In honor of La Fete du Champagne, we’re kicking off a new series to take a look at one of our favorite winemakers, Emmanuel Lassaigne. Manu is a rare breed: someone who works very instinctively and puts all his powers of creativity into action, seemingly without fear of failure or concern for what the market wants. He makes the Champagnes he wants to make, and he takes huge risks in doing so; risks that others would never even consider taking. He does all this almost entirely by himself, working alone in the vines and in his cellar throughout the year. We find the results to be truly stunning: incredibly focused and alive wines of terroir that are crystal clear renderings of the best Champagne has to offer. We’ll continue with this series throughout the fall season.
From the beginning of his winemaking carrier, Manu has been willing to take big risks based on his own instincts and make decisions in isolation from the opinions of others. Before Emmanuel took over the winery from his father Jacques in 1999, he worked in the industrial packing industry with zero experience making wine. He studied the vines and winemaking for a few years, by himself, and decided he was ready to make his first vintage in 2002. He then promptly cancelled all orders with their existing client list. He knew he was going to completely change the way the wine was made, and he didn’t want to be beholden to any customers who preferred the old way. He chose to start completely from scratch. He built an entirely new list of clients, starting with the then small but slowly expanding Paris natural wine scene.
He began by converting to organic viticulture, putting a lot of time and effort into the land and the vines. At the time in France for certain, but especially in Champagne, this was considered complete madness. Grapes from Montgueux, the area in Champagne where his vineyard is situated, were and still are almost all sold to larger houses at very lucrative prices. Manu’s neighbors thought he was a total lunatic at first, although they now respect what he has done. Manu did this because he had a vision to create wines of terroir; to showcase the unique different parcels of the vineyard. He didn’t make these choices because he had spent time with other natural winemakers like Marcel Lapierre, and he had never heard of Anselme Selosse. He just thought it made sense, so he walked away from guaranteed income and clients to start everything anew and make wines the way he thought they should be made.