The Blood Brothers That Make Champagne
Three brothers in search for distinction make their own, Champagne Frerejean Frères
Article by Kyle Ridington
Champagne Frerejean Frères was founded in 2005 by three brothers, Rodolphe, Richard, and Guillaume, who hailed from one of Champagne’s most famous and historic houses. “We decided to create Champagne Frerejean Frères to develop our own vision,” remarks Rodolphe Frerejean Taittinger, the CEO. That vision was of terroir, making a wine before Champagne, having a minimum of six years aging in the bottle – far beyond the minimum aging requirement laid down by the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne – and to keep a low dosage as to not hide the details in the wine.
Frerejean Frères, translated in to ‘three brothers,’ is located in the Grand Cru village of Avize in the Côte de Blancs among the likes of famous neighbours such as Jacques Selosse, Agrapart et Fils, De Sousa, Varnier-Fannière, Franck Bonville – and the list goes on. The brothers, working as partners, only utilize fruit from Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages with a parcellaire approach that imparts definition when it comes to making the final blend based off of particular vineyard plots. Frerejean Frères owns 5.5 hectares in Avize, Grauves, Chouilly, and Oger with a future purchase of one hectare in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. There are signed contracts to purchase grapes from three hectares closely situated to their own vineyards to give a totality of 8.5 hectares that reaches an approximate annual production of 80,000 bottles. Frerejean Frères winemaker Didier Pierson is a third generation winemaker born in Avize, where the house is stationed, bringing experience and a creative process to wine-making.
The design of the logo and some of the labels reveal classic, traditional colours; the gold, black, and red colour scheme that one will find in associated to the most successfully sold Champagnes in the world. But there are various bottle shapes and glass colours that show the brothers aren’t afraid to leave the tradition behind in search for a modern and sexy look. There is an haute couture approach to these Champagnes. It seems to me that Frerejean Frères isn’t trying to make everyone happy or reach an audience of a billion consumers, but it is a Champagne for enthusiasts and people with an appreciation in the details of the finer things in life. Actually, a bottle of their VV26 or Blanc de Blancs would be very at home on the set of the next Daniel Craig Bond film.
There is a basic delineation in most Champagne drinker’s eyes that there are two types of Champagne producers. It is the big Maisons vs. smaller grower producers but this is a simplification indeed even some sommeliers and critics fall foul of. There are houses that fall in the middle and strive to take the best from each side. “Our quest is to create a good harmony between the human scale Maison and a small grower approach,” Rodolphe comments. These houses are Negociant-Manipulants just like the Maisons but their wine is produced on a smaller scale compared to the big houses and even to larger grower producers. The average cost of one hectare in Champagne is about 1.2 million euro, which makes it tough to purchase so today it is more common to see producers start domaines or expand production by leasing parcels because the annually payment is easier to attain.
During my last visit to Champagne I missed Frerejean Frères by the skin of my teeth; however, they were able to produce a sample for me in New York City to ensure that I get my ducks in a row on my next to the region. I tasted or rather drank the Cuvée des Hussards 2007 Vieilles Vignes Brut composed of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but I’m guessing the proportion of Chardonnay is higher. Right out of the bottle the champagne was promising with classic aged characteristics, a succinct and lovely mouthfeel and texture. It did almost smell Taittinger-like at times but with more energy on the palate. A very lovely wine and I look forward to visiting Frerejean Frères for a more detailed tasting. Annually production for this bottling is around 3,000 bottles.