Champagne DrappierWines, history, passion & style

Anna Caidan meets up with Eric Maillot for Champagne Drappier
Wine Story

What could you tell me about the history of Champagne Drappier?

‘Today I work with the seventh generation of Drappier. The Drappier family started in 1604, in Reims, we have traces of this family from the same time as Monsieur Ruinart and they were both actually selling upholstery. It was one of his ancestors who moved from Reims to Urville and settled in the first Drappier vineyard in 1808. Then for six generations, the family have been growers and selling grapes and working as farmers, a very simple, modest family. Then the sixth generation, André, today he is 93 years old and is still working! I work with his son, Michel, the seventh generation and the eighth generation has just joined, Hugo, Charlene, and Antoine. André created the first Drappier Champagne, Michel developed it to what it is today, and now the new generation is taking over.’

What is the secret to making Drappier wines?

‘A champagne is a blend of grapes, a blend of years, and a blend of terroirs, that’s the rule. We don’t want our customers to taste a grape, a year or a terroir, usually we want them to taste a house style. So, you drink Champagne Bollinger, Champagne Pol Roger, whatever, it’s a house style! So how do we build this house style? Normally when you are a négociant, you buy vineyards all over Champagne, because the idea is to add those qualities. We grew for six generations as farmers, we own sixty hectares, so we’re pretty good farmers! We own sixty hectares around Urville, one single village, and in the eighties, Michel had to define what it is to have a Drappier style. He looked to Bollinger and Roger to see how they did it. He had a problem that his sixty-hectare vineyard, 80% of which is Pinot Noir, so there is one grape over one terroir. Finally, he made his problem into a solution, and we are one of the first to talk about terroir notion in champagne, and we created a Brut Nature. One grape, Pinot Noir, one terroir, Urville, and no sugar added! With the idea that we bring to you the purest champagne that we can!’

What is your favourite step in the wine making process?

‘Harvest, definitely harvest. It’s the liveliest, and at least 50% of the quality of the champagne is made, if the harvest has been successful. It’s the most important, especially if you work, like at Drappier with very low sulphur.’

What is your best memory since working at Drappier?

‘I joined the company on the second of January of this year, and on the 6th, or 7th, we wanted to participate in the Sommelier Awards, and we had to decide which vintage we would present. We were ending our vintage 2012, and we were about to launch our 2013, and so after four days, I had been involved in the selection with Michel and Hugo, which cuvée we were going to use, and I felt straightaway integrated into the family.’

… And your most challenging moment?

‘We own some cellars that have been dug in the 12th century by the Cistercians. The philosophy of the Cistercians was pray hard, work hard, and live in misery! Today we don’t live in misery, we live in Champagne! We don’t pray, but we work hard, and since I joined the family it is true that we have been working very hard. That being said, I don’t feel like it has been a challenge, nothing is complicated in Drappier!’

How would you define your champagnes in three words?

‘Unique, terroir-linked and fruity.’

How do your Champagnes differ from others in the region?

‘Mostly about the terroir notion, and low sulphur use. I like to point out that it’s a work that took generations, the work on sugar, work on sulphur, low temperature, and it is the work of these generations that built the Drappier style that we have today.’

How are your champagnes best served?

‘Not so cold, we really want the fresh fruit to shine, and as its Pinot Noir, its mostly red fruit, so we could almost serve them as you would a white wine in an aperitif style!’

We hope our readers love their champagne as much as we do!

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