Vignerons du Terroir: A Unique Journey through the World of Vigneron Champagnes

Let me take you through the trends in Champagne, wine and food pairing, and buying and storing Champagne. All thanks to a visit to Vignerons du Terroir, the champagne tasting event of 2023, organized by Jaqueline Smit (Dis Donc Champagne), Jasper Tasseron (Champagne Moutardier Nederland), and Manon de Boer (Toost aan Tafel).

Introduction to the event

On Sunday, October 1st, the third edition of Vignerons du Terroir took place, the champagne tasting event of 2023 where you could taste the finest products from small Champagne houses. The event was held at Gasthuis Leeuwenbergh, in the heart of Utrecht. During this event, I discovered the power of vignerons, the true winemakers, and tasted exquisite high-quality champagnes from small Champagne houses. A select group of wine importers, with a great love for small wine families, presented their finest vigneron champagnes on this day. There were over 100 champagnes and still wines from the Champagne region, masterclasses by champagne expert Anja Vondenhoff, and delicious stands with ham, cheese, chocolate, and wine products.

photo by Manon de Boer at Vignerons du Terroir 2023

What are vigneron champagnes

Vigneron champagnes are champagnes produced by individual winegrowers, as opposed to the large champagne houses known for their mass production. These smaller winegrowers use their expertise and passion to craft wines in an artisanal manner, resulting in unique flavors and styles. From growing the grapes to making the champagne, often done by collaborating families, they focus on quality and attention to detail, turning each bottle into a true work of art.

Vigneron champagnes tell the story of dedicated winegrowers and their connection to the land, the grapes, and of course, the terroir. With every sip, you can taste the authenticity and craftsmanship that has been poured into each bottle. This allows you to truly enjoy the diversity and surprising nuances that these wines offer.

Some highlights during the tasting

You could taste more than 100 champagnes, while I only managed to taste about 40. Here are some of my highlights.

Tasted at Bubbelbroeders | http://www.bubbelbroeders.nl

Champagne René Rutat | Blanc de Blancs Millésime 2019 (€36.95) – Fresh and wild in taste, with beautiful soft and special flavors. Lots of brioche, apple, and pear with medium acidity.
Champagne Michel Rutat | Lignum Millésime 2019 (€39.95) – Fresh and pleasantly dry, with hints of coconut, vanilla, and a lot of fine tension, very special.
Champagne Paul Sugot | Grand Cru Vieilles Vignes (€46.95) – This was the best of a trio from Paul Sugot that I tasted. It has a nice full flavor without too much woody notes. The mousse is beautifully refined, with vanilla and brioche. It is fruity and spicy, in perfect harmony.

Tasted at Dis Donc | http://www.disdonc.nl

Marie Copinet | Blanc de Blancs Côte de Sézanne (€90 Magnum) – Deliciously soft, pure, fresh, and slightly wild, with beautiful notes of pear and apple and medium acidity.
Solemme | Plénitude de Solemme (€45) – Blissfully fresh, creamy with wild peach and an energetic taste.
Henri Blin | Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut (€34.50) – Super elegant, minerally, with refined acidity and a full finish.
R. Pouillon | Grande Vallée Extra Brut (€54) – Fresh, a bit spicy and herbaceous, with notes of sage and ripe pear, full-bodied and very special.

Tasted at Halfes | http://www.halfes.nl

Jean Baillette Prudhomme | Brut Réserve (€17.99 – 37.5cl) – A very fine mousse, soft and perfect as an aperitif. It has notes of pear, subtle yeast, and a spicy finish.
Jean Baillette Prudhomme | Millésimé 2012 – An amazing champagne that provides a lot of energy. It is crisp and powerful, with a delightful combination of fruit, spices, brioche, yeast, and fine mousse.

Tasted at My Champagne Moment | http://www.mijnchampagnemoment.nl

Maison Jean Laurent | Blanc de Noirs Millésime 2009 (€85) – Declared the best champagne in the world in 2022, and I understand why. This champagne is wonderfully fresh, with a fine mousse. The bubbles dance gently in your mouth, almost as if they are swirling around. The aromas range from subtle to intense, from pear to spices, from brioche to wet stone. The flavors are beautifully complex, not boring, with hints of flint, peach, dried herbs, and a refined and pleasant finish.
Maison Jean Aubry & Fils | Brut Tradition (€33.95) – This champagne is delightfully smooth in your mouth, with beautiful, refined, and soft notes of pear and apple. Highly recommended.
Maison Jean Aubry & Fils | Cuvée Prestige (€37.95) – Wow, what a stunner! This champagne is super soft on the nose, with notes of brioche, vanilla, and refined flavors of pear, apple, and coconut. It has different layers and dimensions that alternate with each other.
Maison Philippe Legout | Cuvée Louis Desprez (€37.50) – This is Maison Philippe Legout’s absolute favorite, and I agree. It has beautiful complex aromas and flavors, refined but not too complicated. Dried green herbs combined with a fine mousse and ripe notes of pear and apple. It has medium(+) acidity and a long finish. And the surprise was that this champagne only costs €37.50, but you can truly feel, smell, and taste the richness and luxury. A true vigneron champagne! It was even the champagne served at the wedding of the owner of My Champagne Moment, Joshua, which says enough.

