Located in: Vallée de la Marne: Côteaux Sud d’Épernay
Vineyards and grape varieties: 256.2 hectares (633.1 acres), of which 59.3% Chardonnay, 24.3% Pinot Noir, and 16.3% Pinot Meunier.
Classification: “Autre cru” (88%)
Noted for: the town located in the middle of the Champagne wine region, with many major Champagne houses including Moët & Chandon, De Castellane, Mercier, and Pol Roger.
The map is linked from Wikimedia Commons, and the geographical information originates from OpenStreetMap. The dotted white area corresponds to the vineyards, light yellow is other open terrain, orange is built-up areas, dark orange is dense built-up areas, and green indicates forest.
Around the town itself
Northwest: Mardeuil, located in the Vallée de la Marne Rive Gauche
Northnorthwest: Hautvillers (premier cru), located in the Grande Vallée de la Marne
North, beyond Magenta: Dizy (premier cru), located in the Grande Vallée de la Marne
Northeast: Aÿ (grand cru), located in the Grande Vallée de la Marne
Southeast: Chouilly (grand cru), located in the Côte des Blancs
South: Pierry (premier cru)
Around the forest area to the west, that is also part of the commune
West: Boursault, located in the Vallée de la Marne Rive Gauche
North: Vauciennes, located in the Vallée de la Marne Rive Gauche
Comment 1: some of the villages on the map, including Magenta, don’t have any vineyards and therefore no village profiles.
Comment 2: the remaining links will be added when the profile of that village has been added.
View of Épernay from Mont Bernon to the east of the town. The tower of De Castellanes is visible in the picture. The vineyards in the distance are located in the Grande Vallée de la Marne. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Sand, 2005).
Épernay is located at the Marne river, between some hills on the left bank of Marne that are formed by Le Cubry, a stream that empties into Marne at Épernay. The Épernay commune has a surface of 2269 hectares and 23 529 inhabitants (as of 2012). The inhabitants are referred to as sparnaciens and sparnaciennes in reference to the town’s Latin name, Sparnacum.
Épernay is the third most populous commune in the Marne department after Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne, and the sixth larges in the Champagne-Ardennes region. After a peak in the mid-1970s (there were 29 677 inhabitants in 1975), the tendency has been decreasing. Since Épernay has grown together with some of its neighbouring commune, the continuous city area has a few thousand more inhabitants than the population of the Épernay commune on its own.
Épernay is centrally located in the Champagne wine region and has the second largest concentration of major Champagne houses, after Reims. From the early 2000s, central Épernay has received a bit of a facelift and has become more adapted to tourism. Other than the Champagne houses, the town has a good concentration of Champagne bars and Champagne/wine shops, as well as a selection of restaurants that is quite good for a town of its size.
Most of the major Champagne houses in Épernay are located along the Avenue de Champagne, or a short distance away on one of its side streets.
Avenue de Champagne. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Michal Osmenda, 2012, originally from Flickr).
Épernay has one restaurant with one star in the Guide Michelin (as of 2015), Les Berceaux, which also has a very pleasant and reasonably price bistro, Bistrot le 7. Another one star restaurant can be found a few commune and about 5 km/3 miles away in Vinay, the luxury hotel Hostellerie La Briqueterie. Another restaurant in Épernay that usually receives good reviews is La Grillade Gourmande, which together with French-Thai Cook’in have been “value menu”-rated by Michelin. Brasserie La Banque in central Épernay offers a wide selection of Champagnes by the glass. La Fine Bulle is a combination of Champagne bar and Champagne shop.
Vineyards in Épernay. The vineyards in the foreground are located to the west of the town, and in the background Mont Bernon is visible (with buildings, vineyards and a forest-clad summit), being located on the eastern side. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (foto sand, 2007).
The vineyards in the Épernay commune are located on the hills that flank the town on the western and eastern side, and are to a large extent planted with Chardonnay. The vineyards on the western hill, which is the larger of the two, is continuous with those in Mardeuil and Pierry. The hill on the eastern side is Mont Bernon, and the vineyards on it are continuous with those in the western parts of Chouilly.
The current vineyard surface in the Épernay commune is 256.2 hectares (633.1 acres). There are 152 ha Chardonnay (59.3%), 62.2 ha Pinot Noir (24.3%), and 41.9 ha Pinot Meunier (16.3%). Numbers from CIVC, as of 2013. In 1997, the vineyard surface was 236 ha. There are 163 vineyard owners (exploitants) in the commune.
Champagne houses that control vineyards in the commune include Bollinger, Moët & Chandon, Roederer, and Taittinger.
Single vineyard sites and vineyard-designated Champagnes
- La Croisette, a vineyard with a certain proportion of limestone. Leclerc Briant in Épernay formerly owned 0.60 ha in this site, with Chardonnay only, and still releases vineyard-designated Champagnes from this vineyard in their Les Authentiques series. Similar to the other vineyard holdings of Leclerc Briant, it was bought by Roederer in 2012.
Other vineyard sites in Épernay include e.g. Les Frileux.
Major champagne houses, members of the Union des Maisons de Champagne
- Alfred Gratien (NM), a smaller high-class Champagne house today owned by Henkell & Söhnlein. The Champagnes of Alfred Gratien are characterised by fermentation in old small oak barrels (for all wines) and by not going through malolactic fermentation. The annual production today is a modest 250 000-300 000 bottles, from about 55 ha of vineyards, of which their own holdings are 1.56 ha in the Côte des Blancs. Their prestige Champagne is the Cuvée Paradis and it consists of a majority of Chardonnay together with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It used to be non-vintage but became vintage-dated from the release of the 2006 (in 2014). There is also a Cuvée Paradis Rosé. When the long-serving (since 1966) cellar master/winemaker Jean-Pierre Jaeger turned over his job to his son Nicolas Jaeger in 2009, a special Cuvée Passation was released, with a 2002 base vintage. Alfred Gratien is a member of the organisation Les Artisans du Champagne, the other members of which are high-class small growers rather than Champagne houses.
