Located near the gates of Troyes in the town of Montgueux, Emmanuel Lassaigne works a 4.7 hectare family vineyard planted almost exclusively to Chardonnay. The majority of Lassaigne’s vines are 30 to 45 years old and are planted across the street from his house overlooking the valley between Montgueux and Troyes. He farms four hectares in total and buys about one hectare’s worth of Chardonnay from trusted farmers who allow him to choose which parcels he wishes to control through viticultural methods and when he wishes to harvest. After taking over for his father, Jacques, in 1999, Emmanuel focused on estate-bottled Champagne and now works with nine different parcels of which each is vinified separately and then blended into the final cuvées. The oenologist Daniel Thibault from Charles Heidsieck described Montgueux as ‘the Montrachet of the Champagne country’ as it has south-east facing slopes planted virtually all with Chardonnay.
While technically in the Aube along with other great growers like Cedric Bouchard and Ruppert-Leroy, Lassaigne’s domaine lies just north of the Côte des Bars at the far north side of the Aube department. The soil is unique! Its chalky terroir is mixed with veins of limestone, which together provide Lassaigne’s Chardonnay with textured minerality and pristine acidity levels while maintaining full ripeness. To highlight this, Lassaigne vinifies all his parcels separately. He is now bottling all his cuvées without dosage because, as he says, “before all else, I am making Montgueux, champagne of terroir”.
Montgueux began as a viticultural anomaly. Struck by phylloxera at the end of the 19th century, it wasn’t until the 1960s when vineyards were replanted. It wasn’t until the 1980s when laws were changed and the towns labels were granted permission to be labeled with the Champagne appellation. It was at this time that Jacques Lassaigne became the new generation grower of Montgueux.
Emmanuel is extremely consistent and precise in the cellar; the majority of vinification is done in stainless steel using only indigenous yeast fermentation, and a light fining before bottling. None of the wines are filtered and all of the Champagnes are disgorged by hand. Emmanuel is experimenting with different types of old French barriques. On our most recent trip to see him, we tasted what will be their first release of a new cuvée vinified in used Jura barrels. He disgorged the bottle right before we tasted it. It was exceptional.