Winery Snippet | Champagne Boizel
Champagne Boizel – France, Champagne, Epernay
Founded in 1834, Champagne Boizel has cultivated excellence since its origins by respecting the values of authenticity and commitment to the best quality. In 180 years of existence, this family house has forged its reputation on the subtlety of its blends and the finesse of its different Champagnes. Then as now, each generation pursues the adventure by combining respect of tradition with a capacity for innovation to continue to produce Champagnes that are constantly more refined and more appealing. The involvement of the family in all stages of production, from the vine to the glass, and the family’s deep roots in Epernay, in the heart of Champagne, are two major strengths for the House. This love for Champagne and the passionate pursuit of finesse, character and elegance in the wines are authentic family values.
The Boizel Spirit
Each member of the Boizel family is proud to be part of this wonderful story and to take their turn as the holder of the family traditions that have been passed from father to son (or daughter) since 1834. But beyond recipes, blending secrets and customs, every generation has strived to enrich the family tradition and to pass on the Boizel spirit.
Rigour, meticulousness and perseverance are of course essential, but passion for Champagne also requires an open, curious, inventive mind, that is always looking for improvement.
One must remain modest before the gifts of nature, and respect the character of each still wine, without wanting to “impose” a taste, but rather seeking to enhance the wine’s natural qualities… Each generation has managed to progress with the times, trying out new practices in viticulture and oenology and selecting those that will enable the best grapes, and then the best wines to be obtained, ultimately offering the finest expression of their natural character, and always in the pursuit of excellence.
The involvement of the family in all stages of production, from the vine to the glass, and the family’s deep roots in Epernay, in the heart of Champagne, are two major strengths for the House.
This love for Champagne and the passionate pursuit of finesse, character and elegance in the wines are authentic family values.
A Remarkable Vineyard
This is one of the paradoxes of Champagne: vines planted on hillsides in poor, chalky soil and subsoil, exposed to a northern climate with alternating oceanic and continental influences, produce here high quality grapes remarkable for their outstanding finesse. Their delicate aromatic potential and superb freshness are perfectly suited to the elaboration of great Champagnes.
Three key elements -climate, sub-soil and hilly terrain- combine in a unique alliance, but the diversity of nature creates endless variations, all of which influence the character of future wines.
Hence the importance for Boizel of an intimate knowledge of each hillside, of each village (and nearly each grower!)… in order to select the finest quality grapes. All through the year they tour the Côte des Blancs with its beautiful Chardonnays (Avize, Chouilly, Oger, Vertus, etc), the Montagne de Reims, land of the great Pinot Noirs (Ay, Mareuil sur Ay, Tauxieres, Mailly-Champagne etc.), the Vallée de la Marne with the ultimate expression of Pinot Meunier (Venteuil, Passy-Grigny , Vendieres…) and also the best villages for Pinot Noir in the Aube (Les Riceys).
The vines are meticulously maintained and managed in accordance with “sustainable viticulture” practices, with a view to embracing a more environmentally friendly approach. The harvests take place approximately one hundred days after flowering (45 days after the setting of the fruit) and are entirely manual in order to avoid any damage to the grapes. For the same reason, the grapes are pressed immediately in the village nearest the vineyards. For the Pinot Noir and Meunier, there is no maceration, so that a “white” juice is obtained: the pulp of these black grapes is quite clear , in fact it is just like Chardonnay.
In Champagne, the juices obtained on pressing are separated into “cuvée” and “taille”. Only the cuvée, which represents the purest, finest quality juice, from the heart of the grape, is used for Boizel’s cuvées.
The Art of Creation
The search for excellence means there can be no compromises during the various stages of the wines’ production. It is always the most natural solutions, which are the most protective of the flavours, that are given preference.
The sole objective of the work in the cellar during the autumn and winter is to prepare the widest possible range of carefully selected wines for the big blending tastings in the spring. This is why each wine from each village and each grape variety are vinified separately in stainless steel tanks. The temperature of the musts is controlled and lowered (16 to 18°C) during this delicate stage: as a result, fermentation is slower (three to four weeks) and more respectful of the wines’ natural flavours. The wines retain all of their extremely delicate aromatic potential. A small selection of the musts of some outstanding wines is vinified in barrels, in order to refine their character.
The family also chooses to allow malolactic fermentation to take place during November; this is a natural progression in which the malic acid, one of numerous acids present in the wine, is converted to lactic acid. The wines then have a more rounded texture and will develop biscuity, brioche notes during the maturing period.
The tastings begin in the middle of winter, and involve all the members of the Boizel family accompanied by the oenologist. In this process, everyone deepens and memorizes their judgements regarding the potential of each vin clair (still wine) of which they are following the evolution: at this stage, the wines show a formidable -and indispensable- acidity; the flavours are subtle, floral and fruity, as is typical of very young wines.
Certain wines from the previous two harvests, that have been kept in low-temperature vats, are used to enrich the blends of the non-vintage Champagnes.
The final choices and thus the proportions of each blend are determined in the very early spring: the challenge is to find the balance that will enable the best possible expression of the qualities of each wine. There are no fixed criteria, or concepts that could be encapsulated in some kind of formula; it is not simply a matter of following the same recipe year after year. The taste and the harmony of our Champagnes are inscribed in our memories, perhaps even in our genes. This is a time for modesty, authenticity, for trusting one’s intuition and skill, and for being guided by a passion for the great wines of Champagne.
The family meets regularly to follow the evolution of the young Champagnes, to determine the necessary maturing periods, and consider the appropriate dosage (addition of sugar syrup) for each wine. The precision of each dosage is of vital importance. Boizel tends to choose low dosages, but not on principle: the only guide is the search for a subtle balance in the wine.
Time – A Passage to the Sublime
Giving each elaboration stage the necessary time for natural evolution, giving each wine the appropriate number of years in the cellar essential to reach its full potential, and meticulously choosing the dates for the release of wines onto the market, are a rare luxury; it is one of the family traditions to which the Boizels are the most deeply committed and one that they apply with expertise.
This notion of time is a decisive factor in the quality of the Champagnes and comes into play as soon as the grapes are selected and vinified. The still wines produced from the best grapes, in particular the Grands and Premiers Crus, require a lot of time to open up (and the cuvées will have a better capacity to age). Subsequently, in the vats, the temperature is kept low so that alcoholic fermentation takes place very slowly so that the freshness and the delicacy of the flavours are protected.
Similarly, during the prise de mousse (secondary fermentation): after the tirage (bottling) following the required blend proportions and the addition of yeasts and sugar, the bottles are taken down into the cellars where a cool year-round temperature of 10°C ensures a very slow secondary fermentation in the bottle, over six to eight weeks. This extended period results in a very fine mousse and the total preservation of the wines’ flavours.
Finally there is the long maturing stage in the cellars. Experience has shown that wines age better on the lees and so this is how they are stored, horizontally, in quietness and darkness. This period is essential for them to gain the finesse, character and elegance that make great Champagnes. The rules for the Appellation require fifteen months but at Boizel, where traditions are upheld, the wines are kept for at least three to four years in the cellar before being dispatched to customers all over the world.
The specific blends for vintages require even more time: their flavours do not become truly refined and reach their full potential for five to ten years, and sometimes even longer. The Boizel family always make sure that they wait for the moment when Champagnes cuvées begin to reveal their complexity, their generosity and the wonderful smoothness that is so appreciated by connoisseurs.
Similarly, after dosage, Boizel insists on a resting period of a few months: this is the price of excellence.