Champagne Leclerc Briant – a bio-dynamic revival

31st March 2015

Champagne Leclerc Briant – a bio-dynamic revival

2014 was a remarkable year in many ways for Champagne Leclerc Briant: a complete relaunch for the brand, a brand new look, new management and new cuvées received to great acclaim by the wine press.

Things could hardly be better for this modest-sized Champagne house where the philosophy of a grower Champagne combines with the ambition of a major brand and there’s a sense of energy and excitement in their offices in Epernay, but just a few short years ago things could hardly have been more different…

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We need to go back to 1872 to begin the story; that was the year in which Lucien Leclerc founded the company in the village of Cumières with vineyards that were part of the dowry of his young wife Adèle. However it was to be another 80 years before Louis-Bertrand Leclerc, the great grandson of Lucien, and his wife Jacqueline Briant changed the company status to that of a true champagne house and moved to premises in Epernay. From then on the house was known as Leclerc-Briant.

By all accounts Louis-Bertrand was very much his own man – and he wasn’t to be the last in the family. He was fascinated by what we now call organic farming, but what, in the 1940s and 50s, was considered to be eccentric, to say the least.

His food came from his orchard and vegetable garden; medicines were made from plants in the garden and, of course, no herbicides, pesticides or other such products whatsoever were used in the vineyards. All these interests as well as his unusual charisma were, passed in generous measure, to his son Pascal.

Pascal continued and expanded his father’s work and succeeded in obtaining organic and biodynamic certification for the entire estate; the objectives were simple: to protect the environment and to make Champagnes that revealed the true character of the terroirs. It may sound common these days but in those days it was nigh on revolutionary.

Pascal was something of a visionary. He started trials of bio-dynamic agriculture as early as 1964, although the use of chemical fertiliser had been banned on the estate and replaced by purely organic material over 20 years previously. In 1978, he acquired a building permit for a wind turbine at a time when the term ‘renewable energy’ didn’t exist.

He made his first single-vineyard wines in 1960 and in 1970 he exported his first zero-dosage Champagne to Switzerland. Throughout his life he maintained an unwavering optimism and an Olympian fitness, partly thanks to his daily exercise routine and partly to his wife, Jacqueline’s, cooking which he promoted by launching ‘Madame Leclerc’s Cookbook’ in 1971.

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He knew how to surprise people too with his originality and his ingenious ideas such as his giant pyramid of glasses (33, 081 glasses was his record) , the countless number of bottles sabered open from the balcony of his tasting room, and his abseiling down into his cellars 30 metres underground.

Then tragedy struck in late 2010 when Pascal died at the age of 60.

In the aftermath much of the vineyard estate had to be sold off and the company very nearly disappeared altogether. For two years there was a large question mark hanging over the fate of Leclerc Briant

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Then in 2012 the house was acquired by an American couple who are lovers of France and French wine and since then – with new investment and the appointment of Frédéric Zeimett, an experienced professional and a native of Champagne, as Chief Executive – the fortunes of Leclerc-Briant have turned a corner.

A cauldron of activity has seen the acquisition of new vineyards mainly in or near the traditional heartland of Leclerc Briant in Hautvillers, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Bisseuil and Rilly la Montagne.

Hervé Jestin, probably the leading oenologist in Champagne specialising in biodynamics, has been retained as the consultant to the House of Leclerc Briant and new range of cuvées in a brand new livery has been launched whilst major renovation work has been put in hand in the winery and administrative buildings. Notwithstanding all this, throughout 2014 a major promotional programme has been carried out to introduce the new-look Leclerc-Briant to clients new and old around the world.

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Amidst all the activity and excitement the core values of Leclerc Briant have been maintained. Grapes are sourced exclusively from organic and biodynamic vineyards, indeed Leclerc Briant is the only Champagne house that uses 100% organic grapes from the three major regions in Champagne.

Whether you chose a Champagne from the Classic range or from the, Single Vineyard or Specialities Collection, more expressive of a specific terroir, the objective of Leclerc Briant is to offer Champagnes of exceptional quality with a style that is recognisably different.

Some of the wines are vinified in barrels. Both the composition and the shape of the barrels are beneficial for the wine, as is the limited amount of oxygen that passes though the wood. The slightly oxidative style and the stability and structure that the wood and the tartar bring to the wines are all valued at Leclerc Briant.

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The wines are left to age in the deep cellars for at least 30 months before being disgorged and, true to the desire to let the wines and the terroir speak for themselves, dosage is kept to a minimum so as not to mask the true character of the wines.

A lot has changed at Leclerc Briant since 2010 but now the Maison seems set once again for happy times and the future promises to be even more fascinating than the past.

Shared by Jiles Halling

Author: Jiles Halling is an Englishman and long-time resident in Champagne. You can find out more on

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