Starting this week, Chiara Giovoni will be contributing to our magazine offering her expertise and passion for wine, especially bubbly. In 2012, Chiara was named Champagne Ambassador to Italy and came in second in that year's European Ambassadors of Champagne competition. Welcome Chiara! Signed Doctor Wine
Opening a bottle of Champagne is a moment of pure pleasure, equal only to drinking it. It is so rewarding that one often pays too little attention to the story behind the bottle, details that could make a difference, fascinating tales that become impressed in our minds and return every time we choose a particular Champagne.
A case in point is the wine Marie-Noelle Ledru produces in Ambonnay. She is an amazing woman who fits the title of the Hollywood film 'Steel Magnolias'. There are many different types of vigneron and most of them are identified with men: the humble and reserved farmer, the gentleman enologist, the philosopher-ascetic producer, the experimentalist, the noble heir obsessed with tradition. Marine-Noelle Ledru, on the other hand, is a solitary vigneronne who may seem grumpy but who incarnates the heroine of the great epic tales. Behind her delicate smile, her measured and jovial words, Marie-Noelle Ledru has a demure soul that seems to struggle to contain the impetuous dynamism and interior force she demonstrates as a winemaker in Champagne.
Her story is in some ways similar to tose of other excellent récoltant manipulant. She is the second generation of a family that settled in the region of Montagne de Reims in the 1960s, where father established the Grand Cru Domaine of the village of Ambonnay, renown for its excellent Pinor Noir. In 1989, Maire-Noelle Ledru took over seven hectares of vineyards, one of which in the Grand Cru village of Bouzy, which she personally ran with the help of a couple of farm hands. Today she claims she is too old to deal with such a large estate and has reduced her Domaine to only two hectares of 40-year-old vineyards which she manages, as always, totally on her own. Her approach to farming does is not certified organic, even if her vines are cultivated without the use of chemical products or pesticides. She is not interested in being certified because this would not allow her use chemicals to save her crop from an attack by parasites.
The techniques she uses in the cellar are more than anything else daily exercises and this makes Marie-Noelle Ledru a true craftsman of wine. Only steel is used in fermentation and the vin claire, even though a product of malolactic fermentation, has a stinging acidity that will go on to balance the potency of the grape in this particular terroir. Her Champagne ages on the lees for between three to six years and every intervention in the cellar Marie-Noelle Ledru does by hand, from the remouage to the degorgement right through the dosage, done using a homemade concoction.
Her most representative wine is without a doubt her Cuvée du Goulté, which won her the title of 'The Lady of Pinot Noir'. It is a Blanc de Noirs Champagne made with only Pinot Noir grapes from select vineyard plots and is an example of what a gifted hand can extract from an excellent terroir though a grape. The word 'Goulté' is an archaic Champenois term meaning the heart of the pressing, the best juice extracted from the grapes to produce a Champagne of great personality and long life.
After a recent, wonderful tasting of the latest Champagne vintages, organized in Parma by Italian importer Maurizio Cavalli, I had butterflies in my stomach when I asked Marie-Noelle Ledru if we could take a picture of us together as a souvenir of this meeting, that had meant so much for me. Before saying good-bye, I asked her to say something about her wines, and with a smile she answered: ''Wines speak for themselves, I am here only to open bottles''. This from a woman whose eyes and hands also speak for themselves.