Remembering Bruno Michel

Yesterday, I received some very sad news. My friend Bruno Michel passed away. I will never forget the first time we met, in the spring of 2006 on my annual buying trip to Champagne. My father was with me at the appointment, and he kicked me under the table when I said that I would get back to Bruno with an order, despite tasting a complete line of transcendent Champagne. He was right—the wines were so brilliant, the time for ordering was right then! I did my first “on the spot” order that day, and a few years later, he led me on my very first dosage trial, which I wrote about here.

bruno5.JPG

On vacation in Champagne, I had the chance to ride the vineyards with Bruno. He was a big road bike enthusiast, and seeing the terroir from the seat of a bicycle with him was amazing. On a bicycle, you go slowly enough to see details that you would miss in a car but can go far enough to get context. His rolling commentary was a masterclass in terroir.

Bruno was also a huge amount of fun. Each year, when I would come to taste, he would let the corks bang and fly out. His wife Catherine would say, “Doucement! Doucement!” but to no avail. No one in the business is as stone-cold serious as he was about doing everything possible to make the best possible Champagne; he did his own massal selections, his own grafting, managed his own complex compost, only farmed organically- the list goes on and on. And yet, he still let the corks fly, never forgetting that the experience of enjoying Champagne should be fun.

Bruno was in love with his job. The last time I visited him, this past spring, he was as fit as ever, and on his tractor when I arrived. I only saw him out of his boots a few times—on his bike, at dinner, and when he came once (begrudgingly) for a vacation in California. His attention to every detail of his vines and wines was second to none, and he was always working. Champagne has lost one of its greatest grower-producers with his passing.

He also took time to give back to his community. He was the mayor of his village, Moussy, just south of Epernay. He also organized with like-minded producers who work carefully and organically. Most recently, he began a big complex organic compost project to be shared among other organic producers in the area.

Last night at closing, we opened a bottle of his excellent "Assemblée" to toast him on his journey. As usual, the wine was brilliant, nutty, and chalky at the same time, loaded with complexity as well as energy. Although the occasion was sad, Bruno’s Champagne cheered us all up—his infectious joy came through in his wine. He lives on through it.

Bruno is survived by his wife Catherine, daughter Pauline, son Clément and son-in-law Guillaume. Pauline has been back at the estate for three years, and between her, her mother, her brother and her husband his legacy is in good hands. They have very nice fruit on the vine for the 2019 harvest, and Pauline will be having a baby in October. The estate and his legacy are in great hands.

A toast to Bruno,

Gary Westby

Gary Westby