Energy, wine, life...
I’m often asked how I find the producers I work with in Champagne and Burgundy, and if I particularly seek out Biodynamic or Organic producers. The answer to the first part is that I find them any way I can! Referrals from our other producers, reviews in French wine magazines, recommendations from friends in France and at home, journalists happening to mention that they just tasted at a certain domaine who mentioned they were looking for a new importer, and some good old-fashioned knocking on doors have all led to connections with producers that are now part of our Caveau portfolio.
I taste a great deal when I’m here, and over the last 15 years I would say that less than 10% of what I taste interests me enough to consider pursuing it. First and foremost I have to love the wines, and want to drink them regularly at home with my family and friends. If the wines don’t clear that bar, it’s an immediate pass. If the wines ARE that good, then it’s even more important to me that the people making the wines are people I like, respect, have a good rapport with, and want to hang out with for many years to come. If that part’s not there, it’s also an immediate pass. I have absolutely walked away from some pretty awesome wines due to a lack of a sympatico connection with the people involved.
As to the Organic and Biodynamic question – we do have a pretty high percentage of them in the Caveau world. I do not make that a criterion, however, when choosing our producers. I don’t specifically look for it. I specifically look for great wines – and it just so happens that many of them are indeed produced in organic or biodynamically farmed vineyards. We have some producers who are not organic at all, but I wouldn’t get along with them if they were using herbicides, the most offensive of all vineyard treatments, in my view. I don’t think I’ve ever come across wines and people I want to work with who were systematically poisoning the earth. I think practices like that show up in the wines and the people who make them, and I can tell pretty early on that they’re not for me.
And then there are interesting people who are making great wines, and who are taking Biodynamics and Organics into an entire new realm. The BioEnergetics movement (read this article by Caroline Henry to get the lowdown) counts five practitioners in Champagne currently, and collectively they are producing some of the most interesting and compelling wines the region has ever known.
I spent a good chunk of today with the amazing Marc Augustin at his winery in Avenay-Val d’Or . He is pushing every known boundary (and some unknown ones as well) in pursuit of terroir-driven Champagnes of the ultimate harmony and purity. Marc has the luxury of doing so, as he has a 22.5-acre estate, 17.5 acres of which he sells the fruit to Laurent-Perrier and others. He keeps the best 5 acres for himself, and has just released his first wines produced under his new practices, from the 2013 vintage.
It became very apparent over the course of our time together that the Augustin wines are destined to become part of the Caveau world. His passion, conviction, and way out-of-the-box thinking are unique. Most importantly, the proof is in the glass. For now, I ask you to simply remember the name, and keep your eyes open for an inaugural offering of the Augustin Champagnes over the coming months. These wines are beyond fascinating – stay tuned…