We continued our march through the Rive Gauche by turning south and a bit west, and driving for 10 minutes to visit Christophe Mignon in the village of Festigny. Mignon was one of the visits we were most looking forward to because his wines are compelling, delicious, and full of character.
Christophe is the embodiment of tranquility. I often wonder whether biodynamics make the farmer more peaceful and relaxed, or if this personality type is drawn to biodynamics. Regardless, Christophe clearly is a man of biodynamics despite lacking the certification. He is a man who is calmly confident about his place in this world and what he’s supposed to be doing here, namely making compelling champagne.
As with Tarlant, we immediately went out to the vines, where Christophe shared his philosophies and background on the vines. He owns 3HA of vines in Festigny and another 3HA in Le Breuil, almost all of which are Meunier. The vineyards are south and southwest facing, illustrating diversity of microclimates and expositions that are available in the Rive Gauche. The soils are clay and calcareous on the top then after about 20cm becomes all chalk.
Mignon believes that Meunier is best grape to express these two villages. Its harder to work than Pinot or Chard, but he feels its beautiful and worth the effort. When I asked about the differences between the two villages he thought that Festigny is more mineral driven while Le Breuil is more fruit focused. He did give me the caveat that terroir really isn’t a big deal if you’re not farming biodynamically with vines that have deep roots. Christophe is very peaceful, and his vines reflect this attitude, however he puts a lot of work into his vines. He wants everything to be as natural as possible including cover crops, biodynamic treatments, following the lunar calendar and more. Not only does he work biodynamically, he also makes many of the teas and infusions and sells them to other producers.
Like Marguet, Mignon had lots of thoughts about energy and engaged in many practices to promote good energy in his winery. He works with the lunar calendar in the winery as well, consulting it for each stage of the wine making process. He uses crystals, and has ceramics to defuse the electric in the space. He feels that, “energy is like a Rubik’s Cube, one side may look good, but the whole thing needs to be complete to be truly great.”
Tasting with Mignon was fascinating. I’ve had many opportunities to enjoy his wines, and I find they regularly change, transform, and show different sides of themselves. This day was no exception. We started with a side by side of the Brut Nature, one disgorged and opened a couple days prior to the tasting, the other freshly opened but disgorged in Dec 2014. The wines were clearly the same base but each showed a different side of themselves. The recently disgorged was rich and dense with lots of blueberry notes, while being smooth on the palate. The older disgorgement was more lively and had more floral notes. It was more assertive on the palate, but a bit more playful as well. So much of my experience with Mignon’s wines were summed up in this tasting, its like a conversation with a complex and fascinating individual. You know the conversation will be compelling, but you can’t predict the paths that it will wander down.
After the Brut Natures, we tasted the Millésime 2008, which was awesome, followed by the Coup de Foudre, which is the only wine he makes with all three grapes. It was delicious and fantastic, but I could tell his heart truly lies with Meunier. We finished on the pair of rosés, assemblage and saignée. Both compelling, but also young, brash, exuberant, and with an obvious long life ahead of them.
This was a wonderful way to end the day of tasting. So much to think about and compare. I’m glad we spent a day touring through Vallée, it gave me so many insights about this side of Champagne. We finished our day meeting a friend for dinner in Epernay at Cook In, which is a fantastic Thai restaurant that is well worth the trip.