The Man Behind the Champagne - Alexandre le Brun
At our Champagne Tent event, I had the chance to catch up with Alexandre Le Brun. He is one of the smallest producers that we import at K&L, with a total production around 700 cases. He has a small winery in the basement of his ancestral home in Monthelon, which is surrounded by old vines that date back to 1950 and 1902. In total, he farms seven acres over 22 different plots. Although he sells a majority of his grapes to the big houses (Bollinger, Moet, Laurent Perrier, etc.), he keeps a small amount for himself, which he lovingly crafts into five stunning Champagnes.
Alexandre is ninth generation winemaker, with a family that dates back to 1750 in Champagne, yet nothing about him shows any pretention. He is very warm, with a youthful energy and an easygoing charm. He showed me pictures of his five-month old son, who shares the same amiable, cheerful smile and, in a side-by-side photo, looks like a spitting image of Alexandre when he was a baby.
“I walked into the winery 11 years ago,” he told me in his heavy French accent, explaining when he became winemaker. Certainly he was no stranger to the winery, which is in his home where he grew up and where he watched his father make wine when he was younger. After high school, he moved to New Zealand for a short time to make sparkling wines with his uncle. He then came back to France and went to college to study enology. His father was in an accident in 2002, so immediately following graduation, he started working the vineyards and making wines.
Although he sells a majority of his grapes, he retains approximately a quarter for himself to make his five Champagnes. Because each one of his wines is made in such small quantities, they all receive handcrafted care. He is adamant that the wines are all natural. He uses no herbicides in the vineyards and only native yeasts and natural fermentations. Most of the Champagnes come from a single press and are fermented in small stainless steel tanks. His cellar, which sits “nine meters under the soil” was dug out in the 17th century by monks, and it maintains a consistent temperature of 11-12ºC (52ºF). The first fermentations often last three to four months, which gives his Champagnes complex primary aromas and a fresh, elegant style. “Like a painter has a tablet, a winemaker has his grapes,” Alexandre explains. “ I use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier to create my Champagnes, my art.”
With Alexandre, there is no flashy marketing. He uses his personal charisma and a basic PowerPoint of photos. The images he shows me include his vineyards, the grapes developing their natural yeasts, a younger version of himself next to his small fermenters, and several of his cat. There are very few words in the PowerPoint, which is perfect to capture his style. As a small producer, he says he considers the quality of his Champagne as his defining style. His best distinction in a busy market is the beauty he creates in the bottle. After all, he explains, “I am not a big company, I am just Alexandre.”