Emmanuel Brochet's wine was one of the 'A-ha' moments for me several years ago. From winning the top award in Sommelier Association of Singapore previously, to now world wide-acclaim, the shy and down to earth Emmanuel is riding high at towards the top of the Grower Champagne scene. His wines are exuberant, full of vigour and vitality. The Le Mont Benoit is a superb blend of the 3 classic french Champagne grapes while his haut meunier and haut chardonnay are almost of unicorn status with their rarity and quality. Brochet only releases wines when he feels that it's ready to drink, (vintage champages are not released sequentially).
Villers-aux-Noeuds, 90% vineyards classified as premier Cru, lies in a rather isolated area just south of the city of Reims, on the other side of the N51 from the heart of the Montagne de Reims. Despite its premier cru status, it’s likely that this village would be consigned to obscurity if it weren’t for Emmanuel Brochet. While his family has owned vines for generations, they rented them out rather than tending the vineyards themselves, and Brochet (pictured) only began working a portion of his family’s holdings in 1997, bottling his first wine in 2002.
Today he farms 2.5 hectares of vines, all located in a single parcel within the lieu-dit of Le Mont Benoit, which lies on Cretaceous-era chalk under about 40 centimeters of chalky-clay topsoil. The parcel is planted with all three major varieties (in the proportion of 37 percent meunier, 30 percent chardonnay and 23 percent pinot noir), and the oldest vines date from 1962.
Since 2005, all of Brochet's fermentations have been in barrel. So much so that he wanted to use indigenous yeast for fermentation, he couldn't do so until 2013. A big part of the problem, he says, was that he had only been in his cellar for a short time—the building is a converted farmhouse, with no history of wine production, and so the environment wasn't stable enough yet for native yeasts. Since 2013, though, he has been able to ferment exclusively with indigenous yeasts, and he has even been successful at selecting native yeasts from his estate to use for the prise de mousse.
Brochet's wines rest on their fermentation lees until their first racking in January, then they are left on the fine lees until bottling in July, without fining or filtering. The wines destined for the non-vintage Le Mont Benoit mostly go through malolactic, depending on the particular year, while portions of the coeur de cuvée from old vines of chardonnay and meunier have their malos blocked, and are reserved for vintage wines. Brochet prefers concentrated must (MCR) for dosage rather than sugar, “in order to be as neutral as possible,”
" Brochet’s champagnes are sleek and finely-poised, showing a vinosity and ripeness derived from viticulture while maintaining a delicate freshness and balanced weight. They are marked by a distinctive minerality, one influenced by chalk yet somehow broader and earthier, more akin to the minerality found in the wines of Jérôme Prévost or Aubry to the west, or even Chartogne-Taillet to the north, rather than the overtly incisive chalkiness of the eastern Montagne de Reims. "
The ever classic and popular Le Mont Benoit has only indigenous yeast used. The wine is made with majority from the 2016 vintage with the balance from reserve wines. 30% Pinot meunier 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. 11 months on lees, and 30 months in bottle. South-eastern exposure with silty/clay limestone terroir.
A very rare release in the Ratafia, Emmanuel only let us taste this at his domaine. He's kindly allocated us a tiny allocation of this distilled drink from the remainders of the Pinot Muenier/Noir/Chardonnay grapes. A perfect sweet-ish wine to end a great wine session!