CHAMPAGNE | 12 May 2022

Drappier Champagne –
underrated and simply wow!

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Interview with Jolette Steyn, Head of Sales and Imports, Wine Cellar

What do you like about Drappier?

They are the nicest people ever! Seriously, the family are just such good people, and this translates into their wine. Every interaction we have with them is happy and interesting. They have that rare “joie de vivre” that gets people excited.

Michel Drappier tells the story of when he was a child that his parents worked seven days a week. Urville was a little off the usual Champagne beaten track and pre-cell phone days, it meant that visitors had to be serious