Champagne, please!

Dear Readers:

It’s official!

After several twists, turns, interruptions, a major relocation, and a last-minute concussion, I’m relieved to report that I’ve successfully obtained my Champagne Master Level designation through the international Wine Scholar Guild.

As mentioned before, I consider Champagne the ‘flip side’ of Burgundy – same varietals (chardonnay + pinot noir), but different textures, complexities, and concept of terroir.

I sat for the exam directly before leaving for Burgundy’s 157th annual Hospices de Beaune wine auction – what a sweet return surprise.

Champagne, please!

As always, great to hear from you in the ‘Comments’ section below and on social media – cheers!

All images and text Copyrighted 2017 | L. M. Archer. All Rights Reserved.

Guest Wine Writer Series | № 12 | Caroline Henry | The Real Meaning of Terroir in Champagne Today

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about wine and taste makers.

By L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

This week I share an embarrassment of riches with you as guest writer and international Champagne authority, author and journalist Caroline Henry takes on “The Real Meaning of Terroir in Champagne,” just in time for #Chardonnay Day on May 25, 2017.

I consider Caroline’s gracious reprisal as a guest wine writer here on binNotes | redThread™ a true honor and rare privilege, and hope you enjoy her rare insight into this year’s Le Printemps des Champagne equally fascinating – cheers!

You can view her feature on the topic of Bioenergetic Wines here.

You can read my review of Caroline Henry’s book Terroir Champagne here.


The Real Meaning of Terroir in Champagne Today”

by Caroline Henry

Terroir, the dark horse winning the champagne race

The second Les Printemps des Champagne has come and gone, and with it the more than 1,000 visitors who descended upon the region for the event. The particularity of this specific event is that it grew from a group of young Champenois’s desire to explain their terroir.

Nine years ago, 18 winemakers joined forces under the banner of Terres et Vins de Champagne, to organize a tasting showing off their vins clairs (still wines) as well as their champagne. The aim of the tasting was to show the impact of the terroir on the grape variety in a specific vintage. Raphael Bérèche, one of the founders of the event elaborates: “We wanted to show that Champagne also has a myriad of terroirs and that grape varieties have a different expression depending on where in the region they are grown.” The still wines were shown as it is often easier to notice the terroir differences there rather than in the champagnes.

The first tasting drew a lot of interest from importers, trade and press, and after a successful second edition, other winegrowers decided to regroup and organize similar tastings. This in turn generated more trade and press interest, and more groups were created leading to the ‘officialization’ of the Printemps de Champagne. However, today’s twenty-two-tasting-event is a lot more about increasing one’s brand exposure than about explaining the terroir.

Can we deduct from this that when push comes to shove terroir still plays second fiddle in Champagne, at least beyond Grand or Premier Cru? I would argue against this, underpinning my position with a few observations from the Printemps the Champagne.

When we look at the attendance figures and the quality of visitors we quickly see that the events which continue to focus on terroir were a lot more popular than the others. Terres et Vins retained without a doubt its crown of most popular tasting of the week. Furthermore, the vins clairs only morning session had the most impressive trade and press presence. The session was by invitation only, and more than 250 people from all over the world attended to taste through more than 60 vins clairs. Some were looking to gather a better understanding of last year’s vintage, many just wanted to learn more about the various expressions of a grape variety across the different terroir. When asked why, the recurring answer was ; “it is important to understand the terroir to be able to better communicate about and sell the cuvees’. It seems customers prefer to know where and how the grapes are grown, rather than hearing about the technicalities of the winemaking. The latter is maybe also one of the reasons why tastings which focused predominantly on winemaking specifics drew only very few visitors, and often these visitors were champagne geeks, rather than decision or opinion makers.

