The Wine Siren by Kelly Mitchell

Champagne Henriot’s Chef de Cave on Sustainability & Making Great Wine

France
Alice Tetienne of Champagne Henriot

Organic is important, but not necessarily the best. It is but one part of the equation. We have to be sustainable. We follow the impact in terms of carbon. In this case, we experiment a lot.

This adventure includes a trip to  “The City” which for me, is San Francisco. I will be tasting four of the latest champagne releases by Champagne Henriot. I’m curious about both the champagne, but also the House. The Maison.  Even more so about their Chef de Cave, Alice Tetienne.  But before we delve into that, let’s take a look at Champagne Henriot.  The story is not singular in Champagne’s history, but it is a compelling one resulting in the creation of a seven-generation strong Domaine.

Champagne Henriot was founded by Apolline Henriot in 1808 after the death of her husband.
Apolline Henriot founded Veuve Henriot Ainé in 1808. It would be renamed Champagne Henriot.

How it Began

A young woman of Reims, France named Apolline and her husband, Nicolas Henriot married in 1794. For her part, Apolline entered the marriage with Pinot Noir grapes bequeathed for the union. Together they would grow vines and make wine until Nicolas’ untimely death in 1808.  Apolline was a woman of drive and determination. At just 33 she founded her own champagne house, Veuve Henriot Ainé. Which would later be called Champagne Henriot.

One of Champagnes youngest Chef des Cave, Champagne Henriot's Alice Tetienne
Standing the in the vineyards of Champagne, Alice Tetienne

Today, Alice Tetienne is the Chef de Cave at Henriot. 

What precisely is a Chef de Cave, aka cellar master? Here in the United States, it usually means one who cares for the cellar and the inventory of said cellar. But it varies a bit from winery to winery, depending on the size of the facility and the team’s skill sets. 

In this unique case, the Chef de Cave is the viticulturist, the winemaker, while also overseeing the blending process. Additionally, she maintains a close bond with the Maison’s growers.  To fit this dynamic and challenging role, Alice Tetienne, an accomplished and talented player in both the growing and making of champagne, was tapped.  Her role at Champagne Henriot is multifaceted, playing on her experience, acumen, and depth of knowledge.

She’s a worthy find. Her background reads like a modus operandi of one who is precise and deliberate with their path in life. To her credit, many of the opportunities, including Henriot, found her. From working in Burgundy to other French vineyards, she worked at Nicolas Feuillatte and later in the winemaking & tasting committee at Krug for five years prior to joining Champagne Henriot. 

Born and raised in Châlons-en-Champagne. Her memories of wine as a young girl are vivid, as her family had many friends in this tight-knit community. She was influenced early on by her proximity and the culture she grew up in. Feeling naturally connected to this industry as if it were part of her fabric, her being.

There were seasons she worked in the vineyard. It was tradition to participate in the harvest and pansage (pruning the vines).It was the culture of the plants,  nature, and seasons that fascinated her. She cherished her time outdoors. Watching the transformation of the vineyards from one season to the next was captivating. Naturally, her first passion for wine was viticulture. The fascination with being able to express terroir so vividly would take her from viticulture into winemaking. 

She was recruited by Henriot. And they hit all the marks with Alice in addressing her career path.  Their cellar master was leaving, and they wanted to take time to find the right person for the role. This champagne house has done the most for the area, the vineyards, and the Champagne area.  They explained their focus on the environment. It would afford her the opportunity to work with very important growers and long-term relationships. Here the cellar master was the director of the vine and the wine. So she could influence and direct every aspect of the wine. It was a collective mindset. From the vineyard to the bottle. They presented every point she needed in her life. Treating her like a flower. It was exactly what she needed.

Her youth is an unavoidable topic. At just 32 years of age, she has achieved what many wait their entire lives to. Her background, education, drive, ambition, and success at the top houses have placed her among the creme de la creme.  The primary role at one of the most important Champagne Houses in Champagne.  With a pedigree in Champagne experience outshining many.  This role defies history in other wine regions around the world, but not in Champagne. Female leadership in top roles in Champagne is also celebrated at Krug, Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, Piper-Heidsieck, Jacquart, Perrier-Jouët, Drappier, and more.

