Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Champagne Dosnon & Lepage, Avirey-Lingey

Dosnon & Lepage is a relative newcomer on the champagne scene, but the two proprietors, Davy Dosnon and Simon-Charles Lepage, both have roots in wine country. Dosnon studied viticulture and winemaking, working at champagne houses such as Serge Mathieu and Moutard Père et Fils, as well as at Rossignol-Trapet in Burgundy. He eventually inherited some vineyards from his grandfather in their hometown of Avirey-Lingey, in the Aube’s Barséquanais, and in 2005 he was joined by Simon-Charles Lepage, who while also being a native of Avirey-Lingey, had previously been living in Paris acquiring a doctorate in criminal law. The two decided to put their minds together to create a new champagne house, intended to express the terroirs of their native region.

Dosnon and Lepage own two hectares of vines in Avirey-Lingey and purchase fruit from about five additional hectares in the surrounding area, making for a total production of around 50,000 bottles a year. At the moment they have three different cuvées, although another two are in the works. The Recolte Brute contains 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, which are blended together because this is sold as an extra brut, at four grams per liter of dosage, and they feel that a blend results in more harmony. The current release is based on 2004, and like all of their wines, it’s fermented entirely in barrique, giving it a warm, slightly smoky richness. “The barrels give roundness and complexity, without sacrificing structure, purity and finesse,” says Lepage. “But to work successfully with barrels, you’ve got to be a super-maniac. Like him,” he laughs, pointing at Dosnon.

The Récolte Noire is pure pinot noir, all from Avirey-Lingey, and is also currently based on 2004, with reserves from 2002 and 2001. This is a sterner, more particular wine than the Récolte Brute, showing the bold, spicy richness characteristic of pinot from the area. Like the previous wine, however, it quickly turns to mineral aromas on the back end, finishing with a much greater presence of soil character than fruit.

The third cuvée is the Récolte Rose, which is pure pinot noir but made by blending rather than by saignée, which they find to produce overly heavy wines. “We’re looking for a rosé of freshness and purity, not a ‘bodybuilding’ rosé,” says Lepage. Fragrant and plummy, this balances deep fruit flavors with an elegant structure, feeling delicate and lively on the palate. The wines of Dosnon & Lepage are neither fined nor filtered, and the expression of fruit seems particularly pure in the rosé.

Care for the environment is of primary concern to Dosnon and Lepage, and in fact, respect for the environment is built into their mission statement: “The fundamental philosophy of la Maison Dosnon & Lepage is one of harmony: harmony of mankind, of terroirs, and of wines in their environment. Though young producers of champagne, we are nonetheless highly aware of the environmental impact we have on this harmony, and we feel that we are therefore obliged to minimize the effects of our actions.” This attitude is manifested in their insistence on sustainable viticulture, as well as in their support of 1% For the Planet, an organization whose members donate at least one percent of their annual sales to environmental groups around the world. Imagine if all champagne houses did that.

This is a house that’s doing everything right, from their work in the vineyards and the cellar to their ecologically-aware business practices. Their wines have impressed me so far, and I look forward to tasting many more of them in the future. Dosnon & Lepage is imported into the United States by Jon-David Headrick Selections, in Chapel Hill, NC.

(I apologize profusely for not including any photos. Actually, since it isn’t my fault, I apologize profusely on Blogger’s behalf for not including any photos. I am still having the most miserable problems uploading photos to Blogger, and I am completely at my wit’s end – had I actually any hair to pull out, I would have done so long ago. I will endeavor to post photos as soon as I can figure out what Blogger’s problem is.)

Edit 22 May: Photos are added. I've made some technical changes to my blog and I'm hoping that this works now.