When arriving for our first visit with Christophe Mignon, it was clear where his passion lies; we immediately left from his winery to head to the vines in Festigny. Mignon farms 30 parcels making up 6.3 hectares of vines spread across the villages of Le Breuil and Festigny in the Vallée de la Marne. Mignon immediately pointed out the soil of green clay and chalky tuffeaux (limestone). “Meunier thrives here,” Mignon explained as we drove south of the Marne River. 26 of his 30 parcels are farmed to Pinot Meunier, while three parcels are farmed to Chardonnay, and one parcel to Pinot Noir.
As we went to visit another parcel which was also oriented south/ south-west, we noticed Mignon was one of the few vignerons who hasn’t begun pruning his vines. He explained that pruning does not begin for him until the 20th of February and is guided by the biodynamic cycle. Mignon has been practicing biodynamics for over 20 years and has been farming by strict biodynamic principles for 15 years. Smiling, Mignon explained that he believes his wines are of a consistent high quality year to year because of his farming methods. “The Mignon Method. That is what my New York importer calls my methods,” Mignon explained to us with a laugh. After further investigation on what exactly he was referring to, the Polaner website states,
“Mignon’s unique approach to viticulture is something we like to refer to as The Mignon Method, which combines natural practices including biodynamics, phytotherapy, homeopathy and geobiology. He likens nature to a rubik’s cube, always changing and offering up new challenges. He is constantly in search of the most subtle challenges and limiting factors in his work, and revels in finding inventive solutions. With the mind of an engineer and the heart and soul of a fifth generation farmer, Mignon’s ingenuity has led to creations such as special footing blades for his tractor to achieve the ideal width and depth when working soils in the vine rows, as well as a homeopathy machine that dilutes treatments of copper blended with valerian root and garlic to help regulate whatever Mother Nature throws his way.”
In the vineyards, Mignon employs six workers, one for each of his hectares. He does not work with horses and treats each parcel independently. All farming is guided by the lunar calendar. Yields are kept extremely low and grapes are not picked until full maturity is reached allowing for dosage to be kept as low as possible.
In the cellar, Mignon vinifies and pays homage to each of his 30 parcels individually. Primary fermentation lasts three to four weeks in stainless steel tanks and temperature control is only manipulated by opening the cellar doors. The parcels are blended together in April. Malolactic fermentation is naturally avoided. The wines are aged 24 to 30 months in bottle with 3/4 bottled brut nature and 1/4 bottled extra-brut. When dosage is added, it is usually around 2 grams/ liter and Mignon uses organic sugar cane to create the liquor. Mignon also finds himself disgorging the extra-brut a few months before the brut nature.
In very good vintages, Mignon will release a single vintage cuvée; the next vintage release will be 2013. In the past he has released 2003, 2006, 2008, and 2010. Mignon has also begun experimenting with using oak foudre for a new special cuvée which he will add a bit more dosage.