Champagne Devaux: the 2009 grapes were perfect

Michel Parisot, winemaker at Champagne Devaux, revealed that the grapes from the 2009 vintage “were perfect,” comparing them to those harvested in 1989 and 1990.

Michel Parisot at Champagne Devaux

Parisot spoke to the drinks business at a tasting featuring Champagne Devaux’s ‘D’ collection, the new Devaux Collector 2005 and Sténopé 2009 (a collaboration with Michel Chapoutier) held at London’s Texture restaurant.

Comparing the 2008 and 2009 vintages, Parisot explained: “2008 and 2009 were good vintages, but they were different. In 2008 there was more acidity, whereas in 2009 there was less, but the grapes were good quality with very little disease.”

He told db that there was much debate among the winemaking team as to the potential ageing ability of the 2009 vintage, given that the acidity was relatively low – a factor that usually plays a part in ageworthy wines.

Parisot explained that there are other elements that assist ageing, and hinted that the ‘type’ of acidity is also important.

“There was much debate about the 2009 vintage and some people didn’t think it would age,” he said. “I have never seen grapes like that – they were perfect. They reminded me of the 1989 and 1990 vintages in terms of their acidity.”

“Everyone said that 1996 had perfect acidity, but the wines haven’t lasted. 2003 had plenty of acidity, but it wasn’t pleasant acidity, it was astringent”.

The tasting began with a magnum of Champagne Devaux Cuvée D (aged for five years) followed by Champagne Devaux Ulta (an Extra Brut also aged for five years.)

Parisot explained that the Extra Brut and the Brut Cuvée are made using the same blend of grapes, the only difference being the level of dosage. The Brut has between 6 and 7g/l whereas the Extra Brut has between 1.5 and 2g/l.

The winemaker also said that he would never consider doing a zero dosage.

“If you don’t have the addition of sugar, your wine is very short. It can be very beautiful but when you taste it, it’s short. Sugar gives the wine an elegant finish,” he said.

Along with sugar levels, Parisot also highlighted the importance of balance, achieved through blending in the correct percentages of reserve wines as well as using the right amount of oak.

Champagne Devaux uses a solera-type system for its reserve wines and according to Parisot, was one of the first houses to choose this method.

“Every year we take 40% of the wine out of the solera and we have two different soleras,” he said.

One of the soleras is used in the blend for the Cuvée D. The reserve wines are aged in large oak foudres.

“I try to work like a perfumer,” explained Parisot. “But I only have three grape varieties, in practice only two. Therefore I don’t have so many flavours, however, I have a number of different options like using malolactic fermentation or not, using different size barrels etc. This produces the different flavours.”

The ‘D’ collection

“I like to say I blend flavours not grape varieties,” he concluded.

In the Cuvée D, for example, 15-25% of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, however for the Sténopé, Parisot actively stops malolactic fermentation from occurring. In the D Millésimé, a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, around 15% to a third of the wine goes through malolactic.

Finally, in a break with its traditional Pinot Noir preference, the Devaux Collector 2005 is comprised of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir. Parisot has revealed that from the 2012 vintage, it will be a blanc de blancs.

When asked why, when the house favours Pinot Noir owing to its location in the Côte des Bar (an area known for its Pinot Noir production,) they are making a Chardonnay-dominant wine, Parisot replied: “We can make a blanc de blancs how we make a blanc de noirs. Releasing the wines in magnum will help it to age for a long time.”

“We obtained a beautiful maturity with a good level of acidity. It was a very nice year for the Chardonnay and especially for the Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs. It explains why we decided to make this blend of Collector 2005.”

Champagne Devaux began the ‘D’ collection in 1996 using separate vinification of different parcels of vines. NV wines are aged for a minimum of five years with vintage Champagnes aged for anything up to 10 years.

Champagne Devaux is imported into the UK via Liberty Wines, however, UK allocations of the ‘D’ collection, Sténopé and the Devaux Collector are limited.

Just 150 75cl bottles of the Sténopé 2009 are available in the UK out of a total production of 3,000 bottles including magnums. The Devaux Collector 2005, to be launched in September of this year, consists of 2,000 magnums, of which 300 will be available in the UK.

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