For an incredible six generations the Leconte Family has passed down a passion for crafting exceptional Champagne from their vineyards in the heart of Troissy-Bouquigny, a small town in the Vallée de la Marne region. The terroir benefits from a moderate oceanic climate and identifiable chalk, limestone and clay parcels where the different grapes are specifically planted where they are best situated to grow.
Alexis, along with help from his parents, Xavier and Sylvie, has led his family operation since he took the helm in 2013. In addition to spending his entire life training with his family in Champagne, Alexis has experience in many different Champagne houses and wineries. After working in the Grandes Maisons de Champagne, Alexis earned his National Diploma of Oenology and spent 4 years working in Bordeaux and Alsace. These outside experiences have helped Alexis come back to lead his family Champange business into the next generation.
“Even being an oenologist, we need an outside opinion. My group of friends, from wine school help me taste. They are each winemakers on different soils, with different stories, and it helps. We grow from sharing.”
We’re honored to be the exclusive U.S. importer and retailer of yet another remarkable Champagne family, Xavier Leconte! Check out the Champagne Xavier Leconte collection of 10 distinct cuvées!
Producing Champagne is a fascinating art, passed down from many generations. From vineyard to table, the process takes years! Learn the laborious and extraordinary steps of making Champagne below.
All Champagne begins as grapes growing in vineyards located in the Champagne region of France. There are three main grapes permitted in Champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. The cool climate and soil content (regions with limestone, marl, and chalk) in Champagne creates grapes that are deliciously tart, and high in acid. Once the grapes have reached their peak ripeness, growers harvest by hand-picking every grape and transporting them back to the presses. Although the process is extremely laborious, hand-picking ensures that only the highest quality grapes go into each pressing.
THE PRESS & PRIMARY FERMENTATION
Immediately after harvest, grapes are de-stemmed and delivered to cuveries for pressing. Many small growers still use traditional wooden presses (pictured below), that gently press grapes into juice that is channeled to tanks underneath. Between each pressing, the grapes are mixed with pitch forks to ensure maximum juice extraction.
After pressing, the grape juice is stored in barrels, concrete tanks, or stainless steel vats for primary fermentation. The juice is tasted at various stages of fermentation to determine future blends and vintages.
After lots of tasting and blending, the recently fermented wine is often combined with older reserve wine to make a cuvée. Or in exceptional years, the wine will be bottled on its own as a vintage. Once the blend is determined, the wines are bottled with yeast and sugar to start secondary fermenation. The bottles are stopped under a temporary bottle cap that keeps the bubbles inside each bottle. The reaction of the yeast and sugar inside the bottle creates the Champagne bubbles!
The Champagne ages in the bottle under a temporary bottle cap for a minimum of 15 months to be called Champagne, and a minimum of 3 years to be Fat Cork Champagne. Many producers age their cuvées for several years, and some even decades to produce complex and unique wines. The process of aging Champagne on the lees (dead yeast cells) creates more complexity and depth.
After aging is complete, and the bottles are ready to enjoy, the process of riddling begins. Bottles are slowly turned onto their necks so that the lees from the bottom of each bottle settle into the neck. Once stable, the bottles are disgorged, meaning that the lees are removed; the necks of bottles are flash-frozen so that when the bottle cap is removed, only the frozen wine (that contains the lees) is lost. Once the lees have been removed, a small dose of still wine and sugar (the dosage) is added to balance the levels of high acidity. Or, in the case of Brut Nature Champagne, the dosage will be skipped, creating a dry and acidic wine.
CORKS & LABELING
Once the Champagne is complete, corks are inserted into the bottles then covered with wire cages and foil. Finally, the front labels and the Fat Cork back labels are applied by hand.
The process of making Champagne is complete! Fat Cork Champagne is then loaded into cases and shipped to the United States in temperature controlled containers. Once the cases reach our Seattle warehouse, they are unloaded by hand, and stored in our cool, underground Champagne cave. There the bottles await to be sent to celebrations across the U.S.!
Trépail, the beautiful home village of the Redon family, is one of the sunniest places in all of Champagne. The additional light makes their grapes—mostly Chardonnay—extra ripe upon picking, leading to fruit-forward and elegant wines.
The Redon family now produces two distinct lines of Champagne, one by the father, Pascal, and one by the eldest son, Adrien. Pascal Redon’s cuvées are classic and full-bodied, while Adrien’s cuvées are fresh and dry. Both labels use the same old vine vineyards and the family’s traditional wood press, but create their final cuvées in their own unique style.
Watch the video for a quick look at the sunny vineyards of Champagne Redon!
We had an amazing week of vineyard tours, educational seminars, and Champagne tastings with Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme! We had the pleasure of hosting our producer, Laureen, her mother, Marie-France, and our business partner, Cristina.
We started the week with dinner at the Maletis home to celebrate our French guests’ arrival!
Marie France, Laureen, Cristina, Abby, and Bryan, hosted a Champagne Seminar at Fat Cork. Laureen led a wonderful educational course on her family’s history and production methods, and even brought pink aprons from her Champagne house for our team to wear!
We hosted a Champagne reception with Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme Tavolàta for our Seattle customers. The team at Tavolàta prepared amazing French fare that paired with each cuvée in the Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme collection.