The house was founded in 1864 by Alfred Gratien. In the same year, 1864, he also created a company for the production of sparkling wine in Saumur in the Loire Valley, where he later had a partner from Alsace, Jean-Albert Meyer. The Champagne and Saumur companies of Gratien has continued to be owned together, and it was the Saumur company which was the larger and the parent company of the constellation. Alfred Gratien died in 1885, and in 1896 the Saumur company was renamed Gratien & Meyer when Gratien’s widow took in Meyer as a business partner. Jean-Albert Meyer was succeeded in 1932 by his son Albert-Edmond Meyer, who in turn was succeeded in 1965 by hos son-in-law Eric Seydoux. The name of the Saumur company later became Gratien, Meyer & Seydoux, and Eric’s sons Alain and Gérard took over the company in 1992. In 2000, the Seydoux family sold to Henkell & Söhnlein, a German Sekt producer, that took over as majority owner (and restored the name of the Saumur activities to Gratien & Meyer). The work as cellar master at Alfred Gratien, in Champagne, has passed from father to son in the Jaeger family since 1905, i.e., both during the ownership of Gratien-Meyer-Seydoux and that of Henkell. Since 2009, Nicolas Jaeger holds the job.
- Besserat de Bellefon, a house today owned by Lanson-BCC. Their various Cuvée des Moines holds slightly lower pressure than usual (4.5 rather than 6.0 atm) and have smaller bubbles, resulting in a “creamier” impression. The wines don’t go through malolactic fermentation. They are marketed as gastronomic Champagnes with a creamy mousse, that are suited for drinking through an entire meal. Besserat de Bellefon has 25 ha of vineyards of their own, mainly in the Marne valley, which explains why the Brut cuvée contains a relative high proportion of 45% Pinot Meunier. The original Brut of the Cuvée des Moines range was supplemented by a rosé in 1972, a Blanc de Blancs in 1999, a vintage Champagne in 2007 (then the 2002 vintage), and an Extra Brut in 2009. In 2013, a celebratory cuvée by the name B de B (refers to the name of the house, not blanc de blancs) was created, and it is intended to show the best of the house.
The house was founded in Aÿ in 1843, and the founder Edmond Besserat originated from Hautvillers. In 1920, his grandchild Edmond Besserat married Yvonne de Méric de Bellefon, who was the origin of the de Bellefon part of the name. In 1930, Victor Besserat (another grandchild) created a cuvée intended for drinking throughout a meal, after a request from the Parisian restaurant La Samaritaine de Luxe. This is the “creamier” Champagne with slightly lower pressure and smaller bubbles that was later named Cuvée des Moines. The same name has also been used for similar cuvées added later to the range. The marketing of Besserat de Bellefon still has its focus on the profile as a Champagne to go with meals. In 1991, Besserat de Bellefon was bought by the company Marne & Champagne, which was led by Gaston Burtin (1900-1995). In 2006, Marne & Champagne was bought by Boizel Chanoine Champagne (BCC), known since 2010 as Lanson-BCC. Under Lanson-BCC, Besserat de Bellefon is a part of the subsidiary company Maison de Burtin.
Boizel’s buildings on Avenue de Champagne. (De Venoge is located on the left side of the same courtyard, but will move in late 2015.) Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (foto Fab5669, 2014).
- Boizel, a house owned by Lanson-BCC (where they are the B), but with the Roques-Boizel family in charge. Their own vineyards are 6 ha in size. The prestige cuvée is called Joyau de France and made its first appearance in the 1961 vintage. The blanc de blancs version Joyau de Chardonnay was added in the 1989 vintage, and the Joyau de France Rosé in the 2000 vintage. Characteristic for Boizel is that the prestige cuvées are sold with quite some age. The 2000 Joyau de France was launched in 2014, after spending 12 years on the lees.
The house was founded in 1834 in Épernay as Boizel-Martin by Auguste Boizel and his wife Julie née Martin, and in 1871 the name became Boizel Père & Fils after the son Edouard Boizel had entered the company. In 1972, after René Boizel, the great grandson of the founder, the house was taken over by his daughter Evelyne Roques-Boizel and her husband Christophe Roques. 1994 they joined Chanoine Frères and Champenoise des Grands Vins, a group formed in 1991 by Bruno Paillard and Philippe Baijot, to form Boizel Chanoine Champagne. Since 1996, this company trades on the stock exchange, but the three founding families still own 80% of the capital (at the end of 2014). Later, a number of other Champagne houses have been bought, and since 2010 the company name is Lanson-BCC. The Roques-Boizel family, owners of 17% the capital of Lanson-BCC, still leads Boizel on a daily basis. Boizel’s first blanc de blancs was produced in the 1929 vintage.
The tower of De Castellane is one of the most noticeable landmarks in Épernay. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Sand~commonswiki, 2006).
- De Castellane, a house that today is owned by Laurent-Perrier. De Castellane bottles may be recognised by means of the red Andreas cross on the labels, and the location of their facilities by the 66 meter high tower, which is an easily spotted landmark in Épernay. This is one of few larger Champagne houses that doesn’t have a prestige cuvée. Instead, their range reaches its summit with their vintage Champagne.
