“Biodynamic champagne is haute couture,” says Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, the cellar master of Louis Roederer. “It’s very time-consuming and very expensive. You need to be really focused.”
Almost 20 years ago, Lécallion made the bold decision to take the storied Champagne house—known for Cristal, its flagship cuvée—biodynamic, adopting a set of farming principles that were developed in the 1920s. The practice is guided by lunar cycles and a holistic philosophy. Its devotees claim biodynamic farming conserves and energizes the soil and produces healthier plants. “We started our first trials in 2000,” says Lécaillon. “It was part of a program to see if it would change the taste of our wines. Having tasted great biodynamic wines in Burgundy, [I wondered] what could biodynamic farming bring to the taste of our Champagne? The results were very interesting with different textures and deeper density.”
In keeping with its long-term vision, which takes into account the need to farm sustainably in the age of climate change, half of the Louis Roederer estate in Reims is now biodynamic while the remaining half is under organic certification. Next year, the house will release its first 100% biodynamic Champagne: the 2012 vintage of Cristal.
But Roederer isn’t the only major player utilizing biodynamic practices to make “haute couture Champagne.” Leclerc Briant in Épernay, France, has been preaching biodynamics since the 1950s. But it was the son of Bertrand Leclerc, the fifth generation of Lecrecs, who went through the laborious process of certification in the 1980s. The entire vineyard is certified as organic, biodynamic, and vegan, meaning the wine isn’t processed with fining agents like casein (milk protein), gelatin, or egg whites.
“Shrimp shells are sometimes used in wine production as fining agents,” explains Helen Johannesen, owner and curator of LA-based Helen’s Wines and host of the podcast Wine Face, who is against the use of any type of fining agents. “They can be used to remove yeast cells, cloudiness, and off colorings and flavors.”
Dom Perignon is also embracing natural Champagne. Vincent Chaperon, Dom Perignon’s new chef de cave, got rid of herbicides and is moving toward being completely organic. “The energy and quality of natural and biodynamic wine and small production wine are undeniable,” adds Johannesen. “It’s way more balanced, delicious, and energetic. Plus, you aren’t ingesting rogue shit into your body.” Johannesen feels as if natural and biodynamic wine is becoming more widespread, yet it’s still very misunderstood.
“Wine is food! People are now more aware of what they drink,” says Lécaillon. “I believe there is a strong desire for truth in this generation. Truth in what people eat and drink. There is also a question of ethics in the farming that goes beyond the wine — as it does impact the environment.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue