Portrait: Champagne Bernard Lonclas

In 2021, I published my book "Champagne: The 100 Most Important Maisons, Winemakers and Cooperatives". At that time, it was extremely difficult for me to select from the hundreds of first-class champagne producers. That is why there is a sequel online at Sur-la-pointe! Part 2 is dedicated to a pioneer in the little-known region of Vitryat: Bernard Lonclas.

5 mins read


Viticulture around the town of Vitry-le-François has a long tradition. At the end of the 17th century, old records show, vineyards were not as widespread in percentage terms in any of the Champagne communes and towns as they were here. With the famine riots between 1764 and 1770 a few years before the French Revolution, viticulture around Vitry began to decline, but in 1882 the French historian Henry Vizetelly still counted 2,465 hectares of vines in the region, still a good 15 percent of viticulture in the Marne department and about a third of the vineyards around Reims. The phylloxera plague between 1890 and 1900 finally dealt the death blow to viticulture in the area, which is located in the east of Champagne. For a time even no longer included in the appellation boundaries, the Vitryat was only reintroduced into the production area in 1974 and a first wave of new vineyard plantings began. Today, after a second in the 1990s, 480 hectares are again under vines.

The founder of the Champagne house named after him, Bernard Lonclas is the son of a farmer from the village of Bassuet, nine kilometers northeast of Vitry, the most important wine-growing community in the region. Driven by the dream of becoming a winemaker from an early age, he learned viticulture in nearby Avize. At the age of just 17, he acquired his first parcel of land: the just 55-acre Lieu-dit “La Touaille” planted with Chardonnay on the southeastern slopes of Bassuet. With his wife Line, he then founded the Champagne house named after him in 1976, and in 1979 he sold his first cuvées. Meanwhile, his two daughters Aurélie and Mathilde support him. In 2011, his winery wins a gold medal in a competition for the best Chardonnays in the world. A success not only for Lonclas personally, but for the entire region. In 2019, American Airlines selected Champagne Lonclas for their lounges. They are now ambassadors of Vitryat around the world.


Champagne Bernard Lonclas’ vineyard holdings have grown steadily and now cover 12 hectares on 27 parcels. Almost all of them are located in the eight communes of the Côteaux Vitryats: Bassu, Changy, Vavvray le Grand, Lisse en Champagne, Saint Amand sur Fion, St Lumier en Champagne, Vitry en Perthois and, of course, in their home commune of Bassuet. Here the family also owns land directly behind the winery in the particularly favored Lieu-dits Les Loges and Les Fours. At this location, there are breakthroughs of Turonian chalk at a height of a good 150 meters on the back slopes above Bassuet and the little river Le Flon. This forms here slopes of up to 15 percent gradient with south to southeast exposure – with excellent conditions for Chardonnay.

This special Turonian chalk has its name, by the way, from Tours or the Tourraine and is called there Tuffeau. In Champagne, you find it otherwise only in the very isolated “Gothic hill” Montgueux near Troyes. In addition, Champagne Lonclas owns small parcels in the Aube (Pinot Noir), the Vallée de la Marne (Pinot Meunier) and the Massif St. Thierry (Pinot Noir). To meet the demand, the house buys the harvest of about 33 hectares. Mainly Chardonnay from the Côteaux Vitryats, some Pinot Meunier from the Vallée de la Marne and Pinot Noir from Venteuil and the Massif St. Thierry in addition. In total, the blend consists of 85 percent Chardonnay, 10 percent Pinot Meunier and 5 percent Pinot Noir.


Champagne Lonclas manages its vineyards in an environmentally conscious and sustainable manner. 2024, it will in all likelihood achieve both VDC and HVE certification in 2024. To reduce its environmental footprint, the house has been experimenting with reduced vine planting density since 2010. Sustainability also benefits from the fact that almost all of the estate’s own vines are located within a good ten kilometer radius of the winery. Pressing is done gently in small Coquard presses of 4,000 kilos capacity. Fermentation and aging take place in 60 temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, and malolactic fermentation is complete. Reserve wines are made only from old vines and are aged for at least three years in stainless steel tanks. The bottling dosage is quite high for the entry-level segment, but much lower for the Blancs de Blancs. The disgorgement date is commendably noted on the back label. To combat climate warming, tanks for cold pre-clarification of the grapes have recently been purchased. In addition, the cellar was expanded to ensure a rotation of more than three vintages of Champagne.


