An Organic Duo in Champagne

Share

A common refrain when the names of André Beaufort and Vincent Laval are mentioned in the Montagne de Reims is “no one makes wines like that here.” Not merely amongst the bottles in our Champagne section, amongst growers in the region, these wines are singular. Though Laval’s and Beaufort’s wines are essentially different in style: Laval’s chiseled and super dry, Beaufort’s broad, rich, and lees-y, they share the quality of reflecting the complexity long-term organic viticulture imparts to Champagne.

In the early 1970s, André Beaufort, then a young vigneron with sites in the famous Grand Cru village of Ambonnay, decided that he did not want to use chemicals in his vineyards (a radical train of thought in Champagne at the time). He felt strongly that ingesting chemicals was dangerous. In fact, many feel this way; far fewer drastically change their winemaking methods to accommodate such a belief. André began to convert his vineyards in 1971 and eventually became certified in 1994. Though he recalls the initial years of conversion as having been extremely difficult, ultimately the conversion has been so successful that, at this point, Beaufort barely requires copper to fend off mildew and odium. He boasts forty species of plant life thriving between the vines. In addition to his Ambonnay vineyards, Beaufort has parcels in Polisy in the Côte des Bars, a region that is attractive for adamant organic growers because it’s easier to have isolated parcels not subject to chemical runoff from adjacent vineyards. Today, Beaufort farms ten hectares in total, mostly planted to Pinot Noir. Several of his children now help him at the Domaine.

In the cellar, first fermentations are completed with native yeasts and everything is done by hand. Beaufort’s extensive cellar in Ambonnay is full of riddling racks with old vintages awaiting disgorgement. The mature bottles on the list below are recently disgorged and have spent the majority of their lives resting on their lees. Beaufort’s use of sulfur is minimal, just a small dose at disgorgement. In style, these wines are robust and oxidative, often with 9-10 grams of dosage. They can seem quite deliciously “old-fashioned” and the old vintages certainly over-deliver in terms of complexity.

A similar rejection of chemicals was underway at the miniscule Domaine Georges Laval in the early 1970s. Georges, in order to keep chemical runoff from his neighbor’s vines from affecting his vines, traded vineyards to attain more contiguous parcels. According to Vincent, George’s son, he did this knowing his production would be smaller because of the trades. Today, Vincent has two hectares of very old vines in Cumières, a warm village in the southern Montagne de Reims. Because of this fortunate exposition and warmth, Vincent’s wines are ripe and effortlessly seem to achieve balance without dosage.

Domaine Georges Laval produces around 12,000 bottles a year and everything is done by hand, the labor divided between Vincent, his employee, and his apprentice. Vincent makes site specific wines with the intention of highlighting the personality of Cumières as well as his single vineyards: “Les Chènes” and “Les Hautes Chèvre.” At the pressing, a small amount of sulfur is added to protect the juice from oxidation, afterward nothing unless absolutely necessary. These wines have very little sulfur for Champagne, usually around 20 milligrams per liter. The first fermentations are done with native yeast and the base wines are aged in old barrel. For a taste of the Laval’s style, the basic Cumières is drinking beautifully now. For a truly unparalleled experience in Champagne, don’t miss the opportunity to try Laval’s single vineyard wines.  -Sophie

Beaufort, André NV Champagne Grand Cru Brut Rosé (Disg 10/16)

This full-bodied and robust Rosé Champagne is expressive of Pinot Noir character as well as natural and chemical-free winemaking, a rare combination, especially in Champagne. The nose offers ripe sour cherry, cherry pit, quinine, almost Burgundian earthiness, and an ever so slight note of bitter herbs reminiscent of amaro. Cherry fruit carries through the mid-palate to the finish, which is downright tannic, in the best possible way. There is some dosage here, giving the wine a compelling balance of acid and sweetness. It's a fairly serious Rosé Champagne, one that could accompany a meal, but it doesn't present itself as austere in any way. Unique within our selection of Rosé Champagnes and well-worth trying. (Lot 11A. Disgorged 10/2016.)

  • rosé sparkling
  • 1 in stock
  • no discount
  • $57.99

  • Organic

Beaufort, André 2002 Champagne Polisy Brut Nature

The Beaufort Champagnes are beautiful accompaniments to a great meal - the superb 2002 Polisy could be served at any point in your Thanksgiving feast! A sensational mature Champagne from André Beaufort - the estate converted to organic agriculture in the early 70's and makes brilliant, full-bodied Champagnes that are among the most "vinous" being made today. Medium golden yellow in color and sporting a discrete mousse. The nose is quite floral with tones of cherry blossoms, apple blossoms, and irises before touches of quince and fresh baguette. The palate is concentrated with a spherical and laser-like focus that offers notes of lemon sorbet, tart lemon custard, and apple pie, underlined by a fine minerality that persists through to a rounded, savory finish. Really a very pretty and lovely wine. This medium bodied Champagne is made of approximately 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay and was disgorged in March 2017 after 14 years of sur-lie aging, illustrating the Beauforts' commitment to releasing mature wines.

