The village of Trépail in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne seems the ideal home to one of the region’s most individual producers. Traditionally known for its plantings of Pinot Noir, the Montagne de Reims does however, have one or two very special villages that have chosen a path less trodden by their neighbours. Striking out on their own, the village of Trépail chose Chardonnay as their signature grape and they have continued to reap the rewards ever since.
Continuing this spirit of innovation, David Léclapart has perhaps done more than any other individual to present the Chardonnay dominant wines of Trépail to the international wine community. From 3 hectares of Trépail’s chalky soils come singular expressions of elegance and complexity, compelling in their ability to captivate and delight.
In agreeing to take over the family business in the late 1990s, Léclapart was determined to follow his own course and adhere strictly to biodynamic principles of farming. The objective, he says, “is to respect that which is born in the vines and to enable that to be transmitted to the wine drinker without modifying, amputating or removing anything. Just accompanying it, following it and preparing it so that the drinker can understand, enjoy and get those elements from the wine they’re drinking.” This encapsulates the champagne of David Léclapart.
Eschewing stainless steel in the winery for the negative energy Léclapart believes it imparts, vinification involves a mixture of enamelled steel tanks and second-hand barrels purchased from another great biodynamic practioner, Domaine Leflaive. Indigenous yeasts and spontaneous malolactic fermentation are utilised and the wines remain sur lie until the following year’s harvest when they are released. Although made entirely from a single year the early release date, rather than the required minimum three years ageing, prevents the wines from being labelled with the harvest year – for that a code is used on the back label. All wines are released without dosage and offer remarkable reflections of vintage conditions. Similarly, reserve wine is bypassed thus ensuring a record of the vintage is strictly preserved.
The champagne of David Léclapart is bone-dry in style, unapologetically original and, in the words of Champagne expert Richard Juhlin, “crystal clear, pure and silkily mellow”. In the 2010 l’Artiste, author of View from the Cellar, John Gilman, finds a “bouquet wafting from the glass in a deep mélange of pear, apple, fresh almond, lovely minerality, crème patissière and a top note of white lilies.” There is “… gorgeous mid-palate depth, with fine focus and grip, frothy mousse and a very long, poised and seamlessly balanced finish.”
The top expression from Léclapart is a barrel fermented Blanc de Blancs that uses fruit from the oldest vines in the estate, planted in 1946 by David’s grandfather. John Gilman describes the l’Apôtre as “a complex constellation of pear, apple, a discreet touch of butter, brioche, beautiful chalky soil tones and delicate scents of white flowers”, leaving no doubt as to the master of this creation. Produced in very small quantities Léclapart’s champagne is highly sought after and certain to enchant the lucky imbiber.