Über Champagne Drappier
After driving for what felt like a decade through deserted France, we were quite surprised to be welcomed in fluent German by Michel Drappier at his champagne house in Urville. Their kindness to Germans roots way back to the most famous champagne Drappier enthusiast: Charles de Gaulle, who lived in Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, which is quite close to Urville. Together with Konrad Adenauer it was him who reconciled and rebuilt the devastated relationship between Germany and France. “And if the general agrees to do so, Champagne Drappier will follow along”, the charismatic owner said while showing us around at his perfectly neat and elegant home. What a meaningful gesture, especially when I think about how badly the French suffered from the wars against Germany in the past 100 years – particularly the champagne region was extremely unfortunate. In remembrance of their powerful and popular friend, one of their best Cuvées is called Charles de Gaulle
The high percentage of Pinot Noir is an important attribute in the champagnes from Côte des Bar, a rather unknown area in Champagne. It is located around 100 miles south-west from Épernay just behind Troyes in the Department of Aube. The tradition of making champagne is just as developed as in Épernay, but the landscape speaks a different language. The vineyards cover only the hills, while the rest is planted with wheat. This variety makes this area pure eye candy and offers perfect conditions for Pinot Noir, which is also the most important grape for Champage Drappier.
All over Europe winegrowing began with the establishment of several monestaries in the modern age. The founder of the Order of Cistercians, saint Bernhard, also founded the monestary of Clairvaux in 1152 and built the still existing wine cellars. He brought along a new grape called Morillon Noir (a forefather of the Pinot Noir), which was appreciated from the earl and is now known as Vin de Bar. In 1808 the Drappier family founded its champagen house in the neighbourhood of the monestary and cultivated among the typical grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunieur the also more exotic Petit Meslier, Blanc Vrai and the very rare Arbanne with the pricipals of a biological cultivation. With a very reluctant sulfurization their champagnes carry a characterising yellow-golden color. Napoleon secularized the monestary and Drappier acquired these cellars later on in order to use it as wine storage. The remarkable cold cellars allow an easy and slow development in the wines and this leads to nothing but a perfect Perlage. Since 1870 Drappier also owns several cellars in Reims, the capital of Champagne, but until today the center of Drappier remains in the tiny village Urville.
Characteristic for Champagnes of Drappier is the winey taste and the complex character. The high percentage of Pinot Noir gives them power, intensity and a distinctive fruit note. As many champagne houses do, they sell a so-called Cuvée, which guarantees a certain quality over years, but their wines are somewhat straight and honest. With around 1,7 million produced bottles a year they are marking the peak for their region, however, compared to the big houses in Reims and Épernay it is a rather small amount. The heart of their production is their Champagne Cart d’Or with a striking yellow label and 80% Pinot Noir. Other than that they offer the common range of products in terms of dosage, grapes, Rosé and Premium Cuvées. A rare speciality is their unsulfurized champagne.
One of their most famous Cuvées carries the name Charles de Gaulle and has an engraved picture of Monsieur de Gaulle himself on each bottle. This special champagne is always a vintage, contains 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay and is also unfiltered. The showcase Cuvée Sendrée gets is name from “cendre” which means ashes – remembering the fire in 1838 that covered these vineyards with ashes. This champagne also comes as a Rosé and is made with grapes from a single vineyard only.
The famous large format bottles, a special focus of the Maison Drappier.
Champagne Drappier confidently presents itself somewhere in between huge brands and grower champagnes. There is nothing comparable in the area of Côte des Bar concerning quantity and quality. This place is definitely the stronghold of Pinot Noir, the famous Grand Cru vineyards are missing, but in return the nearby Burgundy is undeniable. At least it`s closer to Dijon than to Reims. Drappier produces its products with great accurateness and concentration, they ship to almost 100 countries worldwide and still it feels like a real family business. Michel Drappier represents his champagne house in a very sympathetic way and leaves not doubt, that all important decisions are made within the family. The champagnes are loved all around the world and carry a special recognition within sommeliers: they are powerful, emphasized with fruit, very winey and brut. Just what real connaiseurs are looking for.