“We are trying to find harmony in our Champagne,” says Jean-Marc Lallier-Deutz, a member of the Deutz family who holds – and has held – numerous responsibilities at the house.
Like the rich, sumptuous, elegant style of the Champagne house itself, Jean-Marc is also extremely handsome and finely dressed – dapper is the word – and a fabulous ambassador for the brand.
The Deutz story started in1838 by two Prussian immigrants, William Deutz and Pierre-Hubert Geldermann, who created a strong demand for the Champagne in England and Germany. In 1906 the house came to descendant René Lallier – yet the region was rocked by a series of unfortunate events including the Champagne riots of 1911, the First World War; the Great Depression of the 1930s; and then WWII.
René Lallier’s son Jean took over in 1938 and played a key roll in expanding Deutz’s vineyards and integrating modern equipment in the winery, as did his son Andre. Yet with the Champagne crisis of the 1990’s, in 1993 a majority interest was sold to Champagne Louis Roederer which provides financial stability yet allows Deutz to maintain autonomy and an independent identity.
And what an identity! Here I am not just referring to the sumptuous wines, which I will describe in a moment, yet the incredible elegance and beauty of the Maison itself. It is a large, charming Chateau with incredibly elegant 18th century furnishings and portraits of ancestors in gilt frames.
As Jean-Marc prepares for the tasting, I try to imagine the lives these ancestors led in a small town like Ay, especially the lives of the women who likely would not be very involved in the Champagne production business.
In charge of the cellars today is chef de cave Michel Davesne and Jean-Marc plays a key role in the blending sessions. The house owns 42 hectares of vines, which account for just over 20 percent of its needs.
Winemaking is typical for the region: Handpicked grapes, pressed as soon as possible, with only the first portion (cuvee) of the pressing, is used. The wine is fermented by parcels in small (100 – 125 hl) stainless steel tanks.
What’s interesting here, though, is that reserve wines are kept in concrete tanks for a maximum of only four years to maintain freshness. Some other houses age reserve wines in oak or even bottle for longer periods. The maturation time of reserve wines, and the vessel in which they are matured (as well as the age and classification of the parcels) are key elements that differentiate the style of one house from another.
“When you make champagne, you invest a long period of time. We have to wait 10 years for the final result,” Jean-Marc says, as he prepares for the tasting. I look at his ancestor’s portraits behind him and comment on how interesting it must be to work in the same Chateau as ancestors who lived centuries before him.
“These wines were made by relatives. When you work on a blending you know it is for the next generation to enjoy,” he says. “And you hope when they taste it, they have that same level of excitement I did when I tasted older wines made by the previous generation.”
The tasting begins and as a general rule, I find the wines incredibly balanced and … well, the word is “sumptuous.” An incredible richness of style that is just delightful.
Cuvee Classic NV
This is the most popular wine and the one that the House is most concerned about, as it must retain the same style year after year. Nice straw color, tiny bubbles, and a nice brioche nose with crisp dry finish. The wine has a slow fermentation on lees for three months at a constant temperature.
Amour de Deutz 2005
Gorgeous gold color and sultry, savory flavors. A very long finish and enticingly delicious wine with incredible balance. Grapes come from the best vineyards and it is sold in the finest restaurants around the world. Amour was create in 1993, with the objective to have an outstanding cuvee for the new millennium. And why the name? Amour means “cupid” in French and the idea was to create something mysterious and exotic.
Cuvee William Deutz 2000
This is an incredibly delicious wine! It was discouraged last year after 12 years on the lees. The nose is very brioche … savory sultry … there is no oak, yet the long aging of lees brings a sensation of a touch of oak. There is a broad section of flavors yet amazing complexity and structure.
Very impressed by this house and find it curious how closely the “style” of the Maison in terms of its architecture and sumptuous 19th century décor is such a brilliant match with the rich, luxurious style of its wines.