Cheryl at Pix Pâtisserie hosted us for a lovely afternoon Champagne tasting in Portland!
While in Oregon, we toured the amazing Eyrie Vineyards with Jason Lett. After our tour, we enjoyed a lovely lunch; Jason Lett made us duck and fresh morels, and even spoke perfect French the entire visit!
We also enjoyed a tour of ROCO Winery with the wonderful Rollin Soles!
While in Oregon, we had dinner at The Dundee Bistro with Rollin & Corby Soles of ROCO Winery, our French producers, and Dick, Nancy, and Luisa Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards!
We ended the week at the Sparkling Wine Symposium at Ponzi Vineyards. Bryan and Laureen were honored to be featured on the panel among sparkling wine experts to teach other industry members about bubbly.
We are thrilled and honored to announce that our producer, Laureen Baillette and Madam Baillette of Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme will be visiting the Northwest in April! They are traveling all the way from Trois-Puits, France to join Bryan on a Northwest adventure of vineyard tours, seminars, tastings, and of course, a visit to Fat Cork.
We are very excited to show the Baillettes our warehouse (where we have proudly imported their Champagne from day 1!) and all that the Northwest wine industry has to offer.
Save the date for one (or all!) of our events with Laureen Baillette.
MEET LAUREEN BAILLETTE!
Monday, April 11th, 12-1pm Champagne Seminar with Laureen Baillette | Fat Cork | Seattle, WA Public Event | $20/Club, $30/Public | Tickets here!
Join us over your lunch hour to learn the history of Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme from the vigneronne herself! Laureen will explain her unique approach to Champagne production, tell the incredible history of their family, and describe each of her fine cuvées in great detail. Tasting Champagne on a Monday afternoon is a beautiful way to start the week and live life! Small bites will be provided. We’re limiting this intimate seminar to 30 seats, so purchase your ticket soon!
Monday, April 11th, 6pm Champagne Dinner with Laureen Baillette | Location to be Announced | Seattle, WA Public Event | RSVP to Erica@FatCork.com
We are honored to work with local chef extraordinaire, Ethan Stowell, to create an evening of incredible food, delicious Champagne and great conversation with our French guests! The menu, location, and price are still in the works, but please RSVP to Erica@FatCork.com as soon as possible if you’re interested as this dinner will certainly sell out quickly.
Wednesday, April 13th, 4:30-6pm Tasting with Laureen Baillette | ROCO Winery | Newberg, OR FC Club Members and their Guests Only | RSVP to Erica@FatCork.com
Mr. Rollin Soles is an icon for high-quality, Méthod Champenoise sparkling wine made in America. He and his wife, Corby, have been supporters of Fat Cork since the beginning and they were the first people we contacted when Laureen said she was coming to town. Getting Laureen and Rollin together to talk and taste Champagne will be a great time and quite educational! Space is limited, RSVP to Erica@FatCork.com.
Thursday, April 14th, 8:30am-5:30pm 2016 Sparkling Wine Symposium| Ponzi Vineyards | Sherwood, OR Wine Industry Members | Tickets here!
Attention wine makers all around the U.S.A., we are honored to have so many of you as Fat Cork customers! If you’re already making sparkling wine or are interested in doing so, this event is for you. Laureen Baillette will be featured on a panel alongside sparkling wine experts from Oregon and California to lead an all day workshop about everything sparkling. This is an opportunity to ask the experts all of your geeky questions, taste base wines, and learn the details that go into making great sparkling wine. Click here for tickets.
Bruno Dumez is the current vigneron of his family’s vineyards, working alongside his brother and son in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne. We like to call him a “perfect Frenchman” because he has two passions in life: being a Champenois and an avid bicyclist!
He is honored to be one of 26 members in the elite Special Club of Champagne. Special Club members must grow their own grapes and make their own Champagne that originates from a single harvest. The group meets annually to blind taste several wines and only the very best cuvées are accepted and allowed to be bottled in the iconic special club bottle.
Watch the video above for a quick look at the vineyards and caves of Champagne Hervieux-Dumez!
Laureen Baillette is a true star hailing from the Montagne de Reims region. At only 29 years old, Laureen is the vigneronne of Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme. With her mother’s guidance and sister’s help, Jean Baillette-Prudhomme is one of the few vineyards in Champagne managed by three women!
The secret of this Champagne is old vineyards and at least 50% reserve wine used in every cuvée. Laureen follow the traditions of her father, producing all of her Champagne on an old press (that she painted pink!).
Watch the video above for a quick look at Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s traditional wood press and extraordinary caves!(from Fat Cork on Vimeo.).
As the name “et Filles” indicates, this Champagne house was inherited by a daughter. Cynthia Perrot has proudly led and progressed the family operation over the last 10 years.
Coming from the southernmost region of the Côte des Blancs, her soil is composed of pure chalk. This terroir undoubtedly cultivates the freshest and purest Chardonnay in all of Champagne. All of the cuvées in Perrot-Batteux’s collection are clean and bright; they’re delicious in youth or with many years of age and they clearly showcase the greatness of Chardonnay.
Watch the video above for a quick look at harvest with Cynthia and Champagne Perrot-Batteux et Filles (from Fat Cork on Vimeo).