Yet, even if there is a definite interest in tasting the vins clairs among the trade and press, it is important to note that showing one’s vins clair, especially at the same time as others, will expose a winemaker’s weaknesses.  Hence why many groups participating in the Printemps de Champagne prefer to focus on their finished cuvees rather than the still wines, especially after the difficult and rather heterogeneous 2016 season. The still wines do not lie: unripe and/or over-cropped grapes often translate into thin and watered down wines, held together by not much more than acidity and sugar; they are unbalanced and tasting them can be quite painful. It was long accepted that these painful wines were what made the best Champagne. Tom Stevenson, creator of the Champagne and Sparkling Wine Atlas, once told me that the best vins clairs are “bland in taste bar for the high acidity as it is the latter which holds the aging potential.” This is maybe why most experts consider 2008 to be one of the great Champagne vintages, even if many chefs de caves will admit that overall the grapes were picked too early, and this is the reason why the cuvees can be quite acerbic when opened today.

Besides reasonable yields and ripe grapes, the soil management contributes significantly to the balance and flavor of the grapes and hence the vins clairs. Exchanging chemical herbicides for mechanical weeding or a natural grass cover forces the vine roots to expand vertically rather than horizontally. It also aerates the soil and thus enhances the accessibility of ground water for the plant. This water allows the vines to absorb some of the mineral elements of the mother rock which in turn enrich the grapes by adding a certain sapidity to the ripe fruit. According to Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, cellar master at Champagne Louis Roederer, it is this “sapidity, rather than the acidity, which brings longevity to the wine.

When we accentuate sapidity, which serendipitously also is the distinctive character of the terroir, we have one last reason why terroir (in the wider sense of the word) matters in the champagne making process; it is the dark horse which has been winning the champagne race through the creation of more pleasurable as well as wholesome cuvées.

You can learn more about Le Printemps des Champagne here.

About the author:

Caroline Henry is a journalist, writer and educator specialized in terroir champagne. She lives in Hautvillers in Champagne and is the champagne correspondent for Wine-Searcher and Decanter.

Ever since moving to Hautvillers in 2011, Caroline began to specialize in the myriad of the Champagne terroirs and the different alternative viticulture practices. Through her extensive research Caroline has probably the most in-depth knowledge on organic, biodynamic and bioenergetics champagne. She has a personal relationship with many champagne makers and a comprehensive understanding of the region’s soil compositions and vinification methods.   In March 2017, she self-published her first book Terroir champagne: the luxury of sustainable, organic and biodynamic cuvées which is available on Terroir Champagne. 

More terroir champagne stories can also be found on her blog, Missinwine. 


Story and images printed by permission of the author, Caroline Henry. 

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

Celebrating Grower Champagne | Laherte Frères

Celebrating Grower Champagne | Laherte Frères

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about wine and taste makers.

By L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

Celebrating Grower Champagne | Laherte Frères


“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.” Mark Twain

It’s true. While too much champagne may be just right, too much grower Champagne is never enough.

Unfamiliar with grower Champagne? You’re not alone.

While major Champagne houses like Krug, Louis Roederer, Taittinger, and Veuve Clicquot constitute 68% of sales worldwide,  vignerons (the french term for grower), accounts for 23% –  with 91% of this niche market sold in France. Furthermore, of Champagne’s 15,240 vignerons, 4,760 fall under the rubric recoltants/manipulants, or growers who sell their own wine, designated ‘RM’ on the label.  Which means that few consumers beyond the borders of France enjoy exposure to the delight of grower champagne.

Indeed, grower Champagne represents a testament to the human spirit. No easy task, growing and selling champagne in a region steeped in brooding weather, chalk-pocked soil and the blood of countless battles, including two world wars and Napoleon’s follies. Yet despite these sorrows, Champagne remains the wine of celebration. And while Champagne may speak to the heart, grower champagne speaks to the soul.

Grower champagne producers often push boundaries not available to larger houses locked into a particular style, including a drive towards more individual expressions of terroir. They also often play with Pinot Meunier, one of three major approved varietals in Champagne, which grows especially well in the frost-prone Marne Valley. Considered more floral and fruit-forward than the other two varietals Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, it is often used to round out a blend, but deemed not age-worthy.

