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Current Trends in Champagne according to Jancis Robinson at the Modena Champagne Experience

Last 13 and 14th of October, Italy’s most important event dedicated to Champagne took place in the city of Modena. With two days of tastings, unique masterclasses and more than 125 Maisons, the third edition of Modena Champagne Experience was definitely a great opportunity to taste the last releases, meet the producers, discover some hidden gems and deepen in many interesting topics during the Masterclasses guided by renowned experts. 

Among all the Masterclasses I must highlight the one with Jancis Robinson, the world’s most influential wine writer. The Masterclass was about The Current Trends in Champagne. She talked about the classicism of a more than centenary method that leaves room for different interpretative ways, which well represent the personality of each particular Maison or  small vigneron. In fact, there are producers who have embraced an organic approach, those who aim for lower dosages, those who give particular importance to oak aging and those who rest for long periods on lees. However, it is a true mosaique, rich in nuances, harmonies and contrasts. That’s why we can affirm that a true revolution in production trends is currently taking place in Champagne.

The Masterclass consisted in eight Champagnes made with different approaches, styles and philosophies:

  1. Champagne Bruno Paillard, Cuvée 72
    A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay and 22% Pinot Meunier 
    Bruno Paillard’s Cuvee 72 is named after the aging period of 36 months on the lees and 36 months in bottle. This Champagne expresses Bruno Paillard’s philosophy of second maturation after digorgement. In fact, there are many effects on the wine as a result of disgorgement. According to the producer’s philosophy at the moment of disgorgement, the wine undergoes a sort of trauma, as would a patient who undergoes a medical operation. In fact, in the language of cellar workers, “to disgorge” is expressed by using the word “to operate”. Consequently, after disgorgement the wine needs a period of convalescence just as with a surgical operation, and this convalescence should be longer for an older person than for a younger one, according to the producer’s theory. That’s why they’ve decided to release this wine 3 years after degorgement. And it is the combination of this micro-oxidation and micro-maderisation what characterises the evolution of the wine after disgorgement and the style of this particular Champagne.
  2. Champagne Bollinger, R.D. 2004 
    A blend of 66% Pinot Noir and  34% Chardonnay
    While the first wine of the tasting was characterized by a further aging of 36 months after disgorgement, we can say Bollinger’s R.D. is made with an opposite method. In fact, Bollinger R.D. is released only a few months after it is disgorged in order to express the extraordinary freshness of a recently disgorged wine and the complex aromas of an old vintage at the same time. This recent disgorgement is able to draw special attention to the remarkable freshness of the wine, which characterizes the unmistakable style of Bollinger’s R.D.
  3. Champagne Marguet, Shaman 15 Extra Brut
    A blend of 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay
    One of the biggest trends in the wine world in recent years has been the increase in producers adopting organic and biodynamic practices, and Champagne is not an exception. Benoit is considered one of the most exciting producers being certified organic and biodynamic. He has one of the few vineyards to plough only using 2 horses. And he has a natural approach to fermentation using only indigenous yeasts, no added sulphites and small 225 litre oak barriques for fermentation. This non-vintage Champagne is based on the 2015 vintage, hence the ’15’ in the name.
  4. Champagne Jacquesson, Avize Champ Cain Brut 2008
    100% Chardonnay grapes
    In spite of having a long history that dates back to the 18th century, this Maison has become a revolutionary under the guidance of the last generation of the family who took over the business in the 1980’s. Since then, the house has adopted a philosophy based on the terroir. That’s why they’ve introduced their terroir-based cuvées, an unprecedented change for a traditional Maison. This is one of the four lieux-dits which expresses the full potential of this particular lieux-dits located in the Grand Cru village of Avize. It is made exclusively in exceptional vintages such as it was the legendary 2008. It is aged on the lees for a long period of 9 years followed by a manual disgorgement. 
  5. Champagne de Venoge, Princes Blanc de Noir
    100% Pinot Noir
    This cuvée was made for the first time in 1850 and it was created exclusively for the Princes of Orange. At the time, the Royal Family of Holland used a decanter to serve Champagne in order to remove any sediment. In 1961, the owner of de Venoge decided to use a decanter shape to produce their special bottle, a bottle never seen before. The style of the Maison is characterized by a distinctive vinosity and freshness. They age the wines for at least 3 years and use a low dosage.
  6. Champagne Encry, Zero Dosage
    100% Chardonnay 
    Perhaps one of the most popular trends in Champagne is the trend of a lower dosage. In fact, more and more Champagne producers are choosing to reduce the dosage and more and more consumers are looking for drier styles such as extra brut and zero dosage. And that’s the case of Champagne Encry Zero Dosage with no added sugar. Moreover, this Champagne is made by using only steel during fermentation and no oak at all.
  7. Champagne Palmer & Co, Amazone de Palmer
    A blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir 
    The Maison’s philosophy is certainly based on time. In fact, their wines remain in contact with the lees for years adding richness and aromatic complexity to the wine. Amazone de Palmer is a homage to the great potential of reserve wines, it is created from a selection of the best wines produced by the Maison in the best vintages. This Champagne is aged in their cellars for as long as 15 years! Just imagine the incredible complexity that this wine can reach.
  8. Champagne Apollonis, Authentic Meunier
    100% Pinot Meunier
    Michel practices the art of génodique playing music in the vineyard in order to improve the health of the vines. The philosophy of this producer is in fact based on the fact that certain tones can keep diseases away from the vines. So not only in the vineyards, but also in their  cellars, wine is aged by the rhythm of Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi and Brahms. What about pairing this Champagne to classical music?

In conclusion, Modena Champagne Experience and in particular this Masterclass guided by Jancis Robinson, was a very enriching experience and a great opportunity to study the different interpretations that are actually dominating the viticulture and winemaking scene of Champagne. As with any other product, there will always be new trends guided by the market’s tastes and preferences. And even if most Champagnes are made with the same three grape varieties and the same Champenoise method.. The particular terroir where the grapes grow, the style of the cellar master, the will to experiment of a new generation, a savoir-faire passed from generation to generation, or a winemaking philosophy, all these elements make every Champagne different, unique and capable of expressing an entire territory and a particular style.

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