Deliciously Pure Champagne From a Unique House

Today’s Story: Champagne Leclerc Briant

Champagne Leclerc Briant is a unique Champagne house established in 1872 by Lucien Leclerc in the village of Cumières. In 1955, however, the house moved to Épernay following Bertrand Leclerc’s marriage to Jacqueline Briant and they formed the négociant business Champagne Leclerc Briant. Leclerc Briant helped push the boundaries in Champagne, becoming one of the first houses to adopt organic viticulture during the 1960s and bottle single-vineyard Champagnes during the 1970s. Under Pascal, Bertrand and Jacqueline’s son, Leclerc Briant started dabbling with biodynamic viticulture during the 1980s and they became Demeter biodynamic certified in 2003. Unfortunately, Pascal passed away in 2010 far too soon and Leclerc Briant fell into tough times and faced extinction for a couple years, selling off the majority of their vineyards. In 2012, however, an American couple Mark Nunelly and Denise Dupré purchased the house alongside Champagne native Frédéric Zeimett and oenologist Hervé Jestin and the team has brought Leclerc Briant back to greatness.

Leclerc Briant consists of a very small 0.6 hectare vineyard called La Croisette, which is adjacent to the winery in Épernay. They also own roughly 9.6 hectares across various 1er and Grand Cru vineyards, though they source small amounts of Pinot Noir from the Aube and have long-term purchase agreements with other vignerons who own organically or biodynamically farmed vineyards. In the cellars, Jestin practices a non-invasive style of winemaking and sees himself as an observer and guide rather than a heavy hander. The wines all go through spontaneous fermentation and vinify in INOX tank, terracotta egg, or French oak barrel before malolactic fermentation is allowed to happen naturally. After at least nine months in barrel, the wines experience extended aging in the cellars and dosage levels are minimal or at times nonexistent at all to allow the wines to showcase themselves in pure form. All the wines are then bottled unfined and unfiltered.

To view the range of wines from Leclerc Briant, visit the website here. There are truly some unique bottlings, including one that ages submerged 60 meters in the Atlantic Ocean!

Today’s Wine: 2009 Extra Brut Champagne

40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier; 12% ABV

The 2009 Extra Brut Champagne is transparent medium to deep gold in color. On the nose, I get aromas of lemon, green apple, honeysuckle, brioche, almond, chalk, and lees characteristics such as cheese rind and baked bread. Meanwhile the palate is drop-dead gorgeous with notes of green apple, crisp golden pear, lemon zest, white florals, toast, cheese rind, roasted nuts, cream, and saline mineral. This is light- to medium-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity and a long finish. Disgorged in June 2017. Dosage 4 g/L.

Price: $80. I actually think this is a very solid value for vintage Champagne. The precision and vibrancy of the wine is remarkable and this is all around a beautifully pure expression of the terroir. Highly recommended.