New cuvées from Le Brun de Neuville

The small cooperative from Bethon on the Côte de Sézanne was the kick-off to the continuation of my champagne book on Sur-la-pointe a year ago. Not only because the house comes from a little-known region, but also because it impresses with its unusual champagnes. With its two new releases, Le Brun de Neuville shows why it is currently the most creative cooperative in Champagne.

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A champagne producer with classic cork: tradition recrafted

The cooperatives in Champagne are changing. Of course, they still produce large quantities of base wines for the major trading houses. But with their first own brands, they initially tried to imitate the codes of the Grandes Marques – not unlike the first independent winegrowers (“Récoltant-manipulant”). The same cuvées such as Standard Brut, Rosé, Vintage and Prestige Cuvée. Similar labels with aristocratic coats of arms and gold lettering. This was also the case with Le Brun de Neuville. Until the cooperative initially withdrew from the super markets in 2008, invested heavily in quality and completely transformed itself in 2019. Now, it is no longer the négociants that serve as a role model, but its self-image as a winegrower. The most recent examples: a Blanc de Blancs fermented and aged in wood and an unusual still rosé wine, a so-called Côteaux champenois.

The cooperative

Today, the cooperative from Bethon has over 160 hectares of vineyards. The company is proud of the fact that these are spread across all twelve communes of the Côte de Sézanne. Geologically, this is something of an extension of the Côte des Blancs. Its subsoil of Campania chalk is considered the ideal subsoil for Chardonnay – naturally the region’s trump card. A good 250,000 bottles are marketed under the Le Brun de Neuville brand, which was created in 1973. In recent years, it has been increasingly positioned in the premium segment. Characteristics include long ageing on the lees, partial spontaneous fermentation and a strong terroir character – as well as a striking visual appearance. The communication on the back label is exemplary.

Le Chant des Fûts

With the new cuvée Le Chant des Fûts, Le Brun de Neuville recalls the champagne production of the early 20th century before the introduction of cement and stainless steel tanks. Chardonnay grapes from the Sézannais from the (remarkable) 2019 vintage were fermented in wood. The base wine then matured for a further 19 months in small containers of 205, 228 and 400 litres as well as demi-muids. For the first edition, the second fermentation followed in the bottle for 24 months (dég. 18/4/23). A total of 2,227 bottles were finally bottled without any dosage.

In October 2023, the first tasters still noted the clear woody character of the champagne. This has now harmonised nicely. In addition to a hint of vanilla on the nose, there is mainly lime and young pineapple, as well as some white flowers. Powerful on the palate, with a creamy texture but beautiful inner tension (92 p.).

Le r(Ô)sé

The r(Ô)sé is even more unusual. It is no coincidence that its name contains the word ôsé, the French word for risky or daring. As a still wine made from 100 per cent Pinot Noir from the 2020 vintage, it falls under the AOC Côteaux champenois. It originates from 45-year-old vineyards on clay and limestone soils in “Les Foizardes” in Bethon and “Les Vallées” in Montgenost, the southernmost wine-growing village in the Marne department. The grapes macerated for 18 hours, after fermentation and malolactic fermentation the wine matured for 24 months in oak and acacia barrels. Here too, the quantity is small at just 1,572 bottles. Light emerald red in colour in the glass, with a bouquet of subtle wild strawberries, sour cherries and raspberries, as well as some dried herbs. The refined, silky mouthfeel reveals great savoir-faire and puts this wine miles above the omnipresent mainstream rosés (90 P.).

Both wines are not cheap, but are more than worth their price. We can only hope that Le Brun de Neuville will continue to innovate despite the difficult times.

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Stefan Pegatzky / Time Tunnel Images

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