The family owned Champagne house, Larmandier-Bernier is no newcomer to growing grapes having been first recorded as growers in 1765. In 1988, Pierre Larmandier was entrusted with custodianship of the House along with his wife, Sophie. His son Arthur recently joined the fold. It was in 1992 that Pierre and Sophie stopped using herbicides. By 1999, they had started to fully embrace biodynamic viticulture.
After some bold vineyard expansion plans to ensure that only grapes from the family’s estates are used in their wines, the vineyards belonging to the estate are now spread across the Côte des Blancs. A region of Champagne famed for its very finely textured wines. Any new vineyards added are always carefully selected based on their past chemical use history. This enables Champagne Larmandier-Bernier to maintain their biodynamic status, one that they have held for more than 20 years.
Côte des Blancs is well known for its Chardonnay based Champagnes. It is no surprise that the Larmandier-Bernier’s vineyards, with an average vine age of 35 years old, also have a Chardonnay dominance. 90% of their vineyards are planted with Chardonnay, along with some Pinot noir and Pinot gris.
In keeping with the biodynamic principles the family have adopted, all of their Champagnes sit at dosage levels below 4g/L. Some, such as Terre de Vertus, have zero dosage. This means the fruit must be ripe and full of character to make wines that continue to deserve such high acclaim.
In the winery, they use indigenous yeasts, with that first fermentation seeing no filtering or fining. They are matured on the lees in casks and wooden vats before being bottled for the second ferment. Some of the indigenous yeasts that are used in the winery have been cultivated by the family for around forty years.
The pure finesse of the Larmandier-Bernier wines make them stand out as grower Champagnes, that they are also biodynamic is a bonus.
Luckily for fizz drinkers around the world, they are also becoming easier to find.
Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Longitude 1er Cru
Longitude is just one of the Premier Cru champagnes on offer by the Larmandier family. Like the house’s other non-vintage wine, Latitude, 40% of the cuvee is blended from their perpetual reserve. This reserve dates back to 2004.
These old vine grapes have been tended following biodynamic principles and come from Chardonnay vines up to 45 years old. In keeping with these principles, indigenous yeasts have been used and spontaneous malolactic fermentation has been allowed. The first ferment has occurred in both small and large oak. The yeast for the second ferment was first isolated, and then produced, by the Larmandier family forty years ago.
The bready, yeasty notes underline the apple citrus fruit and egg shell minerality. This is just as you would expect from a Blanc de blanc. The spicy cinnamon and nutty nougat from that time in oak and time resting on lees add richness and dimension. The ripeness of the fruit shines through with a dosage level of just 3 g/L. The elegantly bodied wine is refined along its long length. The fruit weight strikes just the right balance of intensity without being weighty.
While this would be a very welcome aperitif fizz, it has plenty going on. Salt and pepper calamari would be delicious.
Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus 1er Cru 2012
A vintage Blanc de Blancs that is 100% Chardonnay with a zero dosage leaving it unadorned with any added sugar. It is a single vineyard Champagne from Larmandier-Bernier’s ‘Les Barillers’ vineyard in Vertus. This is the family’s biodynamic vineyard to the south of the Épernay. Like all of their wines, after first being fermented using indigenous yeasts in small and large format oak, the Terre de Vertus also remains unfiltered and unfined at the time of going into the bottle for the second fermentation. After developing its very fine bubbles, and that creamy complexing, the wine spends more than 5 years resting on lees before being disgorged.
Wafts of fragrant stonefruit and spicy cinnamon enrich the zingy lemon citrus along with some lightly toasted brioche and almonds. The creamy, nougatine flavours sit well with the soft acid making it a texturally silky and fleshy mouth full. Lay it down for the mid-term or drink it. This wine is not too shy to join you for dinner and is a great match for caramelised scallops.