We are continuing our 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.
Emmanuel ripped up all his Pinot Noir vines. He previously made two cuvées, les Papilles Insolites, a 100% Pinot Noir champagne, and his rosé, which was light and just barely graced with a hint of red fruit from the 10% Pinot Noir in the blend. People (including us!) loved this wine as a light rosé Champagne with racing acidity. He sold both these Champagnes with ease every time they were released, and had totally viable markets for them. But Emmanuel thinks the best expression of his soil is through the Chardonnay grape, so he completely ripped out all the Pinot Noir vines and has since replaced them with Chardonnay. Emmanuel will not see the results of his labors for a minimum of another 10 years, and really it will be much longer than that; 3-5 years for the new Chardonnay vines to grow into anything that will produce grapes suitable for making wine, and then 3-5 more years for that first wine to ferment then age in the bottle. In fact it will be even longer than that before we really get to taste the results of this new vineyard, as Manu almost always combines at least 2 vintages to make one cuvée.
Manu makes radical choices, as we see time and time again, without regard for quick profit or the taste of the market. He makes the choices he wants to make, and what his instincts tell him are the right choices, for his soil, and the right long term choice for the winery.