On the edge of the appellation, at the end of a little road where the land is full of life and the soil fertile, a plant garden sets on a clay terroir with green marl. Benoît is an outstanding winemaker who knew how to take a back seat to the evidence of his terroir and listen to his dream of great wines of Champagne made for the gastronomy. He crafts wines with unique texture and with an incredible level of requirement ranging from the biodynamic approach to the choice of the wood for his barrels, the conductor of Champagne Benoît Déhu brought the wines of the estate to their noblest expression, offering the Pinot Meunier its finest interpretations. He did not just carried on with the tradition, he took things in hand with determination. Located in the Vallée de la Marne in Fossoy, we met with this winegrower who creates masterly cuvées.
Conscientious winegrower, outstanding winemaker, Benoit Déhu makes a perfect-score in Fossoy, perpetuating the incredible history launched for 8 generations by his family since 1987. In the Vallée de la Marne (Aisne), he watches over his land where clay-limestone and clayey-marly terroir gives to the Pinot Meunier – king grape variety of the area – all its elegance, fruitiness and complexity.
Since the 80’s, the family makes his own champagnes with their brand, Champagne Déhu père & fils, at the cooperative until 2011, when Benoît decides to create Champagne Benoît Déhu.
Armed with a 4 years work experience at the prestigious House Bollinger, where he learnt the sensitivity to wood and got marked by the woodwork, he came back the family estates in the years 2000 and in 2011 starts to work on and with only one plot of the estate: La rue des Noyers.
The vineyard is managed with a high-respect of nature and following organic and biodynamic principles. Since 2013, Benoît has been using his own barrels, made in Champagne with wood from the Meilleray forest creating multifaceted wines expressing the terroir’s characteristic minerality. In 2011, he started the organic conversion and obtained the certification in 2014. Today, Benoît works with biodynamic method but without being certified: he was not looking for the label but for more complex, elegant and fine wines.
Through his methods, his choice of approaches, Benoît seeks to pull up the quality of products, like through his choice to work exclusively with barrels. For Benoît, champagne is a work of patience: it is important to take time, let the wine follow its route – 8-9 months in barrel and on lees, no batônnage, late racking… Thanks to this approach, the barrels remain empty for a short time. The vinification and aging take place in oak barrels only with minimal intervention.
Besides the organic and biodynamic method, Benoît also seeks to work as locally as possible – and if the local is impossible, at least French. The winemaker has a true quality approach around craftsmanship. All his supplies are chosen carefully to suit his work: FSC labeled corks without branding on the bottom – in order avoid to mark the wine and to keep the natural beauty of the cork -, labels in bio-sourced materials, Absolute Green line foils from Sparflex, recycled and recyclable cardboard box, lighter bottles, wax for the Coteaux coming from one of the last French manufacturers and same thing for the muslin. Through these choices, Benoît follows through with his environmental and quality approach, including packaging – even the scotch – by seeking the best of French know-how and craftsmanship.
High quality approach each step of the steps:
The estate owns 13 hectares but Benoît works with only 2,25ha of them. The main grape variety is the Pinot Meunier (95%) but Benoît has also 5% Pinot Noirs. As for the terroir, it is rather clayey with green marls for the Rue des Noyers plot with a very hard soil but silty with sandstone and flint for the plot of Pinot Noirs.
The winegrower applies a rigorous methodology in the vineyard : massal selection, to take the time to select – Pinot noirs from Burgundy with low yield- search for quality origins through rigorous nurseries. The Rue des Noyers plot for example has 3 different grapevine rootstocks that are vinified separately since 2014: 3 cuvées to come with 3 different profiles / 3 terroirs.
Benoît is also one of the 5 or 6 winemakers in Champagne to use dry alfalfa from the region as food for the vineyard. Once again, an approach linked to his environmental and local approach. It enables to make the economy of the region work and provides an optimal biology to the soil thanks to this organic matter. Indeed, these organic pellets make it possible to revitalize the soil. The mixtures are made to measure: classic alfalfa or corn with alfalfa and beet, … But Benoît also produces his aerated compost tea which is a sort of levain made from compost applied once on the vine stock and once on foliage and allowing to bring life to the soil. The goal of the winemaker is to get a soil as lively as possible and ideally reach a vine that can defend itself; This is the example of bindweed that is never sick. The objective is to try to naturally bring the vine to the same pH as bindweed. All this approach in order to have the healthiest grapes possible.
2 Bucher presses of 8000 kg are used for Champagne Déhu père & fils and press services. However, Benoît was looking for something else for Champagne Benoît Déhu. So he searched during almost 2 years to find an automatic press of 2000 kg: a smaller machine for more precision and to improve the quality.
As for the winemaking process, Benoît owns a barrel park with barrels of all sizes and with great variety of origins. The room has been rebuilt in 2016 and is located on the top floor of an old barn from 1921 with a very nice wood framework. The idea was logical for the winemaker to ” put the wood with the wood”. Moreover, for the renovation there has been a real technical research work on materials: earth-based coatings for a “living room” absorbing or releasing moisture. The winemaker had to find technical solutions for his project since it had never been done in the region before – search for suppliers abroad … The room is also air-conditioned with an air treatment system for ideal conditions for the wines and a constant temperature of 12-13 ° C. A new wooden storage building – DS panels and wood wool – built according to a true quality approach, all this in order to have wines under the best possible conditions.