September 21, 2012 Françoise Bedel & Fils
Françoise Bedel & Fils Dis, Vin Secret
pinot meunier(86%), pinot noir(8%), chardonnay(6%)
Françoise Bedel & Fils Dis, Vin Secret (degorgement 2009; 5 years on the lees)
Another brilliant grower champagne. Golden yellow in my humid glass. An intriguing nose of ripe fruit, aromas of undergrowth. Dry, and without too many bubbles getting in the way. Stewed apples giving rise to honey, candied citrus. Distinctive. Delightful. $$
The champagnes of Françoise Bedel owe their existence to her son Vincent and his childhood medical condition. Having given up on standard treatments, his mother turned to homeopathic medicine. When it proved to be the cure, a vineyard light went on. What if such methods were applied to the growing of grapes, a mindset away from the domaine’s conventional chemical approach? A meeting with biodynamic champagne producer Jean-Pierre Fleury triggered a move to convert two hectares of the estate to biodynamics. The rest soon followed. Have the wines improved? Françoise would say most definitely. “The flavors are more intimate, with a greater profundity and expression.” Wine critics agree.
Françoise Bedel and now-grown son Vincent cultivate 8.4 hectares in the very western reaches of the Champagne region, centred in the village of Crouttes-sur-Marne, only about 80 km from Paris. The estate is made up of several different parcels in four separate areas on the banks of the Marne River. The soils here are largely a mix of chalk and clay, with some limestone soils (such as those in which the grapes for Dis, Vin Secret are grown.) Françoise and Vincent have come to view each parcel as distinctive, each with their own characteristics, and requiring their own specific treatments.
Traditionally, the vineyards have been comprised mostly of pinot meunier, and that remains so today, despite the fact that the grape is not looked upon by some as champagne-worthy. Her success with the grape is clear evidence of the care taken in the vineyard and the natural, dynamic health of the plants.
Neither are the mother-son team conventional in their approach in the cellar. Unlike the vast majority of champagnes, which are blended from different vintages with the aim of maintaining uniformity of product from year to year, Bedel bottlings are single vintage. Says Françoise, “I prefer to allow the wines to express themselves through the terroir and the vintage. It’s not necessarily a champagne of consistent taste. Each year is different.”
And isn’t that the beauty of wine? Rather than the taste-one-vintage, taste-them-all experience, each Bedel vintage gives the drinker a new taste experience, something fresh to remember.