Time to fess up. I’m a terroirist. One of those who desperately want the wine to reflect its origins, to tell me where it’s from. For this reason I’ve been intrigued by the rise of single vineyard champagnes. Champagne, a wine and a region famous for trying to erase any expression of vintage and regionality in favor of a consistent “house style”. Now things are slowly changing, with even prestige houses like Krug gaining recognition for their single vineyard bubbles.
At an impromptu dinner in Aÿ in December at the home of Caroline Brun, my lovely guide from Bollinger, we drank an absolutely delicious still Coteaux Champenoise from the producer Champagne Dehours & Fils. She must have bribed winemaker Jérôme Dehours to receive me a few days later because it was obvious he neither had the time nor too much interest in journalists. However, ever the gentleman, he kept a straight face as we started tasting his champagnes.
Jérôme looks like he could be Milanese – modern, impeccable style, black-rimmed glasses, and a red Lamborghini parked next to his presses. His wines, however, were decidedly champenoise with refreshing acid and minerality at the forefront – from the Brut to the Extra Brut to the Solera to the lieux-dit champagnes. He also makes a beautifully golden-colored “oeil de perdrix” rosé champagne. Jérôme, who grows in the Marne, is a Pinot Meunier fan, and goes for the lowest possible dosage in all his wines (0-7g) emanating from his 14 hectares spread over 46 individual parcels.
After talking a while we really hit it off – this is a guy who truly cares for his wines, his vines, his soils and the environment. Once he noticed that we shared the terroirist mindset and a true passion for grower champagnes (plus a mutual admiration for Anselme Selosse), we could not stop tasting barrels and bottles.
It was amazing to see how big a difference there was between his lieux-dit bottlings; from the structured, flowery Côte en Bosses to the buttery, nutty ripe-apple Maisoncelle. The whole range is exciting, innovative, intensely complex and quite food friendly. The Vieille-Vignes is not to be missed. Served in a wide glass, it became my favorite after a bit of aeration.
Jérôme Dehours is a grower I expect to see more of internationally, and I have hopes of a good Swedish importer charming him into sending a few bottles up north. Until that day, I’ll just have to plan a new trip down to visit and re-stock. Maybe next time I can even try the Lamborghini…