Women-Centric Quality of Champagne Henriot: This house is a small house by size, not by name. There are 140 hectares under vine of the growers, primarily premier crus and grand cru.  The estate itself has 36 hectares of exceptional terroir.  The plots are all very close in proximity giving the team so Alice is able to take very quick and precise action in the vineyard. She works personally with each of the grower families that are considered part of their team. It’s one of her favorite aspects of her work.   

Continued below

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The revered soils of Champagne Henriot.
Well drained Limestone & Chalky soils of Champagne Henriot.

Organic is important, but not necessarily the best. It is but one part of the equation. We have to be sustainable. We follow the impact in terms of carbon. In this case, we experiment a lot.

Tetienne on Sustainability

Today we have three challenges:  

  1. We need to learn to adapt to changes that happen around us every day in the realm of climate change.
  2. Reduce the impact on the environment.
  3. We have to adapt ourselves to climate change.

Our viticulture now needs to be transformed.  We don’t have something to change in winemaking, but rather in the vineyard. We have created a global project, known as Alliance Terroirs based on three pillars.

The 1st pillar: Is based on the terroir. They do a lot of analysis on the vineyard and the soil, the plant and the leaves, this is for both their vineyards and that of their growers.” Saturation on plants analytics on leaves, organic material on the soil etc.  They analyze the plants every year. Everything they do is a service of the area.  They share their analysis with the official organization to help the Champagne area with the knowledge.

2nd pillar: Thanks to the knowledge, they can adapt the knowledge to every patch of the vine and evaluate. Precision is key. You do only what the plants need. Whether it’s carbon or treatment needed.

3rd Pillar: All the positive impact you can create on the vineyard. Biodiversity, by planting a lot of different plant families. This creates an organic conversion in the vineyards, and with the growers.

 

On Climate Change

These are the lush and exceptional vineyards of Champagne Henriot, Champagne, France
The Vineyards of Champagne Henriot

With over 200 years of making great champagne under their belts Champagne Henriot and the changing landscape of the world, I had asked Alice some specific questions about climate change, adapting to the changing environment, and the process of making champagne.  Further, we tasted these remarkable vintages and got into the particulars of winegrowing and winemaking. 

TWS (The Wine Siren): Tell us about tradition vs experimentation for Champagne Henriot.

Tetienne: We respect the story in the way of tradition,. We don’t innovate a lot in winemaking. Our philosophy at Henriot is to express the vineyards through Champagne. Make blends.  We respect the story first. We do want to be modern we adapt ourselves to things around us.  So today, we change with climate change and our minds about viticulture. In the 70s, champagne was vinified in oak barrels. Before the 70s, we had new equipment, steel tanks, that arrived in Champagne. Joseph Henriot, the 7th generation, thought there was great opportunity to age the reserve wines this way. Because in his mind a perfect champagne needed to have old reserve wine. That’s why he decided to use stainless steel. He thought it was good to consider the primary profile of the terroir and express better the terroir without adding another influence with aromatic oak barrels. It’s not innovation but adaptation.

TWS: How has climate change impacted the vineyards?

Tetienne: We have more extremes in terms of weather. It’s not just global warming.  Last year it was a year of no sun. Just two weeks. It was a season without the sun in 2021. 2022 conversely, was a record for sunshine. We had more sun than ever.

TWS:  How does this impact how you grow?

Tetienne: During the harvest, we follow the maturity, we taste the grapes, we analyze the grapes, and normally, we have the acidity that decreases, the sugar that increases, and the aroma that increases. In the past, we’ve had these three parameters occur simultaneously. Now it’s disconnected. You can have the sugar you need. The acidity has disappeared, and the aromatic disappears. You have to be more present and patient. So you have to wait for the dynamics to return.

TWS: How often are you in the vineyards prior to harvest?

Tetienne: We have 200 plots under vine. Some micro plots and some bigger ones.  I walk all of the plots every day.  We make a selection of grapes, and we taste.  From the beginning of the harvest to the end, I taste the grapes every day. 

TWS: How is technology making your life easier or more difficult?

Tetienne: More difficult. The more you know the less you know. We can’t focus on the past and our experiences because the landscape changes every season.

TWS: What is your opinion on so-called “wine experts”?

Tetienne: There are no experts in wine. We have to be humble.  Everything changes.  The objective of wine is to take pleasure. We cannot be 100% experts because we cannot explain or know everything.  The weather we cannot explain. The evolution of nature we cannot explain.  The biodiversity that changes from one year to the next we cannot explain.  Every aspect of the process has so many variables.