Bernard Lonclas offers eight champagnes. Initially, the fruit-driven Cuvée Sélection Brut (Chardonnay 20%, Pinot Meunier 50% and Pinot Noir 20%, 11g/L dosage). Then, at the special request of customers – it is now number two in the range in terms of sales figures – a Cuvée Prestige (2/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Pinot Meunier) as Extra Brut with 15 grams/liter (and as Demi Sec with 36 grams/liter) dosage and a somewhat low acidity. Rosé Brut is also based on this cuvée. In it, the base wines of the Cuvée Prestige are blended with 15% red wine before the second fermentation. With a dosage of 12 grams/liter, it, too, is in the sweeter range of the Brut spectrum. Drier then, with 8.5 grams per liter of dosage, is the Millésime Brut. It matures in the cellar for at least six years and is a blend of 80 percent Chardonnay and 20 percent Pinot Meunier.

The second half of the range is exclusively pure Chardonnay Champagnes, starting with a classic Blanc de Blancs Brut (8g/L dosage, or demi-sec at 30g/L on request). Then follow two Blancs de Blancs made exclusively from our own grapes from old vines. Grand Brut (with 9 g/L dosage) and Extra Brut with only 5 grams per liter dosage. Finally, Vintage Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut. It is 100% sourced from the best sites in the Côteaux Vitryats and is produced only in the best vintages. Currently, the house is preparing an organic cuvée and a champagne aged in wood.

The Tasting

My first encounter with Champagne Lonclas comes from the ProWein 2022, where the champagnes convinced me and I could learn a lot about the history of the winery. The house then sent me four samples for an extensive follow-up tasting. The Cuvée Prestige (deg. 23/01/23) surprised thereby by a beautiful freshness and harmonious composition. The unusual blend of one-third Chardonnay and two-thirds Pinot Noir is very convincing. And thanks to the great, vibrant 2019 vintage, from which the base wines for this cuvée come, the increased dosage integrates also well (89 p.). I was less happy with the Blanc de Blancs Brut (deg. 15/11/22), which couldn’t hide the fact that most of the wine came from the heat vintage of 2018. There are lots of yellow stone fruit and yeasty notes on the nose. But I did find the tension lacking here (87 p.).

The top wines are much more exciting. The Blanc de Blancs Grand Brut (deg. 16/11/22) is carried by the base vintage 2017 as well as reserve wines and was allowed to mature for five years in the cellar. Here, in addition to the aromatics typical of Chardonnay (flowers, citrus), fine autolytic notes such as toast and brioche can already be tasted. The problematic 2017 was mastered here with aplomb. Beautiful acidity and integrated dosage (91 p.) The Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut from the very classic and elegant 2014 vintage is certainly the highlight of the current range. The dosage date is not noted here, but the second bottle fermentation probably lasted at least seven years. This puts the Champagne in the league of Prestige Cuvées. A nice Chardonnay aroma here as well, which turns out softer and fruitier than in the nearby Côte de Blancs. Very fine mousse, transparent and multilayered on the palate and with good length, that pleases (92 p.). By the way, the champagnes have a very good price-performance ratio!

Image Rights

Stefan Pegatzky / Time Tunnel Images

Mehr zum Thema und einführende Informationen:

Stefan Pegatzky: Champagner: Die 100 wichtigsten Maisons, Winzer und Kooperativen.

240 Seiten, zahlreiche Abbildungen.

Wiesbaden: Tre Torri Verlag, 2001.

Ausgezeichnet als bestes Weinbuch des Jahres 2021 mit dem Deutschen Kochbuchpreis in Gold

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