Maude’s Journey through Champagne
From Paris, the team arrived in Reins on Victory Day, a holiday commemorating Charles de Gaulle’s announcement of the end of World War II and French liberation. Our first stop was Champagne Charles Mignon, a small biodynamic winery located outside of Epernay whose wines have won gold medals in various global wine competitions. The vineyard has plots of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes, and blends still wines with Pinot Noir, making very little sparking champagne. An exploration of the region’s capital enticed the team’s imagination, envisioning dishes sparked by visits to the local pastry shops, boulangeries, and butchers.
Our second day of tastings found us visiting old vines and a trip to an iconic house. Pierre Gimonnet & Fils is helmed by Didier Gimonnet, a second-generation grower, working exclusively with Chardonnay. Their champagnes are characterized by “acupuncturally tonic qualities with lingering, salty purity.” The team next toured Dom Perignon, where vintage champagne produced by Moet & Chandon, signifies the romance and timelessness of the wine. With a sense of history and pride, the team lunched in a room once occupied by the likes of Napolean, Marie Antoinette, Russian kings, and presidents.
The eponymous Benedictine monk pioneered winemaking techniques, enhancing tendencies of wines to retain natural sugars and producing clear wines from black grapes. He introduced corks to bottles and worked to strengthen bottles to withstand the pressure created by fermenting bubbles. Expect vintage wines of the house’s composition of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, which change in proportions with every vintage, as part of the Grand Pairing wine offering.
The day wound down at Champagne Roger Coulon, where eighth generation winemakers, Eric and Isabelle Coulon, use indigenous yeasts to ferment wines and where the family has been growing grapes since the early nineteenth century. A favorite, three-hour dinner of charcuterie, cheese, preserved & canned vegetables, and precious wines at Au Bon Manger have inspired the middle of the meal communal course of the Champagne menu.
The Larmandier-Bernier estate is on the terroirs of the Cote des Blancs. Situated on Campanian chalk, an exceptional soil element for Chardonnay, the team started their penultimate day in the region. Aged in oak barrels, the winery has been practicing biodynamic viticulture since 1990. A trip to Ruinart, the first established house of Champagne of which Thomas Jefferson is said to have ordered a case, uses 100% Chardonnay grapes. Their crayeres, or chalk caves, are legendary for sixth-generation owner, Andre Ruinart, inviting neighbors safe shelter during Work War I. UNESCO has named the region’s crayeres a World Heritage Site, citing the region’s “underground heritage” of winemaking.
A Saturday morning trip to stalls of the historic Boulingrin Covered Market was followed by a tasting at La Rogerie, where the evolution of champagne from a heavy, sugary wine to a modern, citrus-driven wine with minerality is made evident by Justine Boxler and Francois Petit.
The young duo come from winemaking families in Alsace and Champagne. Together, they are producing a modest eight barrels a year, making their wine desired and coveted. A drive to Paris and flight back to Los Angeles brings the team full circle, where they’ll recreate their experience to share with guests to ring in Maude’s fifth year on South Beverly.