TWS: Lots of big changes happening in Bordeaux. Varieties etc. Is Champagne doing any experimenting to adapt to climate change?

Tetienne: Yes, we have a new variety, Voltis. They are doing experiments in the vineyard to see if the quality is good or not. It is resistant to fungus, and the initiative is in response to the increase of diseases in the vineyard. 

Note: Her preference is to find a solution working with the seven established varieties of Champagne. The best known are Pinot Meunière, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but also include Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Petit Messier and Arbanne.

TWS: How does your tasting committee work?

Tetienne: We are four people. Blending is a few months of work, not a few days. Generally from November to April. When I taste the wine, I imagine where I will put the wine, which cuvée, and how I will organize it. At least one per cru from the last harvest. This creates the foundation. Because perceptions vary, the other people on the committee will also provide opinions. In April, I am in my office very focused. Doing different versions of blends and selecting the best. If we are not convinced, we continue the exercise. At the end of the sessions, I will make the final decision. Focus is a critical part of this process. There is a quiet private house in the vineyard where they often receive guests. When the blend is pure, I go to the house to do the evaluations alone. Without interruption.

Certification is not the end. We need to take sustainability further!

The Latest Releases 

France

Brut Souverain: one of the most historic. This blend includes the first three original crus. Today a blend of 29 crus from the ‘70’s to 2016 go into this bottle. It’s vibrant and alive. Bright citrus, red fruit, scintillating minerality. A long vivacious finish. Lusty aromatics and complex.

Blended with 45% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 15% Meunier.

France

NV Blanc de Blancs : 100% Chardonnay, includes 12 crus. At least 3 years of aging. Lovely bright tropical fruit, a lively acidity and a compelling mousse like mouth feel. Exquisite!

France

2006 Cuvée Hemera:   

The Crus: Veroza, Verzenay, Mailly-Champagne in Montaigne de Reims. Alize, Chouilly, Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger in Côtes des Blancs 

100% Grand Crus

12 years minimum aging.

A marked play on finesse and precision. Long lengthy finish, voluptuous in expression, and brilliant in its finesse.

France

The Belle of the Ball:

2016: L’inattendue Chardonnay Grand Cru

100% Grand Cru

100% Chardonnay

Crisp, tightly knit, with a luminous expression. There is a chalky nuance and a hint of yeast. The delicate nuance of Meyer lemon compliments the minerality. Pure deliciousness!

Visit ChampagneHenriot.Com for more!

Chateau Pape Clement: Bordeaux & It’s Oldest Grand Crus!

Chateau Pape Clement is rich in the history of Bordeaux and the history of France. But could they be one of the oldest Cru?

Chateau Pape Clement is indeed one of the oldest grand crus in Bordeaux, located on one of the most beautiful estates in Bordeaux.

Revered as one of the oldest Grand Cru in Bordeaux, Chateau Pape Clement made its mark in the history books on several occasions. Located in the Pessac region about outside of Bordeaux, Pape Clement has a long history of wine growing and direct ties to a Pope. In 1254, the first vines were planted.  Since then the Chateau has experienced well over 700 harvests.  It is rooted in tradition and very much the fabric of Bordeaux. 

This illustrious Château and castle’s owner was Raymond Bertrand de Got. Voted in by the cardinals he would become Clement V in 1305. In 1306 he choose his papal residence in Avignon and gifted his Chateau to his brother.

Golden Chandeliers shaped like crowns line the ceiling of the barrel room e
Golden Chandeliers shaped like crowns line the ceiling of the barrel room at Pape Clement

Château Pape Clement sits on 60 hectares of vine and is one of 16 Grand Cru Classes in the Graves region. It’s also part of the Pessac-Léognan Appellation created in 1987. It has been in the capable hands of Bernard Magrez since the 1980’s.

This is luxury in it’s prime. Elegant, historic abode in a world-class destination Pape Clement is luxury at its finest. The service and appointments are first class. It houses five stunning suites. There is an ever so slight nuance of sandalwood that follows you through the castle. Inside there are writings from popes careful contained. Art lines the walls in every room. From modern pieces to historical pieces, the history of this Chateau is everywhere. The winery is next to landscaped gardens and you may even see their draft horses working the land.

The Chateau from the front. Stunning green grounds and a freedom tree.
The Chateau from the front. Stunning green grounds and a freedom tree.

