It is already a month since our visit to the heart of Champagne, Epernay. It was really the perfect place to stay as a group without a car. We were able to reach many smaller towns within 15 to 20 minutes by cab. The cost was reasonable as we split it six-ways. One of the houses we visited was Larmandier-Bernier, a champagne producer in Vertus known also for its biodynamic practices.
Larmandier-Bernier is a family affair. Pierre and Sophie Larmandier produce eight different cuvees using natural winemaking techniques. Their vineyard is planted with 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir. The grapes are harvested manually. The alcoholic fermentation is done in large Austrian oak barrels. Except for the Pinot Noir which is matured in large cement eggs. The fermentation begins spontaneously thanks to the natural yeast present on the bloom of the grapes. The wines are matured on their lees. Larmandier does malolactic fermentation depending on the year and the harvest. The explanation for this was simple: if the wine starts the malolactic process, they do not try to stop it. The wine does what it wants.
The bottles age in Larmandiers chalk cellar where they are riddled, some by hand (the vintages) and some by machine. All bottles are discorged by hand (God that’s a lot of work). After the discorgement, the bottles rest for six months before they are released to the market. Dosage is added depending on the cuvee, however, just as I, the Larmandier family prefers the wine as natural as possible. Zero dosage is the optimum.
The Larmandier tasting house is very elegant. I felt a bit out of place with my yellow raincoat. Perhaps they thought I am an enthusiast, ready to head for the fields, and thus dressing like a true pro. Yes! Lets say that I fit in perfectly and looked like a pro. We tasted four different champagnes: Longtitude, Terre de Vertus , Vielle Vigne du Levant and Rosé de Saignée.
Longtitude is one of Larmandiers entry-level wines, an extra-brut made from 100% chardonnay. Quoting Jancis Robinson, the wine was clean, refreshing and fabulous! Terre de Vertus is also a blanc de blancs. It is a single vineyard champagne with zero dosage (or just a small drop). This one was clearly my favorite with mineral flavors and high acidity. The Vielle Vigne du Levant is a Grand Cru from Cramant. It is also a single vineyard wine with grapes from a plot that is facing south-east. The wine was juicy, intense with a creamy texture. Last but not least, the Rosé de Saignée is a 100% Pinot Noir. It is produced with the Saignée method: when the grapes are pressed into a must, some of the pink juice can be leaked out at an early stage (you can read about the different ways for producing a rosé here). This is a method that is often used to intensify tannins in a rosé. Perhaps this is why I really didn’t like this one. Just not my style.
All in all, a very friendly visit. The tasting felt very relaxing and professional. No one stared at our yellow raincoats (Patrik was also wearing one) and we tasted our wines from Zalto glasses. We also bought a few bottles of Terre de Vertus to take home. That was definitely my favorite wine from the tasting.
To book a tour and tasting at the estate, book a time in advance. You can find the instructions on their website.