Today, on the ninth annual Champagne Day, with wine lovers around the globe raising a glass to this quintessential wine of celebration, I’m remembering my visit with Caroline Henry, author of Terroir Champagne: the luxury of sustainable, organic and biodynamic cuvees, a few weeks ago … and my stop in Epernay at Elodie D.
“A day dedicated to Champagne—what could be better?” says Jennifer Hall, Director of the Champagne Bureau, USA. “Champagne Day is the perfect occasion for everyone around the world to open a bottle and raise a glass to the one-of-a-kind sparkling wine that only comes from Champagne, France.”
We celebrate Champagne Day on the third Friday of the month of October; I’ve celebrated it many times on this blog with posts like these:
- Champagne Day 2011 and here when I organized an event at the Jolly Oyster to raise money for state parks
- Champagne Day 2012
- Champagne Day 2013
- Champagne Day 2014 with Ruinart
- Champagne Day 2015 with Jacquart; read more about Jacquart’s winemaker here
- Champagne Day 2016 when I shared these fun facts about Champagne .
- Champagne Day 2017 when I wrote about Dom Perignon
Consumers across the U.S. will have many opportunities to enjoy Champagne today with a host of Champagne Day-only events at select retail stores, restaurants, bars and other spontaneous celebrations. The Champagne Bureau, USA, is also generating social media interest for this worldwide celebration by encouraging wine lovers to share their thoughts about this exceptional wine by using the hashtag #ChampagneDay.
To find events, visit the official Champagne Day event page: http://bit.ly/2KPjFhu For more information about #ChampagneDay or the worldwide effort to protect the Champagne name, please visit www.champagne.us or Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
In my interview with Caroline Henry, we focused on biodynamic and organic wines of Champagne as well as grower Champagne, two subjects that I am very keen to learn more about. I was in the region just before harvest when the vines were heavy with fruit.
In fact, harvest began August 20, right after I left: “This is the fifth time in the past 15 years that the harvest has begun in August, due to an unusually wet winter and warm spring. Global warming is a reality that Champagne growers and houses increasingly must take into account,” says the Champagne Bureau.
With “precocity, quality, volume… the grape harvest is definitely out of the ordinary.”
With exceptional conditions, at harvest, the Champagne Bureaus reports “there were plenty of healthy bunches, very rich in sugar and aromas. Harvesting, necessarily by hand, took place unhurriedly under summery skies although the early morning temperatures were sometimes quite low (0°C in Reims on 26th August).
This magnificent harvest will allow wine-growers and houses to rebuild their reserve (wines put aside in good years), which will enable them to face the possible vagaries of the climate in the future.”
Perhaps with better harvests, Champagne will increase their organic acreage:
A big reason why it’s hard to find certified organic champagne?
Certified organic cuvees make up less than 1% of the total production of Champagne.
Today, people are too afraid to take the risks they see as inherent, and they are convinced that they may lose choices in the vineyard and in the winery.
If you’re in England and you’re a fan of Champagne, you owe it to yourself to get to “The First Official Organic Champagne tasting in London.” Organized by the Association des Champagnes Biologiques (ACB), eighteen producers will be pouring their organic bubbles at a Consumer tasting 6-8pm on Monday Oct. 29. Register at Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.fr/o/association-des-champagnes-biologiques-9786199204
You should also consider participating in a guided casting on “Terroirs and Varieties” (£25) with Caroline Henry, author of Terroir Champagne: the luxury of sustainable, organic and biodynamic cuvees. The event is being held atPelham’s, Lords Cricket Club., St John’s Wood, St John’s Wood Rd, London NW8 8QN, UK.
While I was in Epernay, I was most interested in three topics: Grower, Biodynamic, and Organic Champagne. After learning from Caroline how polluted the water of Champagne is, I wanted to seek out wineries that are NOT contributing to the problem and were growing their own grapes.
How can you tell what’s what? Check the label!
- RM: grown then made by the winery
- RC: grown then a cooperative made the wine for them
- NM: grapes bought then made by the winery
- DEMETER: certified biodynamic
By chance, I stumbled upon Elodie D. My son and I were hungry, and I was drawn in by the colorful, attractive facade at Elodie — and a desire to sit on the patio under an umbrella and enjoy the day.
But it turned out, Elodie D. is not a restaurant but a wine bar with limited menu choices.
We were going to move on, when I learned that Elodie is a grower champagne — and that four generations of women have been making it! Now that got my attention because that was the August theme for the #Winopholes (read our posts here) and when Elodie’s husband offered to make my son a cheese sandwich, I jumped at the chance to stay and taste. And I got even more lucky: Elodie herself stopped by and sat with me for an interview!
While Elodie D. is not certified organic, they are certified HVE; this means they are certified as having “high environmental values” in their grape growing and winemaking practices. According to a government site, “HEV covers four key areas: biodiversity conservation, plant protection strategy, management of fertiliser use and management of water.”
Elodie as a grower-maker does as much as she can as naturally and sustainably as she can, following many organic and biodynamic practices, including no chemical use — and they use horses to work their fields!
“When we are behind the horse, it is very interesting to see the soil,” says Elodie.
Elodie’s family has been growing grapes since 1692, but for the past 100 years — and for four generations — it’s been women making the wine because wars took the men away and only daughters were born in the families.
“I was always with my mother,” says Elodie. “I knew I wanted to make champagne in the vineyard.”
In 1997, Elodie started making the wine; she was only 20. Twenty one years and four children later, she still making the wine. In 2014 she changed the name to Elodie D to reflect her vision, and last year, in July 2017, they opened a chic tasting room with a front patio and a rental upstairs located on the main street in Epernay in a property that she purchased 20 years ago. (So if you need a place to stay in Epernay, this apartment would be fabulously located; I was quoted two night minimum and 280 euros a night. Here it is on Trip Advisor.)
Using only their own grapes, they make about 140k bottles or about 12,000 cases — a pretty small operation which explains why you’re not finding this wine in your local wine market. Elodie plans to increase production and distribution so the wine can be exported to the US. If you can find the wine in the US, it starts at around $50.
After my interview with Elodie, I tasted through six wines paired with a charcuterie platter with her husband, Frabia. If I hadn’t been traveling by backpack, I would have certainly picked up a bottle! Here’s a few quick notes.
Champagne Elodie D Tradition SRP 25 euros
Nose: Florals and baking spice
Palate: lemon curd danish
Champagne Elodie D Blanc de Blanc SRP 30 euros
Nose: Fresh, lively fruit
Palate: Tart white plums
Champagne Elodie D Saignee Rose of Pinot Noir
Nose: More cherry than strawberry
Palate: Lovely long raspberry finish
Champagne Elodie D Belle Ame
Nose: Vanilla, baking spice, carnations
Palate: Tart stone fruit, plums
Champagne Elodie D 2007 100% Pinot Noir Resurgence
Nose: honeysuckle, roses
Champagne Elodie D Demi-Sec
lovely dessert wine…
If you live in NYC or LA, or have a very well stocked wine shop nearby, keep an eye out! In the meantime, this Moet & Chondon rose is pretty tasty and easy to find…
Want to learn more about Champagne and what should you pair with your celebration today and this holiday season?
To a Winophile, Champagne is…
…crafted uniquely, from start to finish, as Lynn from Savor the Harvest reveals in her post, French #Winophiles Explore Champagne From Beginning to Bubbly Finish.
…dynamic and constantly refreshed, as Jane from Always Ravenous examines in her story, The Evolving Culture of Champagne .
…always enchanting, unfailingly attractive. Lauren from The Swirling Dervish writes about The Enduring Allure of Champagne.
…consistent and timelessly refined. Camilla from Culinary Adventures of Camilla shares a special perspective in her piece, Toasting Seventeen Years with Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut Champagne.
…food-friendly, approachable and versatile, as we’ll learn from Jeff at FoodWineClick! in his story Everyday Celebration with Champagne and Curried Shrimp Salad.
…affordable and surprisingly accessible, revealed as Martin from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog answers the question Under $30 Vintage Champagne? Oui!
…worth fighting for, as Jill from l’Occasion learned from the story of Bernard de Nonancourt of Laurent-Perrier: Champagne Résistance Fighter.