Visit Champagne — the fatcork way!
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Visit Champagne — the fatcork way!

Join us as we recap our recent trip to our favorite region in France. 

(Above) Team fatcork walked the Redon family vineyards in Montagne de Reims village of Trépail. 

Fatcork co-founder Bryan and I arrived in Champagne on a chilly March afternoon that felt like home but for the clear blue skies and hectares upon hectares of vine-carpeted hillsides. As we began our journey across the region in our tiny but trusty rental car, I looked out over the vineyards and thought about the juice from the 2022 harvest, which has by now solidly settled into the fermentation process in countless tanks and barrels across Champagne. I thought about the growers who are pruning and tying the bare winter vines and losing sleep worrying about the lack of rain so far this year. I thought about them getting out into the fields because a dry spring means it’s dry enough to begin turning the soil. I sat with my gratitude that as busy as our growers are, they of course made time to welcome us into their world and treat us like family. 

Unmistakably, this trip to Champagne was a work trip with goals, objectives, long days and a packed itinerary. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love every moment of it. There is something so magical about being there on terra firma, soaking in the fragile but resilient nature of the vines in winter and bearing witness to the never ending work that each grower does to support and protect their crop in order to make the beautiful bubbles that end up in your glass. — fatcork general manager Iza Feyeux

If you’ve been following @fatcork on Instagram, you saw some real-time updates on Bryan and Iza's trip, but there’s so much more to the story than that.

Scroll through our gallery below for a look at all the best moments from Team fatcork's recent visit to Champagne.

(Above) After touring their vineyards, the Redon family invited Team fatcork back to their home for Champagne, potato leek soup and an epic foosball throw down. The whole family was there from Maman and Papa (Pascal and Pascale) to the newest edition, bébé Elliot. 

(Above) While in Polisot in Aube, we visited with Dominique Piollot. Sitting around her kitchen table, we sipped on the latest Piollot vintages as the vigneron shared the history of her family domaine and explained their efforts to keep the tradition of rosé de saignée alive.

(Above) With our growers as guides, we explored the terroir of each plot before tasting the result of the cohesion of elements from the latest 2022 harvest. In Les Riceys, vigneron Elise Dechannes showed off the results of the biodynamic and organic farming methods she uses in her vineyards.

 

(Left) Elise Dechannes confided that her neighbors are worried that by not using pesticides, she'll invite disease and unwanted pests, but the proof is in the pudding. Meanwhile, Elise's vineyards are green and lush, while her neighbor's are struggling.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 (Above) In Essoyes, Bénédicte and Manu Leroy of Ruppert-Leroy are also embracing sustainability to such an extent that they've become an integral part of the biodynamic movement in France. Manu demonstrated how he aerates the soil using a horse and plough in order to avoid compacting the soil. The vignerons also use their vegetable garden compost and manure from the farm animals they keep to enrich their vineyards. 

(Above) In Baslieux-sous-Châtillon, Fabien Mathieu of Mathieu-Gandon scooped up handfuls of fresh soil for us to touch, see and smell. As we took in the aroma of fresh topsoil and damp tomato leaves, he explained how sun exposure and precipitation drainage can be completely different from plot to plot, creating distinct characteristics in the wine. 

(Above) During our visits with each of our growers, we had the opportunity to taste their 2022 vin clair — still wine from the previous harvest that has finished its first fermentation. Tasting the vin clair was a privileged and exciting glimpse of what’s to come. First up with vin clair was Adrien Redon. 

(Above) As we sipped vin clair with Stéphane Regnault, he told us about the recent harvest in Champagne. It was dry and cold to start, followed by a balmy spring punctuated with April frosts. Then came a series of warm, dry days throughout the summer, rescued by perfectly timed rain to replenish the water tables. Mother Nature executed a stellar performance, and the vin clair was exceptional. 

  

 

 

 

(Right) A particularly special part of the trip was meeting Arthur Lelievre of Forge-Chauvet. He and his sister, Ophélie, are guiding their family domaine into the future, while Arthur is also working on his own line of Champagne.

(Above) In the vineyards, Arthur noted the importance of turning the soil for aeration, while Bryan marveled at all the back-breaking work growers do to make sure their Champagne turns out just as they intend. 

 

 

(Right) Back at the domaine, Arthur gave us a taste of his first-ever vin clair. His vintage release won’t be ready for years, but we are certain it'll be worth the wait. Besides his meticulous attention to detail across the board, Arthur's vin clair had beautiful acidity, fruit and minerality, which was supported by the gentle hand of the vapor-finished oak barrels. It was balanced without strong angles, and it offered a harmonious mid-palate and a long, lingering finish. 

(Above) During our visit to Jean Baillette-Prudhomme, vigneron Laureen Baillette surprised us with a beautiful subterranean lunch in her cave 60 meters below her family domaine. We were the first guests to enjoy a meal there! We did a lot of catching up over the meal. We've been working with Laureen and her family for nearly 15 years, so the Baillettes feel like family. 

 

(Left) On our last day, we zipped over to Avize for a visit to Etienne Calsac where we tasted Etienne's petit meslier vin clair straight out of the barrel. Etienne believes that this lesser-known Champagne grape could very well be the grape of the future in the Aube. It's resilient on the vine, and it has low PH and fantastic acidity, key factors in producing excellent Champagne.

 

 

 

 

(Above) In the end, Champagne did what it always does: It brought us all together. We concluded our trip with the first-ever fatcork family dinner, gathering as many fatcork vignerons and their families as could make it, at Sacré Burger, a local spot in Reims with an amazing wine list. 

(Above) The best part of the fatcork family dinner was a blind tasting of everyone's favorite bottle from the wine list. The empty bottles at the end of the evening were evidence of a fun evening with some of the best talent in Champagne. 

 

(Right) Our relationships with our growers  get stronger with each trip we take to Chamagne. While we always look forward to seeing familiar faces (vigneron Laureen Baillette and Hugo Redon of Pascal Redon and Adrien Redon are pictured here with Bryan), it's also thrilling to meet up-and-comers who are experimenting and learning new ways of doing things that have always been done.

Thanks for coming along for the ride, and stay tuned for what we promise are exciting things ahead! A bientôt!

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