The house was founded in 1895 by the Vicomte Louis Boniface Florens de Castellane (1865- 1931), as Vicomte de Castellane. Already from the start, De Castellane had a red Andreas cross as symbol. In 1907, Vicomte de Castellane was bought by Union Champenoise, founded in 1884 (as a subsidiary of Bouvet-Ladubay in Saumur, a sparkling wine company founded in 1850) and led by Fernand Mérand. This house was then producing Champagnes under three brands: Union Champenoise, Fernand Mérand & Cie, and Vicomte de Castellane. Since 1889, Union Champenoise had been located close to the Avenue de Champagne where de Castellane still resides, and initially rented cellar space from Mercier. At an expansion in 1904, the characteristic 66 meter high tower was added, and initially it carried the text “Union Champenoise”. Alexandre Mérand, the son of Fernand, had founded his own Champagne house 1927, and bought Union Champenoise in 1936. Under his leadership, the name was changed to de Castellane (the Vicomte part of the name was removed). Following the death of Alexandre Mérand in 1970, the house was first led by his daughter Francine Augustin (in a period when de Castellane experienced difficulties), and from 1983 by his grandchild Hervé Augustin. One of the daughters of Alexandre Mérand, Claude Mérand, married Bernard de Nonancourt, head and owner of Laurent-Perrier. In 1999, de Castellane became a part of the Laurent-Perrier group. Following Laurent-Perrier’s purchase of Château Malakoff (see below) in 2004, the different Malakoff brands are produced together with De Castellane.
- Charles Mignon (NM), also known as Charles Mignon-Léon Launois, is a small Champagne house. Their own vineyards (6 ha) are in Chouilly in the Côte des Blancs and in the Marne Valley.
The house was founded in 1995 by Bruno Mignon and his wife Laurence, daughter of Louis Tollet. Since 2003, the house is a member of the UMC, the same year they bought the Champagne house Léon Launois.
Other than under the name Charles Mignon, the Champagnes are also sold under the brands:
- Léon Launois (NM), which had a background in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger before the brand was bought by Charles Mignon.
- Louis Tollet, named for a notable restaurant owner in the Champagne are who had his fame in the 1950s.
- Fiévet Comte de Marne
- Château Malakoff is a house today owned by Laurent-Perrier, and where the production takes place together with that of De Castellane. The château bearing the name is located in Oger, but the company is in Épernay.
The Champagne house Château Malakoff was created in 1977 when the Trouillard family bought the house Beaumet (founded in 1878, had moved from Pierry to Châlons-en-Champagne in the early 20th century). In 1981, they also bought Oudinot (founded in the end of the 19th century by Jules Edouard Oudinot in Avize, the seller was Marcel Oudinot), and Jeanmaire (founded in 1933 by André Jeanmaire in Avize). In 2001, a new press house was built in Oger. In 2004, Laurent-Perrier took over as the owner of Château Malakoff. At the purchase, Malakoff owned 60 ha of vineyards, of which 34 ha grand cru and 20 ha premier cru. The production has later taken place in the same facilities as De Castellane. In 2009, Laurent-Perrier sold the former Malakoff facilities in central Épernay to Gosset.
The Champagnes are sold under the brands:
Statue of Dom Pierre Pérignon outside Moët & Chandon in Épernay. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo by Michal Osmenda, 2012).
- Dom Pérignon is produced by Moët & Chandon and is a brand owned by LVMH, but is often profiled as a house of their own. The composition of the white Dom Pérignon is around 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir with a variation from about 40%/60% to 60%/40% between vintages. Dom Pérignon is unoaked, but many who taste it find notes that are usually thought of as indicating oak. (The barrels once used were phased out between 1959 and 1964.) The production is quite large, much greater than for any other prestige cuvée, and business estimates (LVMH keeps the exact numbers a secret) land at several million bottles per year. Despite these volumes, Dom Pérignon if of very high quality, especially in the best vintages. Although a Champagne of good concentration, it is usually not one of the most powerful prestige cuvée. Instead, the focus is a bit more on elegance and minerality, with reasonably consistent style between vintages. With some bottle age, rather prominent toasted notes tend to emerge, and with more age some notes of dried wood. There is also a Dom Pérignon Rosé produced using the blending method, i.e., using red wine. The first rosé vintage was 1959. The rosé goes more in the powerful direction, and if it doesn’t show red Burgundy notes at start, they emerge after some cellaring. Dom Pérignon that has spent additional time on the lees before leaving the cellar used to be sold as Œnothèque, but from the 1998 vintage (1995 for rosé), the designation was changed to P2, which means plénitude 2, the second phase of maturity of the wine. A difference from regular Dom Pérignon is that Œnothèque/P2 is sealed with a natural cork during the second fermentation, rather than a crown cap. The name change to P2 opened up the possibility to launch even older versions under the designation P3. On Œnothèque/P2, the year of disgorgement is indicated on the back label. Current vintages (2015) are: Dom Pérignon 2005, Dom Pérignon Rosé 2004, Dom Pérignon P2 1998, and Dom Pérignon Rosé P2 1995. Existing vintages are (W= white, R = rosé): 1921 W, 1926 W, 1928 W, 1929 W, 1934 W, 1943 W, 1947 W, 1949 W, 1952 W, 1953 W, 1955 W, 1959 W+R, 1961 W, 1962 W+R, 1964 W+R, 1966 W+R, 1969 W+R, 1970 W, 1971 W+R, 1973 W+R, 1975 W+R, 1976 W, 1978 W+R, 1980 W+R, 1982 W+R, 1983 W, 1985 W+R, 1986 R, 1988 W+R, 1990 W+R, 1992 W+R, 1993 W+R, 1995 W+R, 1996 W+R, 1998 W+R, 1999 W, 2000 W+R, 2002 W+R, 2003 W+R, 2004 W+R, 2005 W.
