In an age when we are ever more cognizant of what we’re putting in our bodies, Champagne is hiding a dirty little secret.
During a visit to the grand cru village of Verzenay last April, I explored the vines to take a look at what the devastating frost of last spring had done to the vines. Due to elevation, these particular vines were spared, but I was distracted by what I saw in the soil.
I thought perhaps that unruly tourists had left trash behind. Only when I looked more closely did I realize there was plastic waste and refuse for as far as I could see. I knew that Paris and Reims had used the vineyards as dumps for ages- it was a practice, upon conception, that benefitted the vines. For a long while waste was essentially organic compost, but in recent decades, plastic was dumped in huge amounts. The practice only stopped in the 1990s. Some champagne houses that take less care with grape sourcing still haven’t cleaned up their act.
However, the future of champagne is bright, led by committed vignerons who are leading the way with sustainable practices in a region that faces more than its fair share of climate challenges. From organic to biodynamic practices, many of Champagne’s grower producers- and even some of the large houses- have taken huge steps to not only clean up the vineyards, but are integrating solar panels, plowing their vineyards by horse, fertilizing with manure and compost.
In December, I’ll be hi lighting a selection of these exceptional cuvées during a presentation and tasting for DC Champagne Week. If you’d like to learn more about natural winemaking practices taking place in Champagne, please join me at Dio Wine Bar. Featured producers include Louis Roederer, Pierre Paillard, Maillart, Lacourt-Godbillon, Franck Pascal, and Moussé & Fils. Purchase tickets here.
Are you surprised to still see garbage in Champagne vineyards? I was!