The French Winophiles chose to focus on Women Winemakers in France this month as we celebrate International Women’s Day. This wonderful day, happens to be right around my birthday, so I figured I would celebrate with some Grower Champagne made by a female winemaker.
The French #Winophiles are led this month by Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator. Scroll to the bottom to find the women & wines that my colleagues wrote about.
If you are reading this soon enough, join us on Twitter on March 19th at 8 am Pacific or 11 am Eastern time in the US to discuss these fabulous women on Twitter. Just follow or use the hashtag #Winophiles.
Of course, my first stop on my search for a bottle of wine was Garagiste Las Vegas. Eric and Mario bring in fascinating wines, many of which are low-intervention and right up my alley. It is so nice to have such a great resource (and amazing people) nearby!
This bottle of Domaine Jean Vesselle came with a great story.
Domaine Jean Vesselle & Delphine Vesselle
Domaine Jean Vesselle is located in Bouzy, a small village in the Champagne region known for its Pinot Noir. It is located at the southern end of the Montagne de Reims. Bouzy is one of the oldest Grand Cru in the region.
This family has been growing grapes in the region for more than 3 centuries. The Domaine’s vineyards include 16 hectares planted mostly to Pinot Noir which a bit of Chardonnay planted in an area with lots of limestone (which is particularly good for Chardonnay…think of the Kimmeridgian soils of Chablis!)
Grower Champagne (RM)
I love buying wines where the people making the wine, also grow the grapes. It’s that “dirt to glass” concept that I really enjoy. In Champagne, most of the big houses make wine from many smaller growers, but some small growers, choose to make their own wine. These are the Grower Champagnes.
The technical term is Récolent Manipulant, which you will see on the bottle as “RM”. It’s usually in very small print on the bottle, but IMHO it is worth looking for. Domaine Jean Vesselle is proud of this classification and it is printed on their label just under their name.
You can think of this as Estate Champagne. All the wine comes from grapes grown in the family vineyards. I find that these wines carry more character and more sense of place.
The business had been passed down, father to son for more than three centuries. The youngest of 3 children, she was the one to take over the business. Her father encouraged her to study and become a winemaker. She traveled to Bordeaux and Bourgogne, finding she was interested in red wines. She spent time in South Africa and Australia and then in Japan where she promoted wines. She returned to find her father ill and began making the wines for Domaine Jean Vesselle in 1993. In 1996 her father passes and leaves her in charge.
The next years were not easy. There were tax audits, economic layoffs, a fall in production and construction expenses from 1992 that were coming due. Hail, frost, and vineyard sabotage followed. Things her father had never experienced.
Luckily her husband David who was from the Côte des Blanc joined her. With an employee out on sick leave, he jumps on a tractor and never looks back. Today Delphine and her husband Dave create wines together.
They work hard to protect their vineyards, they are certified HVE for High Environmental Values and sustainable viticulture in Champagne. They use cover crops and have installed solar panels and rainwater collection systems as they work to be as sustainable as possible.
My friend Liz Barrett of “What’s in that Bottle” and Rob Frische of “Odd Bacchus” did an interview with Delphine on their YouTube Channel “Name that Wine” a few years ago that you can see here.
Domaine Jean Vesselle Rosé de Saignée
One of the first things that she did when she took over the winery, was make a Rosé de Saignee. Her father had a rosé but it was a blend. He was not really sure about her making a skin contact rosé, he told her not to mess it up.
Typically in Bouzy, Rosé Champagne is made by the blending method, adding a small amount of red wine to add color. In Rosé de Saignée, the winemaker bleeds off (saignée means bleed in French) some of the juice from a red wine while it is on the skins. This is often done when making a rose wine of any type. It allows a winemaker to concentrate his red wine and create a rosé at the same time. It’s a two for one!
This often creates a darker rosé with more of the aromatics that you normally would smell in a still wine.
Our wine was indeed deeper in color and richer in aromas. Michael typically, humors me with sparkling wines. The effervescence makes it hard for him to smell the wines. He will often leave his glass to lose as many bubbles as possible (ie. Go flat) before sticking his nose in.
This Champagne he enjoyed. It is redolent with berries, like a bowl of fresh red cherries, strawberries, raspberries and cranberries. There is a touch of spice and delicious mineral notes (probably from the chalky soil). There is less of the yeast and bread notes that you get from a typical Champagne, but they do exist, swirling in the background of this gloriously complex nose.