Dom Pérignon Champagne is named after the monk Dom Pierre Pérignon, who was a winemaker at the monastery in Hautvillers. The first vintage was 1921 – a top vintage in Champagne and many other European countries – and it was a “regular” vintage Moët & Chandon with extra age that was refilled into the characteristic 18th century bottle used ever since. The 1921 vintage was launched in 1936. Only in the 1940s did Moët & Chandon start to produce Dom Pérignon directly in its final bottle. Originally, the brand belonged to the house Mercier, who also owned the Hautvillers abbey buildings, but in 1927 it came into the ownership of Moët & Chandon, apparently as a wedding present. (As far as I know, Mercier never produced wines under this brand.) Earlier, the origin of the grapes were given in the brochure that accompanies the bottles. For example, for 1990 Dom Pérignon it is said that it contains Chardonnay from Chouilly (Le Mont-Aigu), Cramant (Les Buissons), and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger (Les Joyettes), and Pinot Noir from Aÿ, Bouzy, and Hautvillers. Since LVMH has bought quite a number of vineyards since, where the best are likely to have been used to increase the production of Dom Pérignon, the grapes are probably sourced wider today. Since 1990, Richard Geoffroy is the chief winemaker, and he is the one fond of the term plénitude. By the way, the most and second-most famous non-existing vintages of Dom Pérignon must be the 1957, which is served in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, followed by the 1946, which is served in Ian Fleming’s Bond novel Moonraker.
Blog post from a vertical tasting of Dom Pérignon with Richard Geoffroy (2012).
More about the monk Dom Pierre Pérignon and his importance for the winemaking in Champagne.
- Gosset, a high quality medium-sized Champagne house. Characteristic of their Champagnes are high acidity (all cuvées except one see no malolactic fermentation), some oxidative notes, and a low dosage, which combine to give a firm and long-lived style. The range starts with the non-vintage Excellence, the only cuvée to go through malolactic fermentation. The similarly non-vintage Grande Réserve represents one step up and is more “typical Gosset”. Grand Rosé always gets good reviews. The vintage Champagne Grand Millésime is never produced in the same vintages as the prestige cuvée Celebris. The first vintage of Celebris was the 1988 (launched in 1995). The current vintage (as of 2015) is the 2002. A Celebris Rosé also exists, with 2007 as the current vintage. A non-vintage Celebris Blanc de Blancs has so far been produced once (then a blend of 1995, 1996, 1998, and 1999).
The company was founded in 1584 in Aÿ by Pierre Gosset (1555-1633), who were active in both wine production and other trade. Gosset is therefore the oldest wine company among the Champagne houses (although Ruinart is usually counted as the oldest pure Champagne house). Gosset remained family owned until the 1990s, with Antoine and Laurent Gosset being the last owners. In 1994, Gosset was bought by Renaud-Cointreau, and under their ownership the annual production has been expanded from 400 000 to 1 million bottles. This meant a need for more cellar space. In 2009, Gosset bought larger facilities in Épernay from Laurent-Perrier, including a house that was formerly owned by the Trouillard family, and in 2010 most of the activities were moved there from Aÿ. Their Épernay cellar was originally built for the grocery chain Félix Potin and has later been used by the Trouillard-owned Champagne house Château Malakoff. Gosset has kept part of their production in Aÿ, though.
- Jacquinot & Fils, a house with 17 ha vineyards of their own and a high proportion of Chardonnay in most of their Champagnes. The regular vintage cuvée is called Symphonie and has been produced since 1953. The top cuvée is called Harmonie and was added in 1976.
Pierre Jacquinot, who already was a vineyard owner in addition to being a courtier (grape broker), got his own wine press in 1929 and started to produce wines of his own. In 1947, he founded Jacquinot & Fils together with his two sons Jacques and Jean-Guy.
- Leclerc-Briant (NM), a Champagne house that completely changed shape and reduced in since 2011-2012. Today (2014) they state their vineyard holdings to be 8 ha in Hautvillers, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Bisseuil, and Rilly-la-Montagne. For some more years they will launch Champagnes based on their earlier larger vineyard holdings, that was farmed biodynamically in its entirety. Of particular interest is their Les Authentiques series of vineyard-designated Champagne (non-vintage dated, sometimes a blend of two vintages), that made their debut in 1992 with Les Chèvres Pierreuses, Le Clos des Champions, and Les Crayères, all from Cumières. La Croisette, a blanc de blancs from Épernay, was added later. We’ll see if the new vineyard holdings will mean new Les Authentiques from other vineyards.
The house was founded in 1872. Already in 1947 Bertrand Leclerc-Briant started to practice organic farming. The son Pascal Leclerc-Briant took over after him, started to experiment with biodynamics in 1990, and decided in 1990 to convert entirely to this way of doing viticulture, and was for a time the largest biodynamic grower in Champagne. The vineyard holdings were 30 ha, with the most important holdings in Cumières (including a continuous 6 ha plot that included the vineyard site Les Chèvres Pierreuses) but with additional vineyards in Épernay, Damery, Dizy, Hautvillers, and Verneuil. The launch of the first three vineyard-designated Les Authentiques Champagnes took place in 1992 (Les Chèvres Pierreuses, Le Clos des Champions, and Les Crayères, all from Cumières). Despite the NM status, in the later years they only used grapes from their own vineyards. In 2010, Pascal Leclerc-Briant died unexpectedly at 60 years of age, and in early 2011 his daughters had to sell a bit more than half of the vineyards (17 ha, mostly in Verneuil but also some plots in Cumières) in order to buy out the other relatives. 13 ha were bought by Lanson-BCC, 2 ha by Roederer and 2 ha by another buyer. In early 2012, all of the remaining Leclerc-Briant was sold to Roederer, who only kept the vineyards and sold on the rest of the house (the brand, the facilities in Épernay, the store of Champagnes, and the grape contracts) to American businessman Mark Nunnely and his business partner Denise Dupré. The oldest daughter of Pascal, Ségolène Leclerc, remains in the company. The 8 ha of their own vineyards which they are stated to have in 2014 (in Hautvillers, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Bisseuil, and Rilly-la-Montagne) must be newly purchased or leased by the new owners.
