The "Passion" and "Fascination" of Alexandre Le Brun

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I started my day by making the drive up from Troyes and back to the Marne, and my first stop was the little town of Monthelon to visit Alexandre Le Brun. He is in the middle of a big project, expanding his winery with a new crush pad with two presses, many new tanks, and a beautiful new foudre. Traditionally, he has always sold about three-fourths of his 3 hectares of grapes to Bollinger, but now he will have the facility to keep more of his juice for himself. He will have so much capacity that he plans on crushing for other growers as well, a job that will supplement the cash flow lost from keeping more of his grapes.

Last year when I visited, he had very little wine in his cellar, but this year, we had a lot of tanks and barrels to try of the 2018, as the harvest was bountiful and of good quality. Of these vin clairs only a few were finished with their first fermentation, and some seemed to have as much as half of their sugar left in them. He does very cold, very slow fermentation—an approach that he shares only with Billecart-Salmon. All of the other 2018s I have tried on this trip are finished with this stage of the process, and many producers have even already bottled.

We tasted several preview bottles of upcoming releases, all that he disgorged on the spot. His upcoming 2014 releases of Passion and Fascination confirmed my very positive notes from four years ago; they are streamlined, classic wines in the style of 1988. The ease and balance of these wines might be overlooked by the “big numbers points” guys, but I think this will be the kind of Champagne that people will prize for the long term in the cellar.

The Passion, which is not vintage dated, but always from just one year had lovely Nutella-like hazelnut character as well as warm toast aromas, and a mid-palate that seemed light and concentrated at once. We hope to receive a little before the end of the year.

A toast to you!

—Gary Westby

Gary Westby