Baudry Heritage Brut Champagne
While Champagne can only come from the region of Champagne, France, that region isn’t as set in monumental stone as the French may want you to assume. Indeed, the region has grown, and shrunk over the years, with the most recent expansion being in 2008. That expansion was fairly peaceful, but there have been other, much more violent changes in Champagne’s geography. So let’s turn our clocks back to 1908…
The Champagne market is booming, but years of disastrous harvests have left Champagne’s farmers on the brink of starvation. At this time (and still to this day) there was a strong separation between those who turned wine into Champagne, big Champagne houses, and those who grew the grapes for said wine, the humble farmers. The Houses responded to the crisis by importing grapes from outside the region to maintain bustling sales. The farmers responded by rioting. In a bold move the government stepped in, establishing an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) geographic area for Champagne, stipulating that “Champagne must come from Champagne, France.”
But this early AOC excluded the Aube and the town of Troyes, the historical capital of the Champagne region. Further, with the onslaught of phylloxera and the loss of 96% of the 2010 harvest, Champagne houses colluded to make faux Champagnes from grapes from outside the region. Angry mobs of farmers chanting “A bas les fraudeurs” (down with the fraudsters) threw whole truckloads of fake Champagne into the Marne River and burned down the village of Aÿ. By 1911 the army was called in to put down the countryside rebellion and bring all parties to the negotiating table.
The parties were divided into those along the Marne River – supposedly the Grand Cru vineyard region of Champagne (its where all the major houses are based today)—and the Aube, with the city of Troyes, the historical capital of Champagne. Protest abounded, and the government came up with the messy solution of calling Aube a “second zone” of Champagne, which pleased no one and caused a second round of riots. By the time all parties returned to the negotiating table it was too late – the German Army was in Belgium, about to cross into France right at Champagne.
Perhaps it’s these 100-odd years that keep the Aube in the back of our minds when we think of Champagne – an unfair, second-class status that wasn’t even rightfully conferred over a century ago.
But today, the Aube is a hotbed of new farmer fizz Champagne – it is one of the few places in Champagne where it is affordable enough for the next generation of Champenoises to experiment and make strikingly awesome Champagne. And that’s the case with Champagne Baudry.
The brothers Baudry are commited to organic farming and winemaking that fully represent their terroir. To that end, their “heritage” is made exclusively from the grape that grows best in the Aube – Pinot Noir. That’s right! This is a 100% blanc de noirs Champagne. In the north, it would be prized (and triple the price), but here in the Aube, it just happens to be what grows best. And why not grow (and enjoy) the best?
The Champagne opens with beautiful Pinot Noir fruit – black cherries, ripe strawberries with floral notes of roses and violets give way to damson, mango and touches of orange zest. Being 100% Pinot, the palate gives a richness of fruit character that just can’t be denied. But it’s also Brut, meaning this is a dry Champagne (coming in at 6 grams per liter of dosage for those who care), this has vigor and crispness while delivering an elegant, suave mouthfeel and lengthy finish. I’ve seen many a Champagne superstar be “born” in the Aube, with prices starting low and then skyrocketing into the clouds within a few short vintages. The Baudrys are on that course. Get them before the prices climb.
I, like Coco Chanel, drink Champagne on two occasions – when I am in love and when I am not. This Valentine’s Day, I’m definitely going to be drinking Champagne. And so should you – but one of the best – Baudry’s Heritage Brut.