- Lombard & Médot (NM), a Champagne house that in its present form was created in 2003. Has 10 ha of vineyards in the Montagne de Reims and 140 ha of grape contracts, and an annual production of about 1.6 million bottles.
The Lombard part of the house was founded in 1925 in Magenta by Robert Andrieu as Société Anonyme de Magenta-Épernay (S.A.M.E.). The brand Magenta was used in the early years of the house. In 1936 they bought cellars in Épernay and the land where Lombard & Médot can be found today (although the cellars were expanded in 1987). Thierry Lombard, grandchild of Robert Andrieu, has led the house since 1980. The Champagne house Charles de Cazanove was bought in 1984, and after that, the new group used this name. The Champagne house Baudry (possibly still called Baudry-Lebrun & Cie) was bought in 1994, which expanded the production considerably. The company was introduced on the stock market in 1999 under the name SA Charles de Cazanove. In 2002, Médot & Cie, then in Reims, was bought. At this time, Charles de Cazanove produced 2.8 million bottles per year (Médot & Cie 0.2 million) and the Lombard family owned 80% of the shares. In 2003, the brand Charles de Cazanove was sold to G.H. Martel in Reims, and the traded company changed name to SA Lombard & Médot. The subsidiary Baudry-Lebrun was dedicated to production under the brand Louis Barthélémy until 2006, but has later been sold.
The Champagnes are sold under the brands:
- H. Lanvin & Fils
- Lombard & Cie (NM). The regular cuvées are sorted after the village-level classification. On the grand cru level there is a non-vintage Brut, a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs, and a vintage Champagne. The top cuvées are called Tanagra. The white non-vintage version consists of 2/3 Chardonnay from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Chouilly and 1/3 Pinot Noir from Verzenay. The non-vintage rosé version consists only of Pinot Noir from Verzenay and is produced using the saignée method. A vintage Tanagra is said to be on the way.
- Magenta which was used as a brand already in the early history of the house.
- Médot, with an annual production of about 200 000 bottles, mostly in the export market. The top cuvée is called Brut Centenaire Royal and was added in connection with the centenary of the house in 1999.
Médot was founded in 1899 by Jules Médot, and remained in family ownership for five generations. In 2002, Médot was bought by Charles de Cazanove/Lombard, and is now used as a brand. Earlier, the labels specified that Médot was produced by Médot & Cie (NM) in Reims, but currently Lombard & Médot in Épernay are now mentioned. The press house of Médot in Pargny-lès-Reims has been kept by Lombard & Médot. Earlier, before the purchase by Lombard, the range included a vineyard-designated Champagne, Clos des Chaulins, from a site in Pargny-lès-Reims.
- Mansard, also called Mansard-Baillet, a house owned by Rapeneau. They have 16 ha vineyards of their own in the Côte des Blancs and Sézannais, with Cerseuil as a focus. The wines have a rather high proportion of Pinot Noir.
The house was founded in 1910 in Épernay. Following a period of expansion, Mansard moved into new cellars in Épernay in 1969. (These cellars are supposed to be from 1870, so some other house inhabited them earlier.) In the 1990s(?), the house was sold to Rapeneau.
Drawing of when the gigantic Mercier barrel arrives to the World Expo in Paris on May 7, 1889. The barrel can today be inspected in the visitor’s centre of Mercier. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons.
- Mercier, a house owned by LVMH. Mercier is positioned at a lower price level and level of ambition than the other well-known LVMH houses, and is less visible on the export market than its sister houses. Mercier doesn’t produce a prestige cuvée, and their vintage Champagne also seems to have become more rare (currently, 2015, it is not even mentioned on their web site). They have large cellars and uses small “tourist trains” for their tours there, which makes visit here more adapted to visitors with children than those at many other houses. The website of LVMH (in 2015) specifies 249 ha of vineyards for Mercier, but I’m somewhat doubtful if the vineyards are really that clearly connected to the respective LVMH house at the “basic quality level”.
The house was founded in 1858 by Eugène Mercier (1838-1904, Wikipedia article in French). In 1869, the house moved to Avenue de Champagne and in 1871 the building of the extensive cellars was started. It took six years to build 18 km of cellars. In the era of Eugène Mercier, many spectacular marketing events were staged, that were groundbreaking for their time. When the cellars were inaugurated, the visitors were shown around in a carriage drawn by four white horses. In 1885, the cellars were opened to the public. The world’s largest wine barrel, holding 160 000 liters, was installed in the cellars in 1887, after having been prepared since 1871. After that, the barrel was transported to Paris to be shown at the World Expo in 1889! The last distance, it was pulled by a 24 white oxen. After Eugène Mercier had seen the invention of the Lumière brothers at the 1900 World Expo, the moving image, the world’s first advertisement film was produced for Mercier. At the same expo Mercier also had an air ballon – naturally with advertisement text on the side – that took visitors to the same height as the Eiffel tower while they were served Mercier Champagne. In 1904, a Paris-Reims car race was held, with the finish located in front of the Mercier buildings. The brand Dom Pérignon was registered by Mercier, who was also the owner of the former abbey at Hautvillers. As far as I know they never sold any Champagnes under this brand before the ownership in 1927(?) transferred to Moët & Chandon. In 1970, Mercier was bought by Moët & Chandon, and following continued mergers, LVMH became the owner in 1987.
One of the Moët & Chandon buildings on the Avenue de Champagne. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Fab5669, 2014).
