Sunday, October 12, 2008


People used to do a lot of things differently in the past. Sometimes they didn’t know why they did what they did, but it worked. Sometimes they didn’t know why and it didn’t work. And sometimes they did know why, and it’s we who have forgotten in modern times.

I liked this conversation I had with Alexandre Chartogne of Chartogne-Taillet while we were out in the vineyard of Les Couarres in the village of Merfy, pictured above. It’s considered to be a very good site, but Alexandre is frustrated that it’s one of the only parcels that he can’t plow, because the sand and clay soils here are often waterlogged.

It wasn’t always that way, however. “This vineyard dips a little, and there used to be a little road there in the middle,” says Alexandre. “The reason the road was there was because when it rained, the water would run onto this road and drain out. Later, people wanted to expand their vineyards and they planted vines over the road. Now the water has no place to go. It just collects in the vines.”

Alexandre and his father Philippe are passionate about history, and you can learn all sorts of fascinating things about Champagne, its land and its people when you talk to them. If only more growers would be so aware of the past.


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