Grower Champagne Club – February 2011

NV Bérêche et Fils, Reflet d’Antan, Brut
“Reflections of Long Ago” (reflet d’antan). The name alone suggests that this wine is somehow tied to the traditions of the past. And for the Bérêche family, a Champagne house since 1847, this wine is a tribute to the winemaking traditions passed down by their forefathers. Bérêche began with only a few hectares in the Montagne de Reims, and later expanded their holdings through marriage. In the 1990s they bought property in the Vallée de la Marne, so they now own vineyards in three areas in Champagne, which they plant roughly equally to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Their Reflet d’Antan is basically one third of each varietal and to produce it, they use several unique practices. They are one of only a few producers in Champagne to use the labor-intensive solera process, more often associated with Sherry production. They store the wine in 600-liter demi-muids (twice the size of a typical barrel) and remove a portion of it each year for their current Champagne, replacing it with wine from the new harvest: a perpetual blending system. The result, in their Reflet d’Antan, is a beautifully beguiling wine, golden in color, and richly aromatic. The nose suggests graham crackers (or toasty brioche), and the wine is sumptuous and round on the palate. Perfect for a lunch or dinner of terrine, fois gras, or shellfish.

You may notice that the mouth of the bottle is more like that of a wine bottle, than a standard Champagne bottle. Typically, during the bottle fermentation process, the bottle is closed with a crown cap (like a beer cap) and it is only during final bottling that the Champagne cork is inserted, along with the cage. Bérêche, however, uses cork throughout their winemaking. During their first bottle fermentation, which lasts around three years, the cork is held in place by large wire “staples” to keep it from popping out. Another “reflection of long ago” winemaking. The Reflet d’Antan is $78.75, at the upper end of our limit, but it is so enchanting, we couldn’t resist. The distributor has a bit more.