This dismissive attitude may be changing, thanks to artisan grower/sellers like Laherte Frères of Chavot, a village in Coteaux Sud d’Épernay, a sub-region of Vallée de la Marne. Laherte Frères dates back to 1889, with seventh-generation vigneron Aurélien Laherte currently at the helm. A proponent of biodynamic farming, his family’s holdings include 25 acres of vines comprised dispersed among ten different villages. These sites include many old-vine parcels, including two planted in 1947 and 1953, respectively. From these, he makes three different wines, including this little gem, Laherte Frères Rosé de Meunier.


Tasting Notes:

Robe: Gorgeous, dusty rose robe.

Bead/Mousse: Pinpoint pearls, diaphanous mousse.

Nose: Lush floral, red fruit aromatics.

Palate: A delightful mélange of marsh rose, rhubarb and strawberry.

Finish: Gloriously bone dry.


  • Fermented in used, ~4-year old Burgundy barrels.
  • Maceration: ~12 hours prior to fermentation.
  • Malolactic fermentation – blocked.
  • Aged 6 months in barrel post-fermentation; occasional bâtonnage.
  • Aged an additional 3 years on the lees in bottle.
  • Extra-Brut –  Dosage 3 g/l – Disgorged November 2015
  • 300 cases produced.

Available through Caveau Selections 

Nothing says celebration more than Champagne – except maybe grower champagne.

You can learn more about Champagne’s biodynamic and organic wine producers by reading Caroline Henry’s book Terroir Champagne.

For more on French Fizz, join the French Winophles on Saturday December 17th at 10:00 am central time on twitter, hashtag #Winophiles to chat about all things French Fizz…from any country, any method,  any grape.

Gwendolyn of Wine Predator: French Fizz #Winophiles: In the Pink with Fresh Seafood Crepes, Bisque

Martin of Enofylz Wine BlogPatrick Bottex “La Cueille” Bugey Cerdon Rosé #Winophiles

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Crisps, Caviar, and Crémant de Limoux

Jeff from FoodWineClick!Master the Saber with French Fizz

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the FarmCreme Brulee paired with some French Fizz

Michelle from Rockin Red Blog: How About Some French Fizz this Holiday Season?


Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | red thread™. All Rights Reserved.

Wine Book Review | Terroir Champagne by Caroline Henry

Wine Book Review | Terroir Champagne by Caroline Henry

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about wine and taste makers.

By L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

Wine Book Review:

Terroir Champagne: the Luxury of Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic Cuvées

by Caroline Henry


Like Champagne?

Want to understand more about it, but not sure where to start?

Or maybe just looking for a stocking stuffer for your favorite wine lover?

Here’s one solution –  the book Terroir Champagne by fellow wine writer and international author Caroline Henry.

Terroir Champagne provides the key to unlocking a complex region with uncomplicated ease, a visually appealing book replete with lush photos and concise text.

A certified sommelier, journalist and author, Caroline Henry possesses a keen understanding of Champagne’s unique history, varied soil types and time-intensive vinification practices. A resident of Hautvillers since 2011, the author also enjoys personal relationships with most of the region’s sustainable, organic and biodynamic grower-producers.

Henry showcases over eighty of these mostly family-owned enterprises in her three-part book, a book which begins with a pair of thoughtful forwards by multi-award winning Champagne writer & gastronomic reporter Michael Edwards and International Wine & Spirit Communicator of the Year 2015, International Champagne Writer of the Year 2011, and The Champagne Guide” author Tyson Stelzer.

Part I outlines the modern history of Champagne’s sustainable, organic and biodynamic movements, an explanation of biodynamic preparations, and a handy breakdown of regional soil types.

Part II provides deeply personal portraits of growers by region – Aube, Cote des Blancs, Montagne de Reims, and Vallee de la Marne – along with accompanying menus for each producer’s unique, hand-crafted cuvées.