- Moët & Chandon, the largest Champagne house of them all, representing about 10% of the production of the region, and a part of LVMH where it has contributed the “M”. The non-vintage Brut Champagne of the house is called Impérial (before always written Brut Impérial, but now Moët Impérial in their marketing) and consists of 30-40% each of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, as well as 20-30% Chardonnay. This is by far the Champagne produced in the largest volume, and it might be noted that only the first pressing, la cuvée, is used for all Moët & Chandon Champagnes, including Impérial. The rosé version is called Rosé Impérial and consists of 40-50% Pinot Noir (of which 10% red wine), 30-40% Pinot Meunier (of which 10% red wine), as well as 10-20% Chardonnay. The sweet Demi-Sec versionen (dosage 45 grams per liter) is called Nectar Impérial, and has a higher proportion of Pinot Noir (40-50%) compared to the Brut. A newly launched Demi-Sec intended for drinking “on the rocks” is called Ice Impérial and has the same varietal composition as Nectar Impérial. The vintage Champagne is called Grand Vintage since the 2000 vintage. (The vintages up to 1999 were called Millésime Blanc, and even earlier the vintage Champagne was also called Brut Impérial, but the label had a different colour than the non-vintage version.) The varietal composition varies quite a bit between vintages, and in the 1990-2006 vintages it has been 28-51% Chardonnay, 26-50% Pinot Noir, and 5-43% Pinot Meunier, where the 2003 vintage represented an exceptionally high proportion of Pinot Meunier and no other vintage was above 29%. The rosé version is called Grand Vintage Rosé (used to be called Millésime Rosé) and consists of a bit more Pinot Noir added as red wine (22% in the 2002 and 2004 vintages). Late-disgorged bottles are sold as Grand Vintage Collection, but my impression is that these Champagnes are relatively rare compared to the “late” versions of some other houses who have them. The prestige Champagne is called Dom Pérignon, and is now often presented as as its own house, so there is a separate Dom Pérignon entry above. For house of its size, Moët & Chandon actually has a rather small range: there is e.g. no Blanc de Blancs, no Champagnes drier than Brut, and no still Coteaux Champenois wines. (The only larger LVMH house with a Blanc de Blancs in their range is Ruinart.) Earlier, small amounts of vineyard-designated varietal Champagnes were produced from three different grand cru villages: a Chardonnay from Les Vignes de Saran in Chouilly, Pinot Meunier from Les Champs de Romont in Sillery and Pinot Noir from Les Sarments d’Aÿ in Aÿ. In the early 2000s, they were sold in a box called La Trilogie des Grands Crus. Even earlier there was a white Coteaux Champenois from Chardonnay called Saran, carrying a Dom Pérignon-like label. To me, it is a bit strange that these have disappeared from the Moët & Chandon range, since terroir- and vineyard-designated Champagnes are in vogue. An explanation could be their focus on Dom Pérignon as a blend and nothing else.
Compared to their LVMH sister house, Veuve Clicquot, the Champagnes of Moët & Chandon (in particular at the vintage and prestige level) contain a bit more Chardonnay and a bit less Pinot Noir. Moët & Chandon uses no oak, avoids oxidative winemaking, and aims for a fruity style than could perhaps be characterised as “pure and easy to drunk”, where there is some of the classically biscuity Champagne notes, but not really an overabundance.
The website of LVMH (in 2015) mentions that there are 1190 ha of Moët & Chandon vineyards, of which 50% grand cru and 25% premier cru, but this is most likely only the vineyard they own, and excludes grape contracts and purchased-in grapes or juice/wine. For the total production (including Dom Pérignon) they must rather need grape from some 3500 ha of vineyards. Naturally, quite a bit of storage space is also needed: the cellars of Moët & Chandon has a length of 28 km.
The house was founded in 1743 by Claude Moët (1683-1760) as Moët et Cie. Already in his time, wines were sold to the royal court at Versailles, and one of the most faithful customers was apparently Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764, mistress of Louis XV from 1745). The grandson Jean-Rémy Moët (1758-1841) had become acquainted with Napoleon Bonapart when he was a rather unknown officer, and supplied him with Champagnes during his time as emperor. (As a sidenote, Napoleon also drank other Champagnes, including Jacquesson.) Moët also built a replica of the Grand Trianon, a part of Versailles, for Napoleon and Empress Josephine to live in when they visited Épernay. When Jean-Rémy Moët retired in 1833, the hose was taken over by the son Victor Moët and P. G. Chandon, who was married to the oldest daughter of Jean-Rémy, and the name then became Moët & Chandon. The first vintage Champagne of Moët & Chandon was produced in the 1842 vintage. The Brut Impérial brand started to be used in the 1860s. Dom Pérignon made its debut in the 1921 vintage, see more above. In 1971, Moët & Chandon merged with Hennessy to form Moët Hennessy. In 1987, this company merged with Louis Vuitton and formed LVMH. Later, LVMH has bought several Champagne houses in financial difficulties, or otherwise for sale, in order to get hold of their vineyards, and then sold on the houses minus vineyards, sometimes rather quickly after the purchase. This has e.g. happened to Charles de Cazanove (1983-85, then as Moët Henessy), Pommery (1991-2002), Lanson (1994), and De Venoge (1998). Since 2010, the Champagne vineyards of the LVMH group, a total of 1650 ha, are managed by a separate company in the group called MHCS.
One of the buildings of Perrier-Jouët at Avenue de Champagne. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Elgaard, 2014).
- Perrier-Jouët, a Champagne house today owned by Pernod Ricard. The prestige champagne is called Belle Époque and is composed by 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, and 5% Pinot Meunier (numbers refer to the 2006 and 2007 vintages). Characteristic of this cuvée is a bottle decorated by drawings of white anemones. Belle Epoque Rosé consists of 45-50% Chardonnay, 45-50% Pinot Noir, and 5% Pinot Meunier (numbers refer to the 2004 and 2006 vintages). A small amount of Belle Époque Blanc de Blancs is also produced, from two vineyard sites in Cramant: Bourons Leroy and Bourons du Midi. An addition in the 2007 vintage is Belle Époque Édition Première, composed by 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, and intended for drinking in the springtime. The house has 65 ha of vineyards, of which 27 ha in Cramant. Their own vineyards cover about one-third of their total grape supply.