Tasted at Jámoneria by Rick | http://www.jamoneria.nl

Not wine, but delicious specialties from France. Rick de Moed specializes in European hams and unique products from France. We enjoyed delicious dried ham, Jambon Noir Bigorre, Rosette Lyonaise Porc Noir, Chorizo Porc Noir Bigorre, and an amazing ham that he freshly carved, whose name I simply forgot, but it was incredible, and that still doesn’t do it justice!
Keep an eye on Rick’s website, because soon he will be launching a great new initiative for consumers. A little hint: delicious products will be delivered to your home monthly.

What caught my attention and what are the trends in Champagne in 2023?

During the event, several things caught my attention and I also learned a lot from the attending importers. That’s why I love doing these kinds of events, besides being able to taste beautiful things, you also learn a lot and hear amazing stories about where the wines come from.

One of the striking trends that caught my attention is the growing interest in organic and biodynamic wines. More and more champagne houses are choosing to manage their vineyards in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. Many houses were already doing this, but now they have also chosen to get certified. This is often a long and costly process, but ultimately worth it because then you can place the certification on the label of the bottle.

In addition, there are more and more Vignerons who do everything themselves by investing in equipment to carry out the entire fermentation process, including the second fermentation in the bottle. You can recognize these wines by the label that says RM. RM stands for Récoltant-Manipulant.

A trend that you not only see in Champagne but also in many other wine regions is that the new generations are making their own wine, combining innovation and craftsmanship, which often results in authentic flavors with a beautiful freshness.

An eye-opener for me was the freshness of champagne. The freshness of the champagne is very important. You should consume the champagne you buy within 6 months after dégorgement. According to many experts, the quality deteriorates after this, which is a shame. Why would you wait to open the champagne? Dégorgement is the final step in this centuries-old process before the familiar cork with muselet is placed on top. During this step, the yeast used to create the delicate bubbles is removed from the bottle.

Furthermore, there is a growing interest in champagne and food pairing, which was also evident during the masterclass I attended. Champagne expert Anja Vondenhoff showed us how to best combine champagne with food. People not only enjoy champagne as an aperitif, but also as an accompaniment to dishes. Champagne can be a refined and versatile partner for various culinary creations. It’s a matter of experimenting with different flavor combinations and discovering the harmony that arises between champagne and different dishes. This is more challenging than with still wine because the bubbles add an extra character that you also have to take into account when pairing.

My biggest learning points from this event

I will list my biggest learning points for convenience:

  • Major champagne brands buy their grapes from many different growers, many of whom are Vignerons.
  • Vignerons make their champagnes from their best grapes and sell the rest to others.
  • Vigneron champagne perfectly reflects the terroir, as the winemaker does everything possible to achieve the highest quality and consistency.
  • In good years, excellent grapes are used to make a champagne with grapes from a single year, known as Millésime, which includes the vintage.
  • Sometimes there are multiple great years and these grapes are blended together for extra expression.
  • Vigneron champagnes are also often made from a single grape variety, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier, which is very special to experience because in addition to the typical grape, you also strongly experience the terroir. It is really amazing to taste a champagne made by the same maker, from the same terroir and different grapes, that is truly a great experience.
  • Vigneron champagnes have an excellent price-quality ratio. They often cost between €30 and €35, while champagnes from large well-known brands are often much more expensive and less delicious.
Vinovonk in action Vignerons du Terroir 2023 photo by Manon de Boer

Final Thoughts: A Unique Journey through the World of Vigneron Champagnes

After a wonderful day at Vignerons du Terroir, I can conclude that this event was a unique experience. I had the opportunity to taste beautiful vigneron champagnes, made by passionate wine producers who bring the essence of the land, grapes, and terroir to life in every bottle. The diversity and surprising nuances of the champagnes left me speechless. The event also provided the opportunity to learn more about the latest trends in the champagne industry, such as the growing interest in organic and biodynamic wines. Additionally, I enjoyed the masterclasses and the chance to pair champagne with delicious dishes. Overall, it was a fantastic day filled with authentic flavors, craftsmanship, and inspiration. Cheers to the world of vigneron champagnes!

Thank you for organizing and inviting Vinovonk, Jaqueline, Jasper, and Manon.

More information about Dis Donc: http://www.disdonc.nl/

More information about Champagne Moutardier Netherlands: http://www.champagne-moutardier.nl

More information about Manon de Boer: http://www.toostaantafel.nl

More information about Anja Vondenhof: http://www.wijncampus.nl

photo by Manon de Boer at Vignerons du Terroir 2023

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