Bergere & Laborde
Completing various courses of riddling, disgorging and bottle aging before release, Champagne is valedictorian of the wine world’s most punishing finishing school. Trained to present as pristine on any occasion, it’s easy to imagine each bottle as the final product of some likewise immaculate ecosystem. But, in at least one sense, that is very much not the case: the Champagne region, cradle of all this quaffable equipoise, until quite recently doubled as Paris’s garbage dump, even covering transportation costs for the privilege. 
Like so many epochal developments, this one begins with insects. In the late 19th century, after the phylloxera pest destroyed 40% of the country’s grapevines, French vignerons trying to start over desperately needed compost to enrich their nutrient depleted soil. Their livelihoods at stake and willing to try anything, producers in Champagne worked out a deal with France’s capital city, whereby refuse from its 20 arrondissements would be transported to Champagne to be made into and used as compost. Initially this worked out just fine, since fin de siecle trash wasn’t much like ours, congeries of mostly organic matter - foods scraps, shells, bones, human waste, bits of wood, hemp cloth, rope etc; great for fertilizer, everyone wins. Following WWII’s petro-chemical revolution however, an entire spectrum of synthetic, non-biodegradable scraps came to settle on Champagne’s vineyards, piling up until 1997, when the trucks finally stopped making the trip. (Though the results are of course still with us today.)
The good news: most of this detritus is inert, and quite likely does not directly affect the health of the vines or the quality of the wine that comes from them. It remains eyesore, especially given the absence of much other vegetation surrounding the region’s vines - an unfortunate result of widespread herbicide use in pursuit of higher grape yields. But the younger generation of growers and producers taking over have prioritized cleaning up the crus, eliminating the use of chemicals in the vineyards, and focusing on the long-term sustainability of the region and its soil. This month we have two outstanding outgrowths of this crucial evolution, both brand new to the US market, though their creators grew up with the craft. Familie Bergere has been growing and selling grapes in the regions since the mid-19th century. They began fermenting and bottling their own fruit in 1949 and in 2014, Adrien Bergere, fresh out of oenology school, took over, inaugurating the practice of vinifying each of the family’s parcels separately to preserve their specific characteristics. 
Delphine Laborde is likewise the progeny of several generations of local grape growers. She has worked for some of the biggest names in Champagne, reporting directly to the cellarmaster at Bollinger whilst spearheading their development of best ecological practices, followed by a stint at Veuve Clicquot where she eventually became head winemaker for the brand’s Cotes De Blancs holdings. She left in 2020 to realize the lifelong dream of farming her family’s ancestral vineyards (some of the oldest in Champagne) in a village called Nogents D’Abbess, named after the convent built there in the 6th century, on the south slope of a hill called Monts de Berru. Her first bubbly under her own name was released just this year, in a small but highly anticipated release. 
PlumpJack Wine Team 

Bergere Origine Brut NV

From: Vallée du Petit Morin, Champagne, France

About the Winery: The Bergère family has tended vines on the slopes of the Vallée du Petit Morin since 1848 and in 1949, Albert Bergère founded Maison Bergère in an effort to better promote the family’s terroir. In 1986, Albert’s son, André took over the estate and further expanded their vineyard holdings. His wife, Brigitte established their boutique on Avenue de Champagne in Épernay, which is now managed by their daughter, Annaëlle.

Adrien Bergère joined his parents and sister on the estate in 2014 as winemaker after obtaining his diploma in oenology. He arrived with the desire to further enhance his family’s terroirs and showcase the richness of the Vallée du Petit Morin. To achieve this, he immediately began to vinify all the parcels separately to better understand the diversity of his terroir and isolate the best parcels. Between 2014-2018 he experimented with barrels and foudres, which allowed him to analyze his wines on different vinifications, and adapt his work to best express his terroirs. Bergere is currently farming lutte raisonée but working towards a full organic conversion.

Assemblage/Vinification: This cuvée represents the “origin” of the family story and blends grapes from their three historic villages: Fèrebrianges, Etoges, Congy, Vallée du Petit Morin. The soil is sand and clay over limestone, the wine is aged on its lees, partially in foudre and 228L Barrels. 70% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier. Dosage: 5g/L

Tasting Notes: Complex and yeasty with great flavors of creaminess, fresh baked bread and sourdough, all underpinned by smoky hints of mushrooms and an outstanding long finish. 

Winemaker: A. Bergere

Price per bottle / Price per case: $60.99/$658.70

Suggested Food Pairing:

 as an aperitif or with shellfish, fish, rich vegetable dishes, or white meat.

Laborde Champagne Brut Tandem NV

From: Nogent L’Abbesse, Monts de Berru, Champagne

About the Winemaker: Since at least the Revolution, Delphine Laborde’s family has farmed grapes in Nogent l’Abbesse. Just prior to phylloxera, the village inhabitants cultivated some 100 hectares of vines, and what little survived at the beginning of the 20th century is thanks to the tenacity of Nogent’s growers (in the two other villages anchoring the mountain, Berru and Cernay-lès-Reims, vines disappeared entirely during the pandemic).

Their determination became all the more remarkable when the First World War erupted and the German army occupied the strategic hilltop. Women maintained the vines when possible; the men were sent off to work in sawmills occupied by Germans. Reims sat 15 kilometers away, the front line ran in between, and by the war’s end in 1918 Nogent l’Abbesse lay in ruins from shelling. Delphine’s maternal great-grandfather rebuilt the house where she lives today.

About the Wine-making: Delphine and her husband farm 5 hectares, almost all of which are sélection massale vines averaging 30 years of age. Two parcels are in Berru, 14 in Nogent l’Abbesse; 95% are in Chardonnay with the remaining 5% being one parcel of Pinot Noir planted in the early 1970s. In the vines there is no use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides. Plowing is adapted to each parcel and when employed is shallow to preserve microbial life in the soil. The tandem bottling is 75% Chardonnay from Nogent l’Abbesse and 25% old-vine Pinot Noir from Berru. Vinified parcel by parcel and blended with as much as 45% of reserve wine. Eight months of élevage in tank followed by two years of aging in bottle on lees before disgorgement. 250 6-packs produced. 

Dosage: 7g/L

Tasting Notes: A seamlessly delicate rendition that delivers sun-kissed flavors in an almost weightless package. A clear, concise and elegant wine.

Winemaker: Delphine Laborde

Price per bottle / Price per case: $64.99/$701.9

Suggested Food Pairing: 

Potato chips, Crab cakes, burger and fries

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