A Toast with Leclerc Briant and an Invitation To Unexpected Pleasures in Champagne #Winophiles

Bouzy Rouge from Gaston Collard. It’s a thing– an unexpected pleasure, a red wine in Champagne!

Red still wine? In Champagne?

During my visits to Champagne just before harvest in 2018 and at the end of harvest in 2019, I tasted many unexpected pleasures including Gaston Collard’s biodynamic red wine made from Bouzy pinot noir in the barrel and the bottle.

Yes, red wine from Bouzy is a thing– a Champagne thing — and it’s called Coteaux Champenois. What an unexpected pleasure!

Because when we think about wine from Champagne, usually it’s the big sparkling wine houses that come to mind– the labels we see on a regular basis in the grocery store like Moet & Chandon, G. H. Mumm, Laurent Perrier, Bollinger, Veuve Cliquot, Taittinger, Piper-Heidsieck, Nicolas Feuillatte.

Just like when we pop open a bottle of Coca-Cola we expect a specific flavor, we expect these big brands, and their flagship labels, to have a certain, consistent, standard profile which they achieve from their proprietary dosage which is added before bottling.

All roads lead to Champagne! Also– these cookies– biscuits of Reims–another unexpected pleasure.

But Champagne is full of unexpected pleasures!

These include biodynamic wines like Vincent Charlot (read more here) and Leclerc Briant (discussed below) and organic wines too that express the terroir and the vintage, wines full of distinct personalities, wines with little or no added sugar, even red and white still wines like they are allowed to do in Bouzy!

So let’s virtually visit today in advance of the June #Winophiles exploration of unexpected pleasures in Champagne along with some picnic pairings!

Above are photos from our visit to Gaston Collard in Bouzy. We tasted through the wines and visited the cellar where we tasted the Bouzy rouge from the barrel.

While I would expect to find fine dining, and amazing local specialities at a small market, we were unexpectedly pleased to find the grocery stores offer so much more organic produce and such a wide range of amazing cheeses and meats!

a display of pate at the grocery store

Another “unexpected pleasure” of champagne? It’s not just for toasting!

Many are surprised to discover how well it pairs with food! The Champagne Bureau has lots of ideas here for brunch, lunch, happy hour or dinner all year round, and we’ve written about it as well, for example here are three exceptional biodynamic wines paired with a seafood lasagna plus an in-depth interview with award winning author and Champagne expert Caroline Henry.

award winning author and champagne expert Caroline Henry; photo courtesy of the author — I wish I could have been there!!

In June, you are invited to join the French #Winophiles and virtually visit Champagne to explore and discover your own unexpected pleasures.  Share your finds with a blog post or by participating in our monthly twitter chat at 8am Pacific Saturday June 20, 2020.

This should give you plenty of time to find your own unexpected pleasures in Champagne– be it a wine that’s: biodynamic, organic, Brut Nature (low or no added dosage), a grower-maker wine, a wine made by one of the women of Champagne, a vintage wine, or even better, a still red or white wine! Please share with us what food you enjoyed with your wine from Champagne.

To participate in the June Winophiles “Unexpected Pleasures in Champagne” edition:

  • Discover an “unexpected pleasure” in Champagne and discuss what makes this wine from Champagne an unexpected pleasure, preferably paired in an expected or unexpected way.
  • By 8pm Tuesday June 16, if you plan to write a blog post and  want to be included in the round up,  please share your title in the comments, in the relevant #Winophiles Facebook thread, or by sending me an email to gwendolynalleyATyahooDOTcom. I also need your blog’s URL and your twitter handle.
  • Check the preview post published on June 17 or 18 for correctness and content– I will be sharing more about the unexpected pleasures of Champagne there.
  • Between 8am Friday June 19 and 8am Saturday June 20, publish your post and include the draft html of other participants in your post which can be provided and update as soon as it is available Saturday morning.
  • Final posts MUST include the hashtag #Winophiles.
  • Participate in the twitter chat which takes place at 8am Pacific time; questions will be included in the preview for reference.
  • Visit and comment on participant’s blog posts.
  • Have fun!

