Updated: Jan 9
During the last ten years, every time I started talking about biodynamics in masterclasses, people would laugh. They do what with the cow horn??? Yes, they fill it with dung and burry it in the vineyard. And they think that’s going to channel the energy from the solar system??? Yep. And then they dilute it and spray it over the vines.
... my guests were not convinced.
In 2020, these principals brought to light by the late scientist and philosopher Rudolph Steiner are now widely accepted as a more ethical way to grow grapes (and any plant for that matter), and we are seeing the effects in the wines we drink. In the recent years we have seen close to 40 producers receive Demeter certification, and this doesn’t include other leading viticulturalists who have decided to stay away from labelling their wines as such.
If you’re not convinced that vines can be treated with herbal teas, that picking with moon cycles increases ripeness, or that certain planets have an influence on different fermentations, then I highly recommend you try one of the seven wines listed below.
Here are seven exquisite wines to add to your champagne bucket list.
1. Louis Roederer Cristal 2012
How could I not start with the latest release of Louis Roederer’s prestige cuvée? Coming out less than two years after the iconic 2008 vintage, the 2012 Cristal brought biodynamics to the masses. For the last decade, the house has converted half of their vineyards (some 240 hectares) to biodynamic viticulture, and although they may not be certified Demeter, their 410 plots of land are vinified separately and only the best plots are used for the prestige cuvee.
The 2012 vintage is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and aged for at least 6 years in the cellars on lees plus 8 months after disgorgement. This vintage is looking very vivacious right now so it will definitely be the one to keep and drink over the next two decades.
2. De Sousa Cuvée Mychorize
De Sousa are celebrating their seventh year of Demeter certification, and a decade since the completion of their organic conversion in 2020, and this has really given their grapes time to sing the praises of the movement. They are based in the stunning grand cru village of Avize which always creates wines of incredible tension and minerality. Their vineyards are spread over 11 hectares, with one of their 42 plots being used to make the ultra-rare cuvée Mycorhize (1,212 bottles per annum).
The name comes from the fungi which grows on the roots of the vines (just like truffles) in the specific old vine plot exclusively cultivated with their draft horse to avoid soil compaction. This means that the fungi are able to soak up the influence of the chalk around it, bringing an intense minerality to this single vineyard wine.
Only 4 barrels of this wine are made before going into the cellars for 3 years.
3. Champagne Marc Augustin
Now here is a producer who will get everyone talking. When I first heard about Marc Augustin’s “heart viticulture” I was amused and intrigued by the “woo-woo” that went into making his 10,000 bottles.
And then I tasted his wines…
Now I am a believer.
Marc and his wife Emmanuelle see their wines as living, breathing organisms that are affected by the energy around them. Therefore, crystals are dug in the corners of the vineyards, they play music to their chardonnay and pinot vines (and the vines grow toward the speakers), the harvests are done by women only (to not mess with the fertile energy of the vines), and while everyone is busy conducting tastings in Reims for packed rooms of wine professionals for champagne week, Marc and Emmanuelle are hosting meditation and yoga sessions in the vines for their followers.
Their most exclusive wine is called Gaia, which is a vintage rose de saignée which is aged for 24 with “geo-maturation”. The bottles are buried underground for two years before being disgorged, which Marc sees as a metaphor for gestation.
4. Fleury – Cuvée des 30 ans de Biodynamie
The Fleury family are THE pioneers of biodynamics in Champagne. With almost 100 years practice in the matter, their Côte des Bar vineyard was certified Demeter in 1989. Their seven hectares are now cultivated using the principles of Steiner. To celebrate 30 years of biodynamics, in 2019 they recently released a celebratory cuvée. This wine is a blend of the three main varietals (1/3 each) from the vintages of 2000 and 2001, bottled in 2002 under cork and agrafe and aged for 16 years in their stunning cellars.
The dosage is extra brut with 4 grams per litre, but the wine is incredibly rich and round.
It was released around the price of 45 euros per bottle which makes it the most affordable drop of this line up. Worth every penny.
If you can get your hands on it, buy as much as you can!
5. Leclerc Briant – La Croisette
This small house was one of the first estates to convert to biodynamic viticulture as they started experimenting with the Steiner principals in the 1970s and received their Demeter certification in 2002. This made them the largest biodynamic vineyard at the time, but unfortunately in 2011 the majority of the vineyards were sold. They now have 12 hectares, all biodynamically farmed with the jewel of the crown being a 0.6ha vineyard behind the house in Epernay. This plot is known as La Croisette, as it is planted in chardonnay only. Owner Frédéric Zeimett comments on this special piece of land;
"La Croisette was planted in the 1970s by Bertrand Leclerc and has been farmed organically and biodynamically since then. Therefore, this piece of land never saw any kind of chemical products."
It is aged in the cellars for 4 years and disgorged with no dosage. My pick of the releases is the 2012, which will continue shining for many years to come.
6. Hervé Jestin – 2007 Extra Brut
Hervé Jestin is the winemaker at Leclerc Briant and was instrumental in converting the vineyards to biodynamics. But he also created his own wines in 2006.
He sources his grapes from friends: 50% Chardonnay from Trépail, from the David Léclapart estate, 25% Pinot Meunier and 25% Pinot Noir from Cumières, from the George Laval estate.
His inaugural vintage was fermented and aged in French Allier oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation is carried out during the 10 month ageing period on lees.
After the vines had flowered and after the summer solstice, the wine was bottled. The level of sulphites in wines are extremely low with 36 mg / litre, provided in the form of sulfur of volcanic origin.
“to taste this 'philosophical champagne' in a very quiet space with a positive spirit. It gives the drinker of this wine a kind of rest. The idea behind the tasting is to feel the emotion of the wine. The best temperature to serve it is 13 or 14° C. It is important to avoid an ice bucket, as it is too violent. The Champagne takes a few minutes to breathe and open up to you. If you have a chance, it is best to drink this wine on a flower or fruit day, according to the biodynamic calendar."
7. Marguet Champagne Brut Nature Sapience Oenothèque 2008
We couldn't finish up this list without mentioning Champagne's biodynamics guiding light Benoit Marguet. Benoit is the fifth generation winemaker at the house of Marguet in Ambonnay in the Montagne de Reims. Being Pinot Noir specialists, their vineyards are spread over 7.3 hectares in Ambonnay (Les Saints Remys, Les Beurys, Les Crayères, La Grande Ruelle, Les Bermonts, Le Parc) and 0.7 hectares in Bouzy (Les Loges, Les Hannepés). He has two draft horses who plough 100% of his vines which is incredibly rare, and officially converted the estate to extreme biodynamic & aromatherapic farming in 2009. He makes 80,000 bottles annually.
"There’s a texture and dimension of flavor in Marguet’s champagnes that are unlike any others, and a vitality about the fruit that makes them feel not just organic, but truly alive.”
- Peter Liem
Benoit also buys is a small portion of (always organic certified) grapes from the region, earning them the NM status. He created Sapience in 2006 which is a blend of grapes purchased from David Léclapart, Georges Laval, and Benoit Lahaye.
It is a blend of 50% Chardonnay from Léclapart in Trépail, 25% Pinot Noir from Lahaye in Ambonnay and 25% Meunier from Laval in Cumières, making it a premier cru wine.
The grapes are pressed by each winemaker and then vinified by Marguet and aged 9 months in oak barrels, and then bottled with zero sulfur. Disgorged in 2019 with no dosage.
This was released in minute quantities and is sold out everywhere. If you manage to find some, please buy it. The current release is