Pinot Meunier Precision
Having bought back the domaine from his late father’s financial partners, Jérôme Dehours utilizes the pinot meunier grape with finesse
Article by Kyle Ridington
Jérôme Dehours is the proprietor of Champagne Dehours et Fils in the small village of Cerseuil located in the Marne Valley. The estate primarily utilizes the pinot meunier grape in the blend, which in the past has too often been seen as a second class citizen compared to the Champagnes developed from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. If you have the chance to taste Jérôme’s Champagnes you will quickly realize this is an estate that transcends the pinot meunier grape with finesse and precision.
When the domaine started with your grandfather Ludovoic Dehours, was he making his own Champagne or selling his grapes?
My grandfather was one of the first people to make their own wine in 1930 with eight hectares of vines. 1970 was the last year my grandfather made wine until he passed it on to my father. I started working at the domaine in 1987 with my father.
Where did you go to school for oenology?
I went to school in the town of Beaune in Burgundy, France. I had some notable classmates that run well know estates in Burgundy today such as Jean-Louis Trapet, Gevrey-Chambertin and Domaine Ramonet, Chassagne-Montrachet. I gained formal training at Chateau la Grace Dieu in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux and I worked for Champagne Berat before returning to Dehours to work with my father.
When the financial partners assumed primary ownership of the domaine what motivated you to repurchase the control of the estate?
The financial partners had the rights of succession after father’s unexpected death at an early age. I wanted to follow my own vision and I couldn’t do that until I assumed full ownership. The vineyards had always belonged to my family. I had an obligation to buy the domaine back because the financial partners would eat up family domaine raw. Their vision was different for the vines and for the wines. They did not want to highlight the characteristics of the vineyard.
It seems as though you have an intricate and impactful solera system in place to blend wines from different years and vineyars. Can you explain your process?
Blending different years in a solera system is easier than blending separate vintages to produce a final wine. I like the idea of telling the story through the different vintages that are blended together. The information shared between different vintages that are blended and live together in a solera system reaches a completely different expression of wine opposed to making a blend of different wines at the last moment for bottling.
I think the best idea for making wine is based on feel. I stray away from calculated winemaking and using the same techniques year after year. It is the role of the vigneron to feel the soil, vintage and the grapes while implementing new ideas each year. The role of the vigneron is to learn every year and gain an ever deeper knowledge of the land.
Dehours in total owns 14 hectares of vines. Any plans on expanding in the future? Are you able to work this estate with you team or do you need to hire external help?
Possibly a little, but we do sell a good proportion of our grapes to other houses. The best way to grow is not to buy vineyards but to develop nascent projects with smaller growers and that have the same terroir. Then to establish viticulture practices across the group of small growers so that all know the quality of the fruit that is pressed after harvest.
You describe your vineyard practices as sustainable. Are you looking to move into organic practices in the future or are you happy with the current results?
HVE3 is a respect of the biodiversity and the use of less chemical products in the vineyard. HVE3 looks and appears organic but it is not entirely organic. There are limitation to organic farming in that one can only use a mixture of copper and sulfur to treat for disease. In 2016 there was a mildew due to a high pressure weather system consisting of rain for a month. The organic mixture would not help fight this mildew.
You are a part of the Champagne group L’Artisans du Champagne. Beside drinking in a marvelous fashion and traveling with your group do you trade ideas while tasting each other’s wine? Are there any new comers to the group whose wines excite you?
We all share the same philosophy but our styles vary when it comes to making the wine. We do share advice and trade techniques constantly. The newcomers to the group that excite me are Pierre Paillard and Christophe Mignon.
UK stockist: www.h2vin.co.uk/champagne-dehours-cerseuil/