- Brut Tradition
- Cuvée Dentelles et Crinolines
Champagne Pierre Brigandat
Bertrand Brigandat has known all along that he has what it takes to make great domain-bottled Champagne. It has taken the rest of the world a long time to look, and even longer to see what can be done here at the southern extremities of the Champagne region. But eyes are wide open these days, and young producers like Bertrand are in the forefront of a small-production revolution.
Bertrand aimed high right from the moment he took over the reins of his parents’ domain in 1993. Building a new winery was a necessary gamble. He needed these tools to achieve the potential that he knew his vineyards had always shown. It was only then that he could chisel the style that has brought him so much recent attention.
His Champagnes taste like wine. That may sound strange to say, but so much big production Champagne tastes of toast and yeast and anything but wine. But this new generation of Champagne makers believes that if you start with a good wine, the resulting Champagne should and will taste like wine. And for Bertrand, his specialty is Pinot Noir, ‘blanc de noir’ as they call it, with just enough Chardonnay in some ‘cuvees’ to give a distinctive edge.
The vineyards and winery of the Brigandat family are situated in the village of Channes in the department of the Aube, six miles from Les Riceys. In 1963, Pierre and Elyette Brigandat planted their first vines. There were few vineyards in Channes at the time, as replanting after the phylloxera epidemic took several generations, out there in the hinterlands. Until 1976, they sold their production to large ‘negociant’ houses. But in that year, for the first time, they held back a small part of the harvest. Their first bottles of Champagne under the name of the domain were released in 1981.
Channes is the southernmost village in the Champagne appellation zone, in the Barrois, a region geologically ‘kimmeridgian’, Champagne’s distinctive chalky limestone and clay soil. In Channes, only the upper slopes are classed, giving wines from Channes a distinctive character. This also ensures regular and safe harvests, as springtime frosts nearly always hit the valley floor, missing the upper slopes. The main vineyard area is one contiguous slope of 65 hectares (156 acres), with the majority of the plantation in Pinot Noir (97%) and the rest in Chardonnay. The Brigandats exploit 7 ha (nearly 17 acres) at present.
Principles and Vinification
Bertrand Brigandat graduated from the Avise BTS in 1993 with a special ‘viti-oeno’ degree. From the vine to the press to the hands-on commercial operation, the entire domain is family run and autonomous. Today they sell about 15% of their grape harvest to the negociant house Laurent Perrier. The rest of the harvest goes into the elaboration of the wines of the domain. Present production is about 65000 bottles per year.
The Brut Tradition is an ‘assemblage’ of 100% Pinot Noir. Of that, 25% is from the Cuvee Reserve, wine from previous vintages set aside for blending purposes. They prefer to call the reserve wine ‘cuvee’ because they conserve only the best part of the juice for the production of the domain wines. The Champagne Brut Tradition is raised 18 months in the family cellars.
Cuvee Dentelles et Crinolines is a marriage of the best vines in both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (30% Chardonnay and 70% Pinot Noir). This is a small production wine, and is Bertrand’s show piece for the potential of Champagne in Channes.
Millésime is the domain’s vintage Champagne, a 100% Pinot Noir, fruit from a single harvest. These are the old vines (vieilles vignes) of the domain, and thus bring balance and elegance to a vintage Champagne noted for its power and good acidity. A classic ‘Blanc de Noir’.