Part III concludes with a short practical guide to where one can buy and enjoy terroir champagne, a list of organic and biodynamic growers, and a helpful glossary.

A must-have for any wine lover, Champagne enthusiast, or student of the vine.

You can buy the book here. Now go out and celebrate what you’ve learned!

About the author. 

Read Guest Wine Writer Caroline Henry’s feature on Bioenergetic Wine in Champagne here.

Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | red thread™. All Rights Reserved.

#Champagne Day – October 21, 2016 | WWYBD?

#Champagne Day  – October 21, 2016 | WWYBD?

Dear Readers:

An obsession lacks logic.

And yet…

I think many of you know that I’m currently studying for my Champagne Master Level through WSG. This by no means dilutes my devotion to Burgundy.

On the contrary. It only amplifies it, broadening my view through the tasting glass for a different, yet equally artful rendering of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

And while both regions proffer wines of elegance, balance, and complexity, I find that Champagne offers texture and coloratura, in contrast to Burgundy’s supple, single note arias.

That said, one of the greatest joys learning about Champagne involves drinking it.

All the better reason to join fellow champagne lovers globally this Friday, October 21 2016 for the Seventh Annual #Champagne Day, hosted by the Comité Champagne 

It’s easy – just follow this link to find a celebration near you.

Or create your own, wherever you are in the world.

Feel free to post your #ChampagneDay images on Instagram  @binnotes if you’d like a shout out on social media.

Nothing says celebration more than Champagne…what will you be drinking?

Enjoy this day, and cheers!

Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved.

WITIB? Les Champagnes de Vignerons | Seattle

WITIB? Les Champagnes de Vignerons | Seattle

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about wine and taste makers.

By L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”  –Mark Twain

Cut my veins, and I bleed Burgundy. But not this day. No. This day, they had me at bubbles. From Montagne de Reims and Vallée de la Marne, to Côtes de Blancs and Côte des Bar, the recent Les Champagnes de Vignerons Seattle trade tasting offered an artful array of blended and vintage pinot noir, meunier, and chardonnay sparklers.

A neophyte to the fizz, I confess a quick conversion to acolyte. Do I feel disloyal? Yes. And yet…something about champagne offers a ‘textural’ experience unlike that of Burgundy, or any other wine. Champagne requires attention to the ethereal, from the size of the bubbles, to the explosion on the palate, to the pleasing after-glow.  Am I getting too personal? Perhaps.

Perhaps. And yet…something about Champagne ignites the imagination. Instead of attempting to listen to the story of the vintage, the vineyard, and the village, as with Burgundy, Champagne instead requires one to use less of one’s intellect, and more of one’s senses. To allow the harmony of blends, or stunning solo notes of a single vintage to enervate one’s innards, and elevate one’s soul. Or maybe it’s just a quicker buzz.

Regardless, I’m in. Expect more on this magnificent burgeoning obsession in future posts. Cheers!



Copyrighted binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved.

Postscript From the Edge

Postscript From the Edge

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

Postscript from the Edge

I’m currently on assignment…in the interim, please enjoy this video of the chorale in attendance at  La Paulée San Francisco 2016

(Bonus points to whomever can name the group’s official title…extra bragging rights for whomever can name the song, too…)



Mark your calendar for these upcoming features you don’t want to miss:

April 1st: First Friday | № 2|  Women of Georgian Wines 

Featuring: Visiting Professor Sarah May Grunwald  | Taste Georgia

April 5th: Terroirist Tuesday | Burgundy 

Featuring: San Francisco La Paulée 2016 | Off the Grid vs. Grand Tasting 

April 13th: Second Sunday Sampler |№ 1 

Featuring: A  rotating selection of trade samples from artisan wine producers. 

April 15th: Terroirist Tuesday | Champagne

Featuring:Les Champagnes des Vignerons 2016 | Seattle 

See you back here soon…Santé!


Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | Red Thread™.  All Rights Reserved.