The house was founded in 1811 by Pierre-Nicolas Perrier, who was a cork merchant in Épernay, and his wife Rose Adelaïde “Adèle” Jouët, daughter of a Calvados producer. In 1814, they bought the building at Avenue de Champagne where the main offices of the house still exists. The first vintage Champagne was produced already in 1825. The son Charles Perrier took over the house in 1854 following the death of his father, and in 1856 the first Brut Champagne was produced. Following him, the house was led by his nephew Henri Gallice, who was the one to have their housed decorated in Art Noveau style in the beginning of the 20th century. This is the era their graphical profile is meant to remind of. In 1959, the Gallice family sold Perrier-Jouët to the Champagne house Mumm, which in 2005 became a part of Pernod Ricard, the present owner. The prestige cuvée Belle Époque was launched in 1969, and the design with the white anemones is based on some specially produced magnums created in 1902 by Art Noveau painter Emile Gallé, but which were too difficult to mass produce in that era.
The buildings of Pol Roger in illuminated condition in connection with Habits de Lumière. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo G.Garitan, 2012)
- Pol Roger, a slightly more than medium-sized Champagne house of high quality. There is a rather high proportion of Pinot Noir in the Champagne, which show good concentration, and the style is very classical with biscuity notes. No oak barrels are used (also not at the prestige level), and the base wines go through malolactic fermentation, but despite this the Champagnes often come across as somewhat green-apply and are well adapted for extended cellaring. The vintage Champagne, Brut Vintage, consists of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay (refers to the 2000, 2002, and 2004 vintages), and the current vintag (as of 2015) is 2004, with 2006 on its way. The Blanc de Blancs Vintage is produced using Chardonnay from the grand cru villages Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize, and Oger, and the current vintage (in 2015) is 2008. The blend for the Rosé Vintage is the same as for the white version with an addition of about 15% red Pinot Noir wine, i.e., 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay. The prestige Champagne is named Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, and carries the name of their most well-known customer and fan, who was also a major customer. The exact composition is kept a secret, but the cuvée is Pinot Noir-dominated and based on grand cru vineyards that were planted in Churchill’s lifetime. The current vintage (as of 2015) is the 2002. Pol Roger is alone among the most well-known houses to use a standard bottle also for their prestige cuvée. Pol Roger is still family owned and owns 92 ha of vineyards.
The house was founded in 1849 in Aÿ by Pol Roger (1830-1899), and moved in 1851 to Épernay. In 1900, the sons Maurice and Georges changed the family name to Pol-Roger. Winston Churchill had bought Pol Roger Champagnes from 1908, but became a big fan when in 1944 he became acquainted to Odette Pol-Roger, who was married to Jacques, son of Maurice. The Pol Roger drunk by Winston Churchill was the vintage version, with 1928 being his favorite vintage. Following the death of Churchill in 1965, the labels of bottles exported to the UK were given a black border of mourning, that was not lifted until 1990. The prestige cuvée of the house was created to honour Churchill, with 1975 being the first vintage (this vintage only in magnum), launched in 1984. The Pol Roger vintage rosé had been added to the range in the 1961 vintage, and somewhat later their vintage blanc de blancs. The sweeter non-vintage Rich was launched in 2001, and the drier Pure in 2008.
- De Venoge, a house today owned by Lanson-BCC. The prestige cuvée is called Louis XV and from the 2002 vintage it also exists in a rosé version. Just below this cuvée, there is the Grand Vin des Princes, which is currently (2015) not in distribution. Typical for De Venoge is that the prestige cuvées are sold in carafe-like bottles (transparent glass for Louis XV and coloured for Grand Vin des Princes) and sold with a high age. As of 2015, the most recently launched vintage of the white Louis XV is still the 1996. In late 2015, De Venoge will move to Maison Gallice, a posh building on Avenue de Champagne.
The house was founded by Henri-Marc de Venoge (1776-1860), who in 1825 started to do business in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and who founded his Champagne house in 1837. His son Joseph de Venoge (1814-1866) took over in 1845, and added the cuvée name Cordon Bleu in 1851 and Vin des Princes in 1858. Family members continued to lead the house until 1958. For a number of years, De Venoge was owned by the Compagnie de Navigation Mixte, originally a maritime shipping company that had turned into a highly “mixte” conglomerate. In 1996, Rémy Cointreau took over as owners (a few months after Mixte had been taken over by Paribas). In 1998, the house De Venoge, including 17 ha of vineyards and 100 ha of grape contracts, was bought LVMH, and ten days later sold on to Boizel Chanoine Champagne (BCC, later Lanson-BCC), but without vineyards or grape contracts. De Venoge used to have their own buildings on Avenue de Champagne, but has later shared a block with Boizel. In 2014, Lanson-BCC bought the impressive building on Avenue de Champagne that De Venoge will move in to in 2015. Maison Gallice (link to UMC’s description page, in French) was built in 1899 for the head of Perrier-Jouët, Marcel Gallice (1854-1930), and the building had long been state-owned.
Maison Gallice, to become the new home of De Venoge. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo Fab5669, 2014).
Other champagne houses/négociants
The producer status NM = négociant-manipulant means that purchased grapes can be included in the Champagnes. NM producers can be anything from small producers that supplement their own grapes with some that they buy in, to large Champagne houses that primarily rely on purchased grapes. ND = négociant-distributeur, which means that they at least partly sell Champagnes produced by someone else, but under their own name.
- A. Bergère (NM), their own Champagne production was started in 1949 by André Bergère. Their own vineyards are primarily located in Fèrebrianges, Etoges, and Congy, and the grapes used are 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, and 20% Pinot Meunier.
