A black and white photo of harvest crowd gathered around a wooden press hangs on the wall as a remembrance of the family’s vinous past. Young vigneron Simon Normand is giving me a guided tour of his brand new gravity-flow winery, telling me that that the family used to press grapes until 1913: ‘There was exactly a hundred years’ break in pressing, a period when we only sold grapes to the cooperatives and négociants of the region.’ Simon and his sister Marie started own production in 2013 and first wines were sold in 2017.
The family’s 11.5 hectares of vines in seven villages around Bar-sur-Seine in Côtes des Bar are still mainly growing grapes for the big players, but step-by-step the duo is increasing own production. ‘In 2013 we made 6.000 bottles but in 2019 already 15.000 bottles.’ It is especially the export markets that have found La Borderie Champagnes, as the lion’s share, 70%, are sold abroad.
But why call it ‘La Borderie’ atypically for champagne that mainly carries its maker’s name? ‘Well, the name Champagne Normand wouldn’t really work…’ Simon reasons, but an adopted name also gave them the chance to communicate more about their project. ‘Historically la borderie was used to refer to a small farm, and this in essence what we are, an estate that does not purchase grapes.’ The name also accurately reflects the Burgundian influences witnessed at the domaine.
The identity of each plot and their respective cuvées are carefully isolated. Only 1.5 hectares are now nurtured to grow grape’s for the domaine’s own needs. Highly sustainable and approaching organic ways, great interest is also directed in preserving both biodiversity and landscape at La Borderie.
Technically skilled and meticulous, Simon is clearly driven towards perfecting each aspect of their operation. With the different cuvées possessing only 5-15% of oak-fermented wines, the house style is squeaky-clean, beautifully precise and deliciously fruit-driven. The stainless steel fermented wines go through the malolactic fermentation whereas in barrels it is avoided. Oxidative style is not to his liking whereas tension and fruitiness very much are.
My favourite cuvée in the range is De Quoi Te Mêles-tu? NV A feisty, pure and linear pinot noir from the steep north-facing slope bearing the same funny name that translates to something like ’mind your own business’. It is apparently just what the vigneron said to his neighbours who were ridiculing his choice of planting Pinot on a north-facing clay terroir. The 2016 base (NV but 100% from 2016) has lovely cool Pinot fruitiness that has a touch of delicious tropical fruit alongside ripe pear and apple tones to it. Tight, radient and comes with beautiful tension. Truly unique and irresistibly invigorating style for a blanc de noirs.
La Confluente 2014, is a blend of two vineyards, 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Blanc. The Pinot Blanc component comes from La Borderie’s oldest vines dating back to 1954. For Simon, Pinot Blanc poses challenges in catching it at the optimum ripeness and he himself likes it ‘not overly ripe’. Lovely purity and deliciousness of fruit again, more on the tropical fruit and ripe apple side with a touch of hazelnut spice. Richer and softer but the brisk acidity kicks in towards the very dry finish (dosage 2g/l).
Trois Contrées NV is the house’s brut non-vintage, a melange of three varieties, three villages, three plots and three exposures. Pinot Noir dominant, it has 23% Chardonnay and 7% Pinot Blanc in the blend, which gets complemented by 15% reserve wines from La Borderie’s perpetual reserve initiated in 2013. The hue has a slight peach tinge to it. The wine is super fruity, generous and friendly. Nice, welcoming stepping stone to the range. It comes with a low 7g/l dosage.
The wild child in the range is Douce Folie Rosé NV, a maceration method single-vineyard Pinot Noir rosé that is comes with a softening 4g/l dosage. The 2014 edition (100% 2014) is deeply coloured, structured and radiant with raspberry fruit and a mild phenolic bite.
Simon also crafts fine Coteaux Champenois. The white version of Les Devoix sees 50% oak, which is spot on, and gives a nice oaky note while not dominating the fine, delicate Chardonnay fruit. It succeeds in not being too ‘base-winey’. Coteaux Champenois Les Devoix Rouge spends 10 months in casks. The 2015 has smoky-reductive notes and is beautifully silky but very light. The 2017 charms with its delicacy but it is ageing rather quickly showing already some mature aromatics. The 2018, then again, is still a youngster. Darker fruit expression and more structured. I can’t wait to see what Simon achieves with the superlative 2019 harvest!