Besides tasting a number of great Champagnes (which means made in Champagne, France) I managed to conduct 2 interviews.
I found inspiration for the first one while walking the tasting floor.
Two of the young men sharing their passion for their brilliant bubbles were part of the new generation.
I took Florent Roques-Boizel (Champagne Boizel) and Louis Coquilette (Champagne Stephane Coquillette) away from their table duties for a 30 minutes conversation. Both houses are still family operations.
Q: Florent and Louis, what's your place in the family operation?
Florent: Even though my involvement with the family business goes way back, I have been officially a member of the team only for the past 12 months. I deal mostly with exports as I have experience in that field from working with other producers from New Zealand to the Rhone. I am getting my feet wet in winemaking and I also deal with relationships with growers whose fruit we buy.
Louis: I don't appear on the org chart. What I do is out of shear passion. I do share my ideas as far as winemaking goes yet I have been mostly involved in marketing. I find importers for our wines. I travel abroad. I do this type of things using vacation time from the day job.
Q: What matters most to you both?
There is the underlying passion of sharing how a good to great Champagne is created. All that takes place in the vineyard and so on before the harvest, the transfer of knowledge amongst generations (a slow process) is crucial (Louis). Each Champagne house run by a family has its own sensibility. (Florent)
Q: Can you tell us about your respective families?
My grandfather is 80 years old and is still at it, involved (Louis).
My father has 35 vintages under his belt (Florent).
Our fathers know which parcels, which grape varieties will work for this or that wine. In bad vintages there might be more flexibility in family owned houses than corporate ones (Florent and Louis).
Q: What drives the choice of wines, what will come to market?
My parents decide what to release based on what they love first (Louis). Each wine should reflect the personality of its producer.
Q: What influence does your generation have on the winemaking?
My grandfather led the family for 40 years. He can be settled in his ways. I suggested we use 'futs' that had already be used, I bring a spirit of experimentation, all that with the ultimate goal of making an ever better Champagne. (Louis)
A lot of the timeless learning is passed on from generation to generation. Personally I also bring an experience acquired through a variety of sources. I do understand though that change is incremental, small change takes place.
Q: What is accent on in 2011?
We both are learning every day from our parents. Our foundation is quality rather than quantity (Louis and Florent).
Q: What's the biggest difference berween your families wines and say global brands in Champagne?
Lets say that for example in famille 'vinifie barrique' existed only in 1990 and 2000 (Florent)
My grandfather has 10 years of stock which is a luxury for us and would be hard to finance or justify for a 'corporate' house. My grandfather feels that at his age, there is one luxury he wants to have, release only wines he believes he can feel are ready (Louis).
Q: What's your yearly production?
Give and take, we produce around 500.000 bottles on 65 hectares (Florent).
It varies with the years at Coquillette. We have 20 hectares and we don;t judge on bottle numbers. We measure how many hectares bear fruit in each vintage (Louis).
Q: How influential is your generation in communicating with the world at large what your respective houses are about?
A number of small Champagne houses do not have an internet presence. Champagne Stephane Coquillette is one of them. It comes down to the fact that my grandfather feels that he would loose control of the message. He wants to control our image. I don;t have the power to change that. (Louis)
My parents are somewhat opened to technological changes around us. Champagne Boizel has a web site since 1997. (Florent)
Q:What makes both your maisons stand out from the crowd?
Our houses are amongst the few 'recoltants-manipulants' left. we harvest , pick, select our grapes (Florent and Louis).
There has been an opening (evolution) in ways winemaking can proceed. I bring back ideas whenever I travel to Napa and other regions.
Q: Last words?
Big forces, small changes.
Thanks to Florent and Louis for their time.
(* Florent on left, Louis to the right)