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Montrachet of Champagne: The Terroir of Montgueux with Hélène Beaugrand


Descendant of a long line of vignerons in the Aube region, Hélène Beaugrand launched her eponymous house in 2018 with six cuvées from her three hectares of vines in Montgueux. The village is some 10 km from Troyes and known as the Montrachet of Champagne with some of the most illustrious houses competing to source from the 200 hectares of vineyards. Hélène has managed to bottle the essence of the cru in her micro cuvees, and tells us more about her terroir, winemaking ethos and the future of the cru.




Do you remember your first glass of champagne?


I do, it was at a traditional family Sunday lunch. We opened an old Dom Perignon vintage: such a big wine. A complex and explosive champagne for a first taste.



How did you start working in the family business?


When I was growing up, I felt that the business was no place for woman! So after 3 years of wine studies in Burgundy, I decided to fly around the world to start my winemaking career. I worked in in South Africa, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States. After five years, I returned to my home country and became a wine agent in Paris for Languedoc estates and my family wine: Champagne Beaugrand! I was very fortunate to work with some of the most respected culinary institutions of the capitol. Ten years later, I returned to Champagne to be the occasional champagne winemaker for the family!



Tell us about the birth of Champagne Helene Beaugrand.


In 2018, we found ourselves in an interesting situation. Although it would have been easier to sell our grapes from the excellent harvest, I decided to take the hard road, and created my own house. My family choose to stop making anymore bottles, and I had a unique desire to follow in my grandfather Leon’s footsteps and create wines to honour his legacy.

I started to discover all the daily challenges faced by anyone at the head of an estate after harvest. I was very grateful to have the support of my wonderful friends at Les FABULLEUSES of CHAMPAGNE (a collective of six others women winemakers), who really came to the table when I needed guidance and reassurance in my new role.





And what makes it stand out from other wines of the region?


Although each winemaker and vineyard have their own individual style, I truly believe that I am one of the luckiest people in Champagne with the exceptional terroir of Montgueux! My grandfather Leon Beaugrand saw the potential in this cru and put through multiple requests to the Government to include it in the Champagne region. After much perseverance, it became part of the appellation when the Aube region was included in the Appellation d’Origine Controlée law of 22 July 1927. And rightly so!

Although we are located in the Aube region, we are the southernmost point of the Côte des Blancs, and our wines are vastly different from our neighbours in the north. The South-south-east exposure gives a lot of sunlight to our slopes and produces sweet grapes with the unique terroir of chalk and flint. This gives our chardonnay (90% of the plantings of the cru) a full array of tropical flavours which has given the cru the nickname of the “Montrachet of Champagne”. Those who seek out our wines will be enchanted by the expressive, aromatic wine with generous flavour of exotic and citrus fruit with hints of butter and brioche.


I have tried to showcase this richness with the single plot wine we named Derrière la Cabane, which is always the last plot I harvest. It is half way up a south facing slope with little soil, and therefore the vines do not suffer at all. The thriving chardonnays are incredible concentrated and create a rich saline wine which makes for a wonderful food wine.


The cuvée Au Cœur des Racines is a blend of the above and the grapes at the base of the slope, and is a great overview of the cru in 2018, and will blossom with more time ageing in the bottle.


And the exception to the rule is the Rosé Henriette, named after my grandmother. It is made from 100% meunier, which is extremely rare in Montgueux, and is a ephemeral cuvée and not what people expect from a typical Montgueux wine. I only made 3,100 bottles.






The Aube region is known to be one of the cleanest subregions of Champagne. Can you tell us about your vineyards and your farming practices?


The whole of the Aube region was relatively unscathed by herbicides and pesticides during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Not only is the climate slightly easier on the vines, but as the region received a lot less attention, there was less pressure to produce high yields and sell on to the houses.

Located about 10km west of Troyes, Montgueux is well known for its unique terroir and ideal climatic conditions, and I believe it is has the healthiest vineyards in Champagne. With a hill at 268 meters, without a river with good ventilation and the South south east exposure which aerates and warms up the vines and helps to not have major illnesses. I don’t use herbicide, work as organically as possible. I am very fortunate that the climate allows for with beautifully ripe, rot free grapes to work with. I am certified HVE Level 3.




Can you tell us about the proposed expansion of the AOC around the Montgueux area?

The main street of our village Montgueux is named ‘Rue Leon Beaugrand’ in honour of my Grandfather who pushed for AOC status in 1927, and believed that the region could create some of Champagne’s best wines. I hope one day… to taste the wine from all the beautiful other hills around Montgueux with the same subsoil. I am sure of the success of the area.




What are your thoughts on grape quality and lowering dosage?


Dosage is like cooking with no salt, and then adding a pinch of fleur de sel. When I do my dosage, I like to try to feel the same sweetness as when I taste the grapes in my vineyard. The idea is to keep the identity of the plot, and this cannot be obtained with a high dosage. For my wines, balance is nice between 0 to 4g/l dosage. Any more would overpower the wine.


My wine named Le Grand Carré has zero dosage, and it has been a very interesting wine to play around with. The grapes come from a single square plot at the bottom of the slope which has more soil than further uphill (which is used to create the Cuvée Derrière la Cabane), which means we are able to harvest fruit with exceptional ripeness and richness.


From this same wine, I created a second release to highlight the importance of dosage. The first has zero grams dosage and the second has 1 gram, and one single drop is enough to completely change the character of the wine. In this case it become a lot more aromatic and festive.





What are your first impressions of the wines of 2022?


2022 was a “Fabullous” vintage! A warm year but as the chalk is naturally porous it absorbs excess water and rehydrates the vine when the weather is dry. We are blessed with Turonian chalk and silex, so the rains of 2021 were kept in reserve for 2022.

As we speak, the wine is sleeping in tanks and barrels. I will let you know what to expect soon after the assemblage in March.



What can we expect from Champagne Hélène Beaugrand in the future?


I have lots of plans, but the most important ones include converting my 3 hectares to biodynamic farming and continuing my craft with my son Cedric. We will continue to make our single vineyard wines, and hope to share them with as many champagne lovers as possible.



 

If you would like to seek out Hélène's wines, and follow her journey, you can find more information here:





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