  • white sparkling
  • 12 in stock
  • no discount
  • $76.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur
Sorry, the Following have Already Sold

Laval, Georges NV (2010 Base) Champagne Cumières Premier Cru Brut Nature

Domaine Georges Laval is the epitome of a tiny, artisan estate. The estate is just 2.5 hectares in the 1er Cru village of Cumières, close to Ambonnay and Bouzy but with full southern exposition. Vincent Laval makes a miniscule amount of extremely terroir-driven wine (we are one of the few places in NY offering Laval). The estate has been organic since 1971 and is certified with Ecocert. Fermentation takes place in barrel with indigenous yeasts; there is no fining, filtration or cold-stabilization, and minimal use of sulfur. It is 50% Chardonnay and then split between Pinot Noir and Meunier. This edition of the Cumières is based on the steely 2010 vintage. The wine smells like delicate wildflower honey and fresh cut grass. It's extremely mineral-driven and resonant on the palate, and very chalky on the finish. Brut Nature Champagne lovers dream come true... (disgorged April 2013)  MSB

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $84.99

  • Organic

Laval, Georges 2004 Champagne Cumières Premier Cru 1.5L

Vincent Laval's wines are simply outstanding. Located in the warm village of Cumières in the southern Montagne de Reims, this Domaine is so tiny that, without a tip-off, you'd never know it existed. The Lavals have been farming organically since 1971, making their Domaine one of the longest standing organic Domaines in the region. Their "basic" (though, trust us, there's nothing basic about it) Cumières is generally 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The grapes are harvested very ripe. enabling the wine to find balance without the addition of a dosage. We can't find the words to lavish sufficient praise upon this wine. The bubbles are perfectly fine and creamy, the aromas rich, earthy, and pretty, the palate broad yet chiseled, and the finish mouth-coating and minerally. From a very good vintage in Champagne, this wine is a stunner. -msb

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • $164.99

Laval, Georges 2005 Champagne Cumières Premier Cru Les Chênes

In all honesty, Vincent Laval's single vineyard Champagnes are some of the finest, most complex wines I've tasted. Yes they are expensive, but the price is justified. The drinker will be well rewarded either now or down the road. I don't know what else to say except that, if the budget allows, buy these wines. "Les Chènes" is a very good, mid-slope vineyard with chalky soil... perfect for the Chardonnay that goes into this wine. Shell-y, steel-y, and very chalky, the French have a perfect word to describe the way this wine presents itself: "droit." And the wine is especially laser-like for 2005, a ripe vintage. The wine is bottled "Brut Nature," meaning no added sugar, and the aromas reflect the lack of dosage, offering fresh, green fruits, herbs, and rocks. The finish is very long and mineral-driven, the effect of long-term organic farming, which forces the vine roots to descend deep into the soil in search of nutrients. Stunning stuff. -msb

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $159.99

Laval, Georges 2005 Champagne Cumières Premier Cru Les Hautes Chevres

With only 800 bottles produced in 2005, this is a rare find. From a vineyard on the western side of Cumières with a large portion of clay in the soil, the wine used to be a blend of Meunier and Pinot Noir, but is now 100% Pinot. The wine shows the ripeness of 2005, sweet red fruits tones mingling with the green vibrancy that is typical of Laval's style. It's less approachable and more tightly wound than the "Les Chènes," but one gets the sense that there is an astonishing wine waiting to emerge. The material is there; all that's required is the patience to leave it in the cellar for a few years. -msb

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • $179.99

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $59.99

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $199.99

Beaufort 1996 Champagne Grand Cru Ambonnay

It is a gift to have access to recently disgorged wine from such an extraordinary vintage. Almost 18 years spent on the lees before disgorgement (August 2014) add textural depth, but are barely perceptible aromatically; an expansive but precise bouquet of tallow, mountain honey and marzipan carry over to the palate, along with acidulous lemon and ripe stone-fruit. Wholly possessed of the striking contrast between ripeness, acidity and salinity that is the hallmark of the vintage; a little bit of oxygen exposure won’t hurt, nor will another decade in the cellar. -jmw

1996 has proven to be a banner vintage in Champagne, Jacques Beaufort's blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from his Grand Cru Ambonnay vineyards is a prime example. Light golden yellow and color and discretely moussed, the aromas begin with ripe red peaches, molasses, and honeysuckle before expanding to lighty toasted bread, graham crackers, Red D'Anjou pears, and dark chocolate. An impeccably poised palate is held by a backbone of minerality and verve that speaks of lemongrass, white tea, and a finish of fresh blueberries and cream. (Disgorged 8/2014, Lot n. 96A). David Salinas

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $139.99

  • Biodynamic