On the Trail

The Youngster Le Brun Comes In

Gary Westby

Just last week, one of our smallest craft Champagne producers’ wines arrived, barely in time for the holiday celebrations. This is good luck, as his Champagne was my choice for last NYE and now I will get to repeat this year. The wine business is busy, and I will be celebrating at home with Cinnamon, the Morsel cat, and perhaps a bottle or two from the man pictured above: Alexandre Le Brun.

Le Brun is one of the very smallest producers that we carry and because of this we don’t have his wines year-round. He only has seven acres and does nearly everything—from pruning to pumping—himself. He is quality-obsessed like few producers I've met, and the man spares no effort on any of the growing and winemaking steps in the Champagne process. The result of that hard work is evident through in the scintillating, detailed wines he produces. The property that he owns is incredibly diverse given the size—he has vines in eight villages spread across twenty-two individual sites, which is crazy. Among them are the oldest vines I have ever seen or heard of in Champagne, the 103 year old Meunier vines in Monthelon that he uses to make the red wine for his best-of-class rose Dilection.

His winery is diminutive, but very well equipped, with a top cellar of stainless steel and a lower cellar for oak barrels. He isn’t dogmatic about malolactic fermentation—the tanks and barrels choose their own path. When I visited in October, his fermentations were the most incomplete of any that I tasted, with most of tanks and barrels still showing a lot of residual sugar. The cellars are cold, and he takes his time! While Alex’s Champagne’s are more expensive than a lot of our direct imports, I think they are worth it. His Fascination Blanc de Blancs and Dilection Rose are certainly the best in either class regardless of price. The 2007 vintage in particular was perhaps the top Champagne I tasted in 2014. It's made from a single press-load, however, so there isn't much available. Such is the case with small producers like Alexandre Le Brun, but that's part of what makes their wines so much more exciting, don't you think?

The wines share brightness, precision, and concentration across the range. He calls himself “a crazy winemaker” but perhaps obsessive-compulsive might be a better description. These are detailed Champagnes made by a very careful young man, and on the level with the best that we carry.

-Gary Westby