The Maverick from Montagne
His son Milovan, a younger brother to Sacha-Louis (6), was born on 26 September, whilst the harvest was in full flow. 'It was excellent' delights Emmanuel Brochet, happy to have been able to welcome his youngest to the world and the grapes to the winery at the same time. Dressed in a tight-fitting V-neck, jeans and wellington boots, he cuts a svelte figure with a broad smile and tousled hair, bursting with life and ideas. His labels change every year as do the range of wines. His golden rules 'do what you gives you pleasure and always look to the future'.
Born in 1972, he is proud to represent the first generation of viticulturalists in his family. His father was a farmer whose holdings included 2.5ha of vines which were leased to a tenant farmer in 'métayage' (whereby rent is paid with grapes or wine). Emmanuel fought long and hard to regain the right to farm them, but as vines are not easily surrendered in Champagne, he took to selling tractors until the lease expired in 1997.
By the time his first vintage was released in 1998, he had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve: to produce wines in his own style, loyal to their terroirs, free from constraints and without over-complicating things "I do things for pleasure not out of obligation” he says. His single block of vines, grafted amongst the ceps, within the 30ha of Commune of Gueux, are organically certified, right up to labelling. "I love plants. As a child I used to garden with my grand-mother and help my father plough” He lives in the heart of a small village in Montagne de Reims in his grandparents' original farmhouse, which he is gradually renovating. The barn, now transformed into a cellar, houses around fifty barrels, several tanks and the odd painting dotted around, the office is a happy mishmash of furniture, a piano, buggies, bottles...”we sleep above the barrels” explains the young father.
The reserve wines are stored in tank under floating cap "topped up annually with up to 20% of wine from the latest vintage”. He uses only wild yeasts, to achieve optimum balance and quality in his wines: selling off a proportion of the ‘vins clairs' to a négociant and only holding on to stock at the winery when the vintage merits.
We tasted in the old stable, on a plastic tablecloth amidst wafting scents of paella. ‘Le Mont Benoit' (50% Pinot Meunier with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay making up the balance) is sourced from his single plot and blended from two vintages, the majority 2007 with a proportion of 2006. Aged on lees in oak for eleven months it undergoes neither fining nor filtration and only a single sulphur addition, made at bottling. With finely tapered bubbles and linear structure, it has both personality and poise; just like its creator.