- Bauget-Jouette (NM), har 15 ha vingårdar i Hautvillers, Damery, Grauves, Mancy, Monthelon och Morangis med 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Meunier och 10% Pinot Noir.
- Georges Cartier (NM), runs their own night-open Champagne bar named Chez Georges.
- A. Desmoulins & Cie, a house created in 1908 by Albert Desmoulins.
- Charles Ellner (NM), uses 50 ha of vineyards (the number probably includes purchased grapes). The two vintage Champagnes, Prestige and Seduction, are both Chardonnay-dominated.
- Comtesse Lafond, belongs to a company group with its origin in Domaine de Ladoucette in the Loire Valley.
- Ernest Rapeneau, also E. Rapeneau, handles all vinfication for the Rapeneau group (that also includes Mansard, G. H. Martel, and Charles de Cazanove).
Ernest Rapeneau started his Champagne and wine business in 1901, in Hautvillers, but focussed on Champagne from 1927. The company is today led by Christophe Rapeneau, who started in the family business in 1983.
- Paul-Etienne Saint Germain (NM)
- V. Testulat (NM), a small house founded in 1862 that also has vineyards of their own. V is for Vincent.
Champagne houses that no longer exist or that have moved away from Épernay
- Baudry-Lebrun & Cie, a house founded in 1923 in Épernay by the Princess Baudry after she had fled Moscow following the Russian Revolution. In 1994, Baudry-Lebrun was bought by Lombard & Cie (see above). For a period, Baudry-Lebrun produced the Champagne Louis Barthélémy, while Chancel Père & Fils handled distribution. From the 2007 vintage, Jean-Barthélémy Chancel has handled the production of Louis Barthélémy directly, see below.
- Charles de Cazanove, a house today located in Reims, and a part of the Rapeneau group together with e.g. G.H. Martel.
The house was founded in 1811 by Charles Gabriel De Cazanove in Avize, and later moved to Épernay. In 1958, Martini & Rossi took over ownership from the de Cazanove family, and in 1983 Moët-Hennesy became owners. In 1985, Société Anonyme de Magenta-Epernay (S.A.M.E.) took over as owner, the company that later has become Lombard-Médot (see above). After the purchase, S.A.M.E. changed its name to Charles de Cazanove, and was introduced on the stock market in 1999 under the name SA Charles de Cazanove. In 2003, the brand Charles de Cazanove was sold to G.H. Martel in Reims, and the traded company changed name to SA Lombard-Médot. In 2004, the de Cazanove family bought back the house, which today has its activities in Reims.
- Louis Barthélémy (NM?), has a background in Baudry-Lebrun & Cie (see above), and is runby Jean-Barthélémy Chancel since the early 2000s. In 2011, the production moved from Épernay to Aÿ.
- V. Landel
Église Notre-Dame, one of two large churches in Épernay. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons (photo October Ends, 2012).
Producer status is indicated where known: RM = récoltant-manipulant, or grower-producers. RC = récoltant-coopérateur, growers that are cooperative members but sell Champagnes under their own name. All small producers with unknown producer status are placed under this heading.
- Patrick Boivin (RM, Facebook page), also written P. Boivin.
- Champion-Devaux (RM), a producer founded in 1954, produces only blanc de blanc from the Côte des Blancs.
- Collard-Picard (RM), a producer founded in 1996, but with a prehistory going back to 1889. The Collard side originates from the Vallée de la Marne and the Picard side from the Côte des Blancs, with vineyards in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger as the jewel in the crown. The top cuvée is called Cuvée des Archives.
- Dallancourt (RM), a producer founded in 1999 by Antoine and Virginie Lutun, but with a history from 1927 when the Juget Brunet family bought a small vineyard holding in Aÿ. Marie France Dallancourt (the mother of Virginie) entered into the picture in 1981. The vineyards are in Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Mutigny, and Fontaine-sur-Aÿ.
- Damien Hugo (RM)
- Delahaie (RM), has 3.8 ha of vineyards and is run by Jacques Brochet since 1990.
- Michel Gonet (RM), a producer founded in 1802 by Charles Gonet with a bit over 40 ha of vineyards in e.g. Avize, Oger, and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, further south in Sézannes and Vindey, and in Fravaux in the Bar-sur-Aubois. There are 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir in the vineyards. The vintage Champagne is a blanc de blancs.
- Gonet Sulcova (RM), a member of Vignerons Indépendants. Was earlier located in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, and in Épernay since 1985. Has 20 ha of vineyards with 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Oger in the Côte des Blancs, Montgueux (a village close to Troyes; they have a considerable holding there since 1958) and Loches-sur-Ource (in the Barséquanais).
- Proy Goulard, member of Vignerons Indépendants.
- Janisson-Baradon & Fils (RM), has 9 ha of vineyards on the hills close to Épernay. The company was founded in 1922.
- Didier Lefèvre (RM), has vineyards in Oger, on the slopes west of Epernay, and in Vindey. The vintage Champagne is a blanc de blancs.
- Fabrice Moreau (RC)
- Saint-Chamant (RM), member of Vignerons Indépendants.
Comment: in all probably, the list is not complete. Compiling a reasonably complete list of smaller Champagne producers in Épernay has turned out to be more difficult than for the villages.
- Coopérative Vinicole de Mancy is a cooperative founded in 1948 in Mancy, a few communes to the south of Épernay. The main offices are today on Avenue de Champagne inside Épernay. The cooperative has 190 members with 113 ha of vineyards, with a high proportion of Chardonnay. The cooperative also owns 7.5 ha of vineyards in Saint-Agnan (in the Terroir de Condé area, further to the west in the Vallée de la Marne). The Champagnes are sold under the brand:
April 12, 1911, army units in Épernay to keep order following the Champagne riots when several Champagne houses were pillaged by disaffected wine-growers. Picture linked from Wikimedia Commons.
© Tomas Eriksson 2015