We picked this up at Garagiste for $67.50. It sits at 12% abv.
What to pair with the Rosé de Saignée?
With the richness of this Rosé de Saignée, you certainly could go with red meat, but it was my birthday and I wanted poke! Also, as it was my birthday, I didn’t want to cook for myself, so we headed to a local restaurant Sweet Poke, for carry out! Tuna over tofu dressed in a sesame shoyu with crab, cucumbers, seaweed salad, masago and ginger went brilliantly with this wine and my mood! Michael opted for mango and avocado with his tuna and crab.
I do think that this wine will pair widely! How brilliant would this be with filet mignon with a berry sauce! It pairs beautifully with many Asian flavors. Of course it is pretty brilliant on it’s own!
Female Winemakers in Champagne
The history of Female Winemakers in Champagne does go back a bit. I have been diving into the book by Rebecca Rosenburg called “Champagne Widows”. (Thanks to Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator for arranging this! Thank you also to Rebecca Rosenburg for sending it to me!)
I’ll be honest, I picked it up and I don’t want to put it down. This fictional book is based on the life of Barbe-Nicole, the famed Veuve Clicquot. It is a page-turner, even though I know the basic story!
The tie-in with this post goes beyond just Champagne. The vineyards that Veuve Clicquot began with were in the Montagne de Reims in Bouzy. So Delphine is in a historic region for Women in Winemaking in Champagne.
I’m ravenously reading this and you can look forward to a review coming soon! I won’t blame you if you can’t wait for my thoughts and need to read it now. You can find it on Amazon, Indie Bound, Bookshop.org, BAM!, and Barnes&Noble.
More fabulous female winemakers from France with the #Winophiles!
My Colleagues at the French Winophiles have all found a French Female Winemaker to feature this month as we celebrate Women’s History Month with these Women who are making History!
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm shares Domaine de Marcoux Lirac La Lorentine to Celebrate Women’s History Month.
- Jeff of Food Wine Click shares Celebrate French Women in Wine: Anne-Sophie Dubois
- Jane of Always Ravenous shares Women Behind the Wine: Domaine Weinbach, Catherine Faller
- Martin of Enofylz shares Champagne Louise Brison: A Tradition of Women in Charge
- Deanna Kang of Wineivore shares A Mathilde Chapoutier Rose for $4?
- Linda of My Full Wine Glass shares Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion: A place for women in traditional Bordeaux
- Nicole of Somms Table shares Bringing Home the Bistro with Anne-Cecile Jadaud Côtillon Rouge and Pork Rillettes
- Susannah of Avvinare shares Arnell Cruse, A Look at the Cru Bourgeois
- Terri of Our Good Life writes Here’s to France’s Women in Wine and to Rebecca Rosenberg’s Book Champagne Widow.
- Gwendolyn Alley who leads us this month shares Champalou Fille’s 2020 Vouvray with French Favorites #Winophiles
More reading to celebrate Women in Wine
A few years back we started taking extended trips driving to wine country. While wine country was the draw, the fact is that to get to wine country, you often have the opportunity to drive through some beautiful places. We planned our travel on the scenic highways and byways along the way, allowing us to soak in some beautiful scenery.
In 2018 we attended the Wine Media Conference in Walla Walla and did a Pre-Conference Excursion to the Yakima Valley. We met Barbara Glover who runs Wine Yakima Valley and she introduced us to many of the local winemakers. The visit was just enough to whet our appetite, and we made a plan to return.
Here begins “The Scenic Route”.
This two-week road trip was packed with multiple wineries and some amazing scenery as we traveled from Las Vegas to Washington State. We found delicious local food, stunning scenery, and our days were filled with Wine and stories.
Our Scenic Route trips have allowed us to visit so many wineries with stories to tell and we wanted to tell them in more depth. So we decided to create an expanded version of “The Scenic Route” visiting and exploring the area in and around wine regions.
These are beautiful places because good grapes enjoy a view.
Join us as we take
“The Scenic Route”
Episode 1 & 2 Now Available!
You can enjoy Episode 1 where we visit the Ribbon Ridge AVA in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and meet Dan Warnshuis of Utopia Winery.
Episode 2 takes us to the Yamhill-Carlton AVA to visit Steve Lutz at Lenné Estate, where his steep vineyard and peavine soils make the vines struggle, causing small grapes and concentrated wines.
And be sure to follow our YouTube Channel so you won’t miss an episode! Crushed Grape Chronicles on YouTube
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.