought that meunier is more complex than Chardonnay! Let that sink in for a few minutes.
We started with a discussion of the terriors he works in the montagne de Reims and Vallėe de la Marne. He has 3 areas he works with, a trio of villages in the northern Montagne de Reims - Ludes, Chingy les Roses, and Mailly, for Pinot and chard. Ormes which is west of Reims in the Petit Montagne, with all three grapes planted mid slope with southern exposure, and sandy soils. Finally the Vallėe de la Marne he has vines in Festigny, which is great for meunier, and Marueil-sur-Ay which has old vine Pinot and a bit of chard which he thinks is similar to the Macon due to it's richness. The richness is because of the clay and sand. In his line up of wines the Brut resrve and Reflet d'Antan have grapes from all 3 areas, while the rest are terrior specific. Unfortunately Raphael has decided to discontinue the extra brut reserve because he wants 1 cuvee with 1 dose per year, plus he didn't think the extra brut aged well as it doesn't have broad shoulders that the sugar helps provide.
After the terrior discussion, we toured the winery, which included a lot of fascinating opinions about wine making. One thing that had eluded me during all of my previous tours was the lack of sorting tables, they don't use them in champagne because they don't want to beat up the grapes and break the skins. Obvious, yet after touring so many wineries in other regions they all had sorting tables, so I just assumed they did in champagne as well. Without the sorting table it means the pickers have to be much more careful. He has a modern Coquard press, which was the only one I saw in all of my visits, the updated version of the original champagne press. Raphael doesn't like using old barrels, he thinks it's dangerous for the wine with too many potential bacteria and microbes. This being said he also doesn't use brand new barrels, prefers 2 year old, which he uses for 5-6 years. He doesn't do any batonnage nor does he allow ML. He believes the trend toward ML started in the 1980's by the larger houses because it helps reduce the amount of time they have to age their wine while still being drinkable. Additionally, he doesn't like stainless steel, preferring enamel. He thinks stainless has too much static electricity for the wine. He stores his reserve wine as a perpetual blend in Demi-muid. Finally we had a discussion about cork finished champagne, Raphael's father 20 years ago. They believe it helps the wine develop more flavor, a creamier texture, and more balance. They believe that they are a traditional winery and traditionally wines were finished with cork. Metal caps are industrial, so can be used be industrial wineries. Lots of opinions, but I've found passionate people with opinions often make much more interesting wines, Bereche included.
The vin Clair tasted confirmed this, as did tasting his line up of finished wines. A few highlights from the tasting: Brut reserve 2011 base, was delicious, classic Bereche with loads of complexity. I cant wait to glass pour this wine. Interestingly Raphael thought this was a harder year that 2010, but the 11 is much more compelling. He thinks 2012 is going to be great, La Cran 2006, showing beautifully with lots of complexity, this wine is from the top of Ludes with chalky soils. I think I'm going to pour this from magnum on NYE. Reflet d'Antan base 08 - serious and amazing wine. Amazing flavors but my notes focus more on the textures, this wine is superb. Raphael feels champagne is refreshing due to it's texture not it's temperature.
Finally Raphael and his brother Vincent have started a negociant label, in which they buy finished wines from retiring winemakers and family friends that are very expressive of terrior. It allows they to show terriors of the cotes de blanc and other areas where they lack vineyards. At this point they have wines from Avize, Cremant, and Trepail. All were delicious and I'm hoping to be selling them this year. By the end of the tasting, Raphael seemed convinced that I was the real deal and was more relaxed and laughing. He was excited that I was so interested in learning about the terrior of champagne. A great visit with yet another crazy man. This theme continues through the entire trip.