The Montgueux hill is located 10km away from Troyes in the southern region of Champagne. The vineyards are renowned for the typicity of the Chardonnay grapes. Facing South East the vines are planted on Upper Cretaceous chalk and clay. Hélène and Arnaud maintain a grass-cover between the vines. The age of these vineyards and the wine-making processes enables the production of generous, complex and highly subtle wines.
Vines were first cultivated in the 12th century and almost disappeared at the end of the 1800s thanks to phylloxera. After the First World War the Beaugrand family was the first to replant its hillsides. Montgueux acquired the Champagne appellation in 1927 and the first bottles were put on sale in 1930. The main street in Montgueux is named ‘Leon Beaugrand’ as mark of respect for the Beaugrand family who pushed for AOC status in 1927.
Hélène and Arnaud Beaugrand are the grand children of an early winemaker. Hélène grew up in Troyes, and was educated in Burgundy also spending several years making wine in South Africa, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States. In 2008 she returned to the family estate to take over the wine making. Her brother Arnaud looks after the manufacturing side of the domain.
The vineyards are all 45 years of age. Malolactic fermentation is allowed and herbicides are not used. Pesticides are not used except in the rarest occasions and then only environmentally friendly ones are chosen. With an annual production of 35,000 bottles – Hélène is raising the quality level, searching for terroir driven wines. She is a logical thinker. Traditionally dosages were all around the 7gm/litre mark, but she is very aware that the work in the vineyard and global warming is providing her with perfectly ripe, rot free grapes to work with. So some of the cuvées will be delicious as Brut Nature. It is interesting that Emmanuel Lassaigne in the same village is also moving to disgorging all of his cuvees as nature.
Hélène and Arnaud press grapes for other small growers in Montgueux and also sell grapes to some significant and influential big houses. Many growers sell grapes or juice to the big houses, as it is important that the big houses maintain a level of quality – since they are the major flag bearers for the ‘Champagne brand’ worldwide. Hélène has some interesting projects on the horizon. During the 2015 harvest I tasted a superb tank of Pinot Meunier. Yes Meunier in Montgueux. Hopefully it will end up as a single vineyard cuvee. We must wait. Hélène has a dynamic attitude to her wine making. She uses and keeps the only best grapes.
Montgueux is a remarkable wine region- totally unique in its structural make up. Classified as being in the Cote des Bars region but in fact has little in common with that Pinot producing area. Montgueux is a tiny hill of pure chalk 100kms south of Epernay. The oenologist Daniel Thibault from Charles Heidsieck described Montgueux as ‘the Montrachet of the Champagne country’ as it has south east facing slopes planted virtually all to Chardonnay. The chalk sub-soil is from the cretaceous period unlike the kimmiridgian clay found in the rest of the Cote des Bars, and its soil is 15 million years older than that of the Cote des Blancs. All of these elements combined allow for perfect ripening with appropriate levels of moisture. More than 50% of all fruit grown in the village is sold off to the likes of Henriot, Louis Roederer, Veuve Clicquot, Charles and Piper Heidsieck, amongst others. The big houses are more than happy to pay premium prices for Montgueux grapes. This is one of the biggest secrets in all of Champagne. Also Montgueux has a Clos – ‘Clos Saint Sophie’ which is 1.4ha.
Style: The Montgueux Chardonnay is a hybrid of Vertus, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger with a hint of quince and minerals, and the Beaugrand style conveys all these attributes. Never fruity and never fat or flabby, always tight and unctuous.
We first me Hélène at the ‘Folies Vigneronnes’ tasting in Paris, where women vignerons from all over France were showing their wines. She is part of a group of women Champagne growers. – Les Fa’Bulleuses de Champagne.