A family affair

6 mins read

By Celia Strong

Like so many other wines that we drink, the family they come from makes them what they are. We look at where the family lives, all the generations involved over years and years, what the patriarch (or matriarch) established as their style and standard. We’ve learned many of these names and depend on them. More than in other industries, wine is a family affair. 

Our family this week, and our wine, is Drappier. Let’s go back to 1604, when Rémy Drappier was born. 

Rémy was a cloth merchant in Reims. His grandson, Nicolas (1669-1724), was a public prosecutor during the reign of Louis XIV. But, finally, in 1803, François Drappier moved to Urville (a town in what is now the Champagne region) and began working in a vineyard. 

In the 1930s, in the vineyards of Urville, heated discussions took place. Georges Collot, the maternal grandfather of Michel, currently head of the Drappier company, planted Pinot Noir, for the first time ever in the region. 

Collot was nicknamed “Father Pinot.” 

History has shown how right he was. Pinot Noir is now 70 percent of Drappier vineyards and almost three quarters of the plantings for this part of the Champagne region. 

In 1952, André and Micheline Drappier launched their house cuvée brut, Drappier Carte d’Or, which is our wine for this week. But, we’ll come back to it. 

In 1957, the weather in Champagne was catastrophic. A frost destroyed 95 percent of the grapes. André introduced Pinot Meunier into their plantings, a variety that is far more resistant to cold than its more delicate cousin, Pinot Noir. 

Since 1979, Michel Drappier has controlled the winemaking for the company while André, with years of harvest experience, watches the vineyards and grapes. 

The company today owns more than 130 acres and controls another 123 acres through contracts. In 1988, they gained ownership of cellars under Reins that were built during the reign of Napoléon III. Michel and his wife have three children, born between 1989 and 1996. 

When the Drappier Carte d’Or is made, meaning when the reserve wines are blended to make a batch, three generations of the family sit in. 

Every time, they strive to ensure that the flavors and textures in each individual wine are maintained. Also, they are fiercely opposed to excessive use of sulphur. They use the weakest doses of any Champagne producer. That means that their finished wines show more natural colors, with coppery gold tones. And, the aromas are more pronounced. 

Their “liqueurs d’expedition,” the blend of sugar and wine that are added to each bottle to determine how dry it is, are aged in oak casks and then over 10 years in demijohns. 

With the added concentration and refinement from these “liqueurs,” Drappier’s finished Champagnes are more complex and purer. 

All of this is pretty serious and labor intensive. But it makes our wine, the Drappier Carte d’Or, a distinctive style of Champagne. This non-vintage cuvée is made using just the must from the first pressing of the grapes. Mechanical low-pressure presses and gravity helps to avoid pumping the musts and that helps to avoid too much oxidation. The alcoholic fermentation takes about two weeks. A total, natural malolactic fermentation takes place. And no filtering is done. Five percent of the wines are aged in oak barrels. 

The blend of grapes for this wine is 75 percent Pinot Noir, 15 percent Chardonnay and 10 percent Pinot Meunier, which explains why the perception is that it is a Blanc de Noirs. 

The Carte d’Or is the epitome of the Drappier style. It has rich aromas of stone fruits like peaches, and quince, which always comes to mind with this wine. There are also baking spice undertones. The wine is full and powerful.

It is definitely a food-friendly Champagne and goes with fish, like rolled stuffed filets; poultry, roasted or with a rich cream sauce; pork and veal roasts; omelets; and casseroles. It has Asian flavors, including soy sauce and Chinese five spice.

Seems the generations of this family have done us well. Our turn to share with our families. For $34.99. While it lasts. Enjoy.

Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.

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