A chapel holds bottles of wine aging undisturbed in peace underneath the Chateau. This private viewing area is a treasure trove of magnificent bottles long hidden away. All guests have access to a rooftop viewing deck with sweeping views of the vineyards and sunrise. Not to mention the outstanding breakfasts fit for a king or a pope.

Liquid gold. Sauternes by Bernard Magrez and it looks like real gold.
Sauternes that swept my off my feet.

I was on the heels of En Primeur 2018 when I entered Pape Clement for my weekend visit. En Primeur is a wine event devoted to the early release of wines recently bottled. In this case the 2018 vintage. This is an opportunity for those in the wine trade to taste vintage well before release.

One of the experiences offered here is a tasting & tour of the winery and the grounds. The walking tour includes several highlights of its history and a tour of Pape Clement’s winery. Our guide was not only well versed in the history of this magnificent estate but entertaining as well. The tour segued directly into the tasting experience.

The tasting experience was a unique one. The first part of the tasting at Pape Clement is pretty standard.  You sip a few whites, reds and perhaps a rosé. Listen to the tasting guide share notes and ask questions of the group.  The second part was a game-changer. Black glasses placed before us, this was going to be a blind tasting. Not only that but with music. It was a true sensory experience. The results? Surprising! Four different types of music and each with a different impact on the tasting. A profound impact. Kudos Pape Clement!

A peek at the oh so ancient vineyard of Pape Clement

As the experience wrapped up, I was almost reluctant to go. But then I remembered I was in a stunning suite on the property and happy to get back to my temporary home.

Want to visit more Chateau in Bordeaux?

If you would like to visit extraordinary, world-class destinations like Pape Clement contact Wine Paths Travel

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A Tale of Two Continents: Bordeaux Château Malartic-Lagraviére

The Famed Bordeaux Château Malartic-Lagravière

A Bordeaux Château encouraging you to visit! Looking for one of the most diverse Bordeaux tastings?  You’ll find it at Château Malartic-Lagravière. 

 Truly one of the most diverse tastings in Bordeaux I’ve had to date.  Not only was I sipping one of the top Bordeaux Château, but I was also sipping wines made by a family that crosses into South America as well.  Specifically Argentina. It is a rare experience to taste two continents in one maker’s location, particularly in Bordeaux. The owners of this Bordeaux Château are the Bonnie Family. Looking for one of the most diverse Bordeaux tastings?  You’ll find it at Château Malartic-Lagravière.  Truly one of the most diverse tastings in Bordeaux I’ve had to date.  Not only was I sipping one of the top Bordeaux Château, but I was also sipping wines made by a family that crosses into South America as well.  Specifically Argentina. It is a rare experience to taste two continents in one maker’s location, particularly in Bordeaux. The owners of this Bordeaux Château are the Bonnie Family.

Red and white wines from Chateau Malartic-LeGraviere & Diamandes in Argentina
The tastes of the Bonnie Family and Chateau Malartic-LeGraviere & Diamandes

It was known as Domaine de Lagravière before the French Revolution.  Château Malartic-Lagravière is located in Bordeaux in the appellation of Pessac-Léognan.  This is part of Bordeaux’s northern Graves region. Graves has the rare distinction in Bordeaux of being ranked for both red and white wine in the Crus Classés in the Classification of Graves in both 1953 and 1959.

France
Just south of downtown Bordeaux, Chateau Malartic-LeGravière

Château Malartic-LaGravière has a rich history in winemaking. Beginning with its birth sometime in the late 18th century.  A storied history, and a famed namesake. Malartic is named for the Count Hippolyte de Maurès de Malartic. He was Admiral who served under the Kings of France. As the property changed hands, each owner improved the wine and the winery.

France
Severine Bonnie, of the Bonnie family in the cellar.

When the Bonnie family first entered the wine industry with Château Malartic-Lagravière. No one could guess that they would begin another adventure in Mendoza, Argentina. By bringing their Bordeaux know-how to another continent they applied their experience to their latest creation Diamandes in Uco Valley.The respect they have for wine growing served their Mendoza wine venture well now blending a beautiful Malbec with the traditions of Bordeaux’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

France
Old vines amongst the gravelly soil of the Château

The Bonnie family acquired the property in 1996 and have ensured they are preserving brand integrity while constantly working to improve both the vineyards and the wine. Their state of the art facility at their Bordeaux Château is a study in technical progress.

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State of the art facility, in the fermentation room.
The barrel room of Chateau Malartic Le Graviere
The Barrel Room

It’s remarkable estate and breathtaking vineyards are available to visit. Simply contact Wine Paths Travel for this historical adventure in world-class wine.

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Champagne Only Comes From Champagne ~ Champagne Gosset

A Day in Champagne, with Champagne Gosset

{Video} Interviews Below
A day in Champagne, France with Champagne Gosset
A lunch paired entirely with champagne.
Sometimes wishes do come true. In a wine oriented mind, it might be the bottle of your dreams. A visit to a place you’ve never been but can only imagine. The history of a region emblazoned in your memory from books and photos. As it reveals itself to you in real life, wide-eyed wonderment and childlike excitement take over. Eyes glued to every inch of your experience. Savoring each sip, taste, feeling and trying to memorize all of it. This is my inaugural visit to Champagne. The 2nd time in France. The thrill of heading to Champagne after an evening in Paris is an intense and brilliant blur because the journey is happening so fast. The land is legendary, the quotes innumerable. From Napoleon Bonaparte to Coco Chanel, Champagne as a destination and as a celebratory spirit has captured Champagne Gosset in Epernay is owned by the Cointreau Familythe imagination of many.
We are one of only two Champagne Houses that have been labeled by the French government for their excellence and know how.  Only two. Bollinger and Gosset.  ~ Jean-Pierre Cointreau
This stop is a landmark arrival. I am spending the day at Champagne Gosset. Established in 1584, this is the very first in Champagne.  A family-owned Champagne House rich in tradition and the oldest, the most revered, the grandfather of all other champagne houses.  In the days of its inception, Gosset was involved in making still wine.

Champagne has to be shared.

Pouring the tasting at Champagne Gosset
Pouring the tasting at Champagne Gosset
What you should know about Champagne. There are three key towns in the region. Épernay, Reims, and Aÿ. The soils primarily chalk.  There is often a lack of ripeness of the grapes lending them to impart a deliciously acidic trait to the Champagne. The grapes planted are primarily Petit Meunier, Pinot Noir (Cote de Noir) and Chardonnay (Cotes de Blanc).

We want to ensure a consistent quality of the cuvées in the market.

There are many big houses of Champagne in the region producing 70+ million bottles a year. Not Gosset. This artisanal brand sticks to doing things by hand, including riddling and disgorgement.  They produce just 1 million bottles a year.  With the exception of the Brut Excellence Champagne, they do not do malolactic fermentation.  The champagne, therefore, retains the characteristics of the fruit far longer and the roundness of the finish.Champagne Gosset on The Wine Siren by Kelly Mitchell This also makes it possible for you to continue to age for a huge amount of time in your own cellar. A delicious benefit.  Preferring a longer time on the lees, and still longer (8-15 years) for the vintage and non-vintage champagnes. They have nearly seven years of stock in the two cellars, one in Aÿ and one in Epernay.

It is known, the oldest vines give the best wine.

The average time for aging Champagne is 2.5 years.  Gosset takes great pride in aging their champagne for 8-15 years with the exception of the Brut Excellence which is 4 years. Still far longer than the others. This house is a family owned house having recently (in terms of history) been acquired by the Cointreau family. Jean-Pierre Cointreau is at the helm of the day to day operations as the CEO. VIDEO: Interview with Jean-Pierre Cointreau, CEO of Champagne Gosset   One of the many highlights of the day is sitting down to an entire lunch paired with many of the vintages and cuvée of Champagne Gosset along with a tour of their intricate caves. Created in the 1800’s is the signature bottle and design of Champagne Gosset. So unique is the design of the bottle and representative of their artisanal brand, they carry a patent on the bottle itself. The label comes in a full range of bright colors representing the type of cuvée inside. The label is purposely placed high on the bottle so it is visible from the ice bucket.
Riddling rack in the caves at Epernay
Riddling in the rack
I spoke to Gosset’s winemaker/Chef de cave, about the process in depth and the differences in making mass produced wine versus handcrafted wines that took more time.  His response was, “We focus on making a great taste first. Not the bubbles.”  You can be sure the bubbles are there, with the brilliant acidity and the layered complexity you’d expect from a French champagne. To preserve a craft that results in a premium champagne, a tradition that’s been maintained for four centuries you do whatever it takes to maintain your quality. {VIDEO} Interview with Chef de cave, Odilon de Varin of Champagne Gosset