Friday, May 29, 2009

Bio-dynamique Champagne

My dear friends Bob and Francoise recently went to Champagne to go tasting. They had a few places in mind, and I also gave them details of my favorite place to taste, which also happens to be the only bio-dynamique (essentially, organic) Champagne house I know.
Now Bob is a sharp guy, and he knows the difference between a fluffy, marketing-driven tour & tasting and the real deal. I was so happy to get an email today from him, to say the grandes marques were a little disappointing, but that he was "blown away" by the quality of my favorite, which is Larmandier-Bernier. These aren't the type of words I usually hear from Bob, so this was a huge compliment!
The Larmandier family began making wine in the early 20th century, and the mantle is now carried by Pierre and Sophie Larmandier. You can check out their website in English (, and it's full of lots of charming information. I borrowed a few of their photos for this post (I hope that's a good exchange for sending a good customer!); notice the grass growing under the vines, and the acrobat helicopter pilot, who can spray a bio-tea on the vines in 1.5 hours (it would take a tractor 2 days and then you might miss the window). Unlike pesticides, a broad-brush bio-spray via helicopter works very well; it does not have to be targeted. There are some great little stories on the site, including how the neighbor says "why not use weed killer?" while Pierre muses that it's not very natural to dress up like a spaceman to distribute that kind of stuff. They add very little sugar ("dosage") to the champagne after degorgement; this means their champagne is less sweet and more brut, and allows the terroir to really come through. I am a novice, but this must be wine making at its finest....

I found this champagne at Legrand on rue de la Banque, a dozen or more years ago. I used to bring a magnum of champagne home in my carryon every time I made the trip, usually Gosset rose or Larmandier, and in a wooden box, if possible. Those days are sadly past. I can find it here at Hi-Time Wines in Costa Mesa, but it's pretty dear. Now, if I were to rent a house in France, I would absolutely ring up Pierre and Sophie and have them ship several cases (6 bottles to a case in France) to the house....there would be no problem having it consumed....

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