What WEA say?
The name of Bérêche might be new to the local market, but they are not foreign to the major Champagne critics, such as Peter Liem, Antonio Galloni and John Gilman. Some background: The 5th generation, Raphaël joined his father at the domaine in 2004, after completing his oenological studies at the university, and his brother, Vincent, joined them in 2008. The winery has been around since 1847 and with each generation, the quality has grown by leaps and bounds.
At Bérêche, vinification tends towards the traditional: parcels are vinified separately, with natural yeasts used for smaller tanks and selected yeasts for larger ones. The malolactic is systematically avoided, and the wines are bottled around May, without filtration and with a natural cold-settling, achieved by opening all of the cellar’s windows and waiting for three days. Disgorging is still done entirely by hand. Recently the Bérêches have begun to work much more with cork for the second fermentation, believing that for their style of wine, it results in more character and complexity.
What do the Critics say?
Peter Liem, ChampagneGuide.net
One of Champagne’s most prominent rising stars, Raphaël Bérêche has been working alongside his father Jean-Pierre at their nine-hectare estate of Bérêche et Fils since 2004, and today he is putting an increasingly personal stamp on this thoughtfully-run domaine.
The Bérêche estate owns vines in several different sectors of Champagne, with the three primary areas being the immediate vicinity around Ludes and Craon de Ludes, the gravelly terroir of Ormes in the Petite Montagne, and the area around Mareuil-le-Port, on the left bank of the Vallée de la Marne. A small parcel is also found in Trépail, in the eastern Montagne de Reims. Most recently, the estate has acquired its first grand cru vineyard in 2012, a tiny, 15-are parcel in the village of Mailly.
The estate’s vineyards are planted with roughly equal parts of the three varieties, and viticulture is decidedly natural, in the contemporary sense—Bérêche completely stopped using chemical herbicides in 2004 and has planted cover crops in all of the vineyards, and since 2007 a portion of the vineyard has been converted to biodynamics.
Sharp-eyed observers will note that beginning in 2013, Bérêche has changed its status from RM (récoltant-manipulant) to NM (négociant-manipulant). This was done for two reasons: the first is to augment the production of the Brut Réserve by about 15 to 20 percent, selecting grapes from three trusted growers in the villages of Ludes, Maily and Rilly-la-Montagne. These grapes will be used exclusively for the Brut Réserve, and the rest of Bérêche’s wines remain entirely estate-grown. The second reason is the creation of a négociant range called Crus Sélectionnés, released under the label Raphaël et Vincent Bérêche. These are wines selected from various sources across the Champagne region, designed to illustrate and reflect their respective terroirs, with the first series of wines released in 2014.
At Bérêche, vinification tends towards the traditional: parcels are vinified separately, with natural yeasts used for smaller tanks and selected yeasts for larger ones. The family has slowly been increasing the percentage of oak used in the cellar, and today, about three-quarters of the production is vinified in barrel. The malolactic is systematically avoided, and the wines are bottled around May, without filtration and with a natural cold-settling, achieved by opening all of the cellar’s windows and waiting for three days. Disgorging is still done entirely by hand, and unlike many growers who are embracing the idea of concentrated must for the dosage, Bérêche adamantly prefers a traditional liqueur.
Recently the Bérêches have begun to work much more with cork for the second fermentation, believing that for their style of wine, it results in more character and complexity. Raphaël’s father was always a firm believer in cork, but it requires a lot of extra work—now that Raphaël and his brother Vincent are working with him at the estate, it’s easier to accomplish. Today, a quarter of the production is bottled with cork instead of capsule, spread over five different cuvées: Les Beaux Regards, Vallée de la Marne Rive Gauche, Le Cran, Reflet d’Antan and the Campania Remensis rosé.
John Gilman, View from the Cellar #51
Raphaël Bérêche was a bit pressed for time when I visited the family domaine in Ludes,
on the Montagne de Reims, for the first time in late March. He had an appointment for later that day that he had forgotten when we scheduled my visit, and he very graciously waited and
provided a fine tour and tasting, prior to heading out for his appointment decidedly on the late
side! The Bérêche family can date back their days as vignerons on the Montagne de Reims to
1847. Like so many of the smaller growers in Champagne, the family was content to sell off their production each year to the various Grandes Marques, but when Rafael’s father, Jean-Pierre, joined his own father at the estate in the early 1970s, he wanted to start making wine from the family’s production (five hectares of vineyards at this point in time), and by the late 1970s, the Bérêche family was producing thirty thousand bottles a year under their own label. By the 1990s, the family was selling eighty-five thousand bottles per year and had bought an additional three and a half hectares of vines. Raphaël Bérêche joined his father at the domaine in 2004, after completing his oenological studies at the university, and his brother, Vincent, joined them in 2008.
Today, Bérêche Père et Fils farms nine and a half hectares of vines, primarily on the
Montagne de Reims, split between the premier cru villages of Ludes (also home to the fine house of Ployez-Jacquemart), Chigny les Roses and Trépail, as well as villages of Ormes (also on the Montagne, but not ranked premier cru) and in the Vallée de la Marne, Mareuil le Port and
Festigny. Since Raphaël Bérêche joined his father, the family has been barrel-fermenting more
of their vins clairs, so that now, the non-vintage bottlings will usually be a comprised of a fifty-fifty blend of barrel-fermented and stainless steel-fermented base wines. The brothers have been progressively lowering the dosage for their Brut bottlings for several years now, and typically it will be in the five to six grams per liter range these days for anything labeled as Brut from the family. In addition to the non-vintage bottlings of Brut and Extra Brut that I have reported upon in the past in the newsletter, Raphaël and Vincent Bérêche also produce a Reserve bottling from the family’s vineyards, which is called Reflet d’Antan. The wine is a blend of one-third each of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier from the family’s parcels, and is fermented in stainless steel and then aged in old, demi-muids prior to bottling. The wine is made in a perpetual solera system, which was started in 1985, so that once the new vintage of vins clairs have spent six months aging in demi-muids, two-thirds of each barrel are bottled, with one-third of the “solera of reserve wine” to make that year’s cuvée, with the remaining third of the new vintage’s production added to the solera for next year’s reserve portion of the bottling. Beyond these three bottlings from the family’s own vineyards, the Bérêche brothers have also begun to produce several additional cuvées: Les Beaux Regards Blanc de Blancs (from the family’s own vines), Vallée de la Marne and Côte, with the latter two made from purchased grapes, which are designed to highlight a grape or village from a particular region, and which are one hundred percent barrel-fermented. The wines made from purchased grapes bear the label of “Raphaël and Vincent Bérêche”, as this is their négociant line. I had the chance to taste several of these during my visit, which were all new to me, and I liked several of them quite well, though they are not always superior to the excellent regular bottlings from the domaine’s own vineyards. Bérêche Père et Fils is making superb wines today, and I was very pleased to have an
opportunity to make my first of what I hope are frequent visits the domaine during my trip to the region.