Two themes define the winemaking of Emmanuel Lassaigne – terroir and experimentation. From these two points emerge wines that are noted, in the words of Wine Advocate’s Stephan Reinhardt, for their “purity and expression” wrapped up in a “full-flavoured, multi-layered style”. In his own words, Emmanuel says that he is “looking for purity in the aroma of terroir … my goal is the terroir.”
Based in Montgueux to the west of the town Troyes and in the southern part of the Champagne region, Emmanuel Lassaigne took over the estate from his father Jacques. Initially set on a course other than winemaking it wasn’t until 1999 that Emmanuel, in pursuit of a smaller business to develop, returned to the family estate and began working alongside his father, eventually taking over completely in 2002.
Jacques Lassaigne planted some of the first vines in the region’s modern history atop the hill of Montgueux in the 1960s and initially began his career providing grapes to the local co-op. By 1970 he had switched to making his own wines, but it was not until the 1980s that he began making sparkling wine. Of the two wines he began with, the NV Cuvée Le Cotet continues to be made today. This Blanc de Blancs is produced from a single vineyard of 50-year-old vines in chalk soils. Reinhardt, in writing for Wine Advocate, describes the wine as showing “a beautifully pure, complex, iodine and chalky bouquet mingled with ripe apple and citrus aromas. Full-flavored and full-bodied on the palate ... It's very long and bone dry, of great finesse and elegance.”
Despite the local industry being dominated by growers, Emmanuel has continued his father’s work as a producer. With careful attention to vineyard health and fruit quality combined with the more southerly exposure of Montgueux, the estate style is one characterised by intensity of flavour. When reviewing the NV Rosé de Montgueux for International Wine Cellar, Stephen Tanzer describes a vibrant wine that “Packs a wallop but comes off bright and energetic, offering zesty red fruit and blood orange flavors and a deeper pit fruit nuance. Closes dry and long, with resonating mineral and floral notes.”
In the winery stainless steel dominates vinification, fermentation uses indigenous yeast and the bottles are disgorged à la volée or by hand, without freezing the neck of the bottle or using sulfur. Lassaigne does however explore different ways to highlight the expression of site. Whilst acknowledging that a barrel is never neutral, Lassaigne experiments with the use of oak from Fuissé in the Macon, Jura and Cognac, adding shade and light to the wine as warranted. Further ensuring he has the widest palette available, each parcel of fruit is vinified separately and going a step further Lassaigne often vinifies different pressings from the same parcel individually.
The success of this approach has been widely acknowledged by critics. Jancis Robinson MW describes the NV La Colline Inspiree Blanc de Blancs, which contains a significant portion of wine that has undergone oak treatment, as “Light and focused and very pure. Slim-line wine with real structure.” In complete agreement, Stephan Reinhardt says, “There seems to be a sea breeze in this Champagne that brings the flavors of oysters and lemons onto the nose. Full-bodied and very complex on the palate, this is a serious and vinous, firmly structured Champagne of great elegance and expression…”