To whet your palate, we have picnic pairing ideas from the Champagne Bureau and tasting notes for a biodynamic wine from Leclerc Briant– which was indeed an unexpected pleasure when my teen and I stumbled upon the tasting room while exploring Epernay.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do a tasting. While it was too windy for our planned fixed balloon experience, there’s plenty to do in Epernay even if you are on foot like we were!

Unexpected Pleasures in Epernay

wines with the distinct biodynamic Demeter insignia

I did snap a few bottle shots to remember my visit by and I recently received a sample from Winebow to share with you.

What an unexpected pleasure to finally taste wine from this biodynamic Champagne house!

Leclerc Briant Champagne Brut Réserve NV, Epernay SRP $66
sample from Winebow for my review consideration

Lucien Leclerc began farming grapes in Cumeires in 1872. His grandson Bertrand and wife Jacqueline Briant founded the house in the 1950s, with a commitment to avoiding  herbicides and chemicals so it could be said Leclerc Briant adopted organic practices in the 1960s.

Under the leadership of his son Pascal, in 1994 they began converting vineyards to biodynamics. When Pascal had a fatal accident in 2010, they sold vineyards to Roederer, but an American couple purchased the brand, buildings, and a small vineyard. They added more and made it biodynamic.

Today all of their vineyards are certified as organic and biodynamic, with every wine released on the market certified as vegan and bottled 100% unfiltered and unfined. Winemaker Hervé Jestin is a respected expert in biodynamic farming.

In Caroline Henry’s book, Terroir Champagne, she quotes Pascal’s daughter Segolene:

“In between the vines grew wild flowers, and they were teeming with life! Many people thought they were a disgrace compared to the barren vineyards which were the standard. My father used to laugh it off. For him biodynamic farming was an extension of our way of living. He had a great respect for nature and believed we all had to strive to live in harmony with the universe.”

To complete the picture, they built a new ecological and Feng shui winery for energy flow.

Foil has red on the inside, very classy!

Color: Platinum gold in color, fine pelage, generous and persistent tiny bubbles

Nose: Fresh out of the oven almond croissant with a lovely richness on the nose. Very faint apricot for fruit, stone fruit blossom, a hint of caramel. Lovely.

Palate:  Beautiful bubbles on the palate, foamy and fun, quite gentle. Green apple and lemon with nice acidity. The wine presents a taste of the soil rather than the minerals in the soil with a long lasting finish of graphite or gun metal, flint.

Palate: Not unexpectedly, the wine is fabulous with our caviar appetizer, a little cream fraiche, a little egg white, a  little egg yolk, and caviar on top. For a creamy cheese we had a florette from fromager d’affinois which brought out a rich sweetness in the wine; it was also great with Champignon Brie. Fantastic with a fresh green salad with dijon vingrette and very enjoyable with chicken marsala bringing out a lovely lemony quality in the wine.

Want to know whether a wine you are drinking is certified biodynamic? Check the label or on the Demeter or Biodyvin websites to see if it is one of the 28 certified producers. The appendix of Caroline’s book also lists them.

To order Caroline’s book Terroir Champagne: the Luxury of Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic Cuvees, go to  Terroirchampagne.com, where she will confirm your order and ask if you want it dedicated; all 3000 books are signed and numbered and are printed on recycled paper.

You can also find Caroline on the web at:

With the current COVID-19 crisis requiring social distancing, a picnic with Champagne could be a wonderful solution. Here are some Champagne and picnic pairing suggestions from the Champagne Bureau:

  • For the appetizer, Brie or other creamy cheese pairs well with a non-vintage Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs
  • For the main course, fried chicken pairs well with a light Champagne Rosé from a recent vintage or beef burgers pair well with a well-rounded Champagne Brut made from all three grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier)
  • For dessert, apple pie pairs well with Champagne Extra Brut or Brut Nature, which  have little to no dosage added.

Want to learn more about Champagne ahead of that picnic? Check out this official Champagne online course launched by the Comité Champagne, an organization that represents the 16,100 growers and 360 houses in Champagne.

Cheers to unexpected pleasures!

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