Champagne Domaine La Borderie
A Champagne dream comes true
Odile and Jean Louis Normand have been making champagne for many years, but only as members of the local cooperative, then back in 2013 everything changed when Marie and Simon, their children, said they wanted to join the family business.
The family decided to create not just their own brand of champagne, but to build an entirely new winery based around their 11 hectares of vines near Bar-sur-Seine in the Côte des Bar region of Champagne and in October 2015 the dream came true when the winery was officially inaugurated.
Green on green
The winery is set in a natural hollow amongst the trees and it’s not just surrounded by greenery, it’s green inside too. The entire project has been purpose-built not just to create wines of the highest quality, to have the least possible impact on the environment.
Energy use is very low: rain water is recovered and recycled and temperature control is enhanced by the fact that the building is set into the hillside. The grapes are pressed at ground level and the juice flows by gravity feed to the fermenting and storage vats on the floor below, then the ageing cellar is one more level down - that means no energy is wasted moving the grapes, or the wine, from floor to floor.
In a stunning location, the winery is designed not only to present champagne to its full value, but also very much with an eye to wine tourism. The family operates 2 gites where visitors can stay overnight and really get to appreciate the setting, the champagne and above all, the dedication and enthusiasm of the Normand family.
As Simon explains, “We want to create champagnes that reflect the different character of the plots they come from and that requires very careful and meticulous study. We have 11 hectares of vines and we want to get to know everything we can about each one and we’re only just starting - there’s a lot more to learn, but that’s the best way to grow fully mature grapes which will allow us to make the best champagnes we possibly can.”
“The vines obviously play a vital role and one of our priorities is to keep our vines until they are old (30 years is the current average age) and thereby to reduce the yield.”
“We don’t use herbicide or insecticide, we maintain the hedgerows around the vineyards, we let grass grow between the rows, we’ve planted flower on fallow plots and we’ve restored the small stone shelters in the middle of some plots – everything in fact to look after the environment and promote biodiversity.”
Jean Louis adds “Our estate was awarded HVE (High Environmental Value) status in 2013 and in September 2014 ours was the first estate anywhere in Champagne to be certified as using ‘Sustainable Viticulture’.”
“It’s simple really. We want to make our contribution to the reputation and image of champagne and you can’t make a product that people aspire to unless your work is based on strong ethical and environmental values.”
Marie explains “This may not be obvious to non-French speakers, but the word ‘Borderie’ in French dialect implies a small house or a small farm – it’s definitely something very modest in size and that suits us because our total production is only about 6,000 bottles per year. We like to think that our champagnes are practically hand-made.”
‘Trois Contrées’, a brut champagne, comes from 3 plots in 3 different villages and each plot has a different orientation to the sun. It’s also a blend of 3 grapes, 2 of which, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, are classic varietals whilst the third is Pinot Blanc from a plot planted back in 1954 – the oldest plot the family owns.
‘Douce Folie’ is an extra brut rosé champagne made by macerating Pinot Noir grapes harvested from just one plot of vines. “There’s an intriguing family story behind this name, but you’ll have to visit us to discover exactly what that is…” says Marie.
What does the future hold?
More cuvées are planned for the future: there’s a Blanc de Blancs vintage 2014 and a Blanc de Noirs vintage 2015 already ageing in the cellars which will be released in a few years. Currently most sales are in France and Italy, but the Normands would love to start exporting to Great Britain too.
Marie sums up “We’re ready for new challenges and opportunities and we believe that our champagnes will appeal to wine lovers everywhere who appreciate top quality and something out of the ordinary.”