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In the 1990s, Pierre Larmandier and his wife Sophie took over the vineyards of the Larmandier-Bernier family. They abandoned the use of herbicides to turn to organic and then biodynamic cultivation. Only a few colleagues followed their example: "I thought I could be five years ahead of the others if I gave up chemical farming," Pierre remarked to me, "but I never thought I could be fifty years ahead!

Pierre's father had always advocated picking very ripe grapes. With the new cultivation methods, the wines became almost too concentrated and too tightly wound, he tells. So changes followed in the winery: fermentation in wooden barrels, demi-muids and barrels (today mainly from Stockinger) instead of stainless steel. Besides, the use of wild yeasts instead of selected yeasts.

Today counts Larmandier-Bernier are among the best wineries of the Côte de Blanc and the Champagne region. With about 19 hectares of vineyards, their wines are fortunately not quite as hard to get hold of as those of the smallest small producers in the region.

The Cuvées

All Larmandier-Bernier cuvées are linked to specific terroirs and thus represent different characters.
The Latitude, which are predominantly from the Vertus is rounder and more appealing than the Longitude, which comes from purely calcareous soils of different origins and delivers a more exciting and structured cuvée with a calcareous expression. The Longitude and Latitude wines are not vintage wines, but the wines with an appellation of origin on the label are vintage wines.

Terre de Vertus comes from the poorer chalk soils north of Vertus and is full of energetic vibrations. The two top wines of the Domaine come from old vines in Avize (Les Chemins d'Avize, of which the 2011 is amazing!) and from vines up to 90 years old in Cramant, which give the impressively structured and tense Vieille Vigne du Levant deliver.

From the loamy southern part of Vertus, the Larmandier family produces a fine red Pinot Noir Coteaux Champenois as well as the remarkable Rosé de Saignée Champagne, which also contains some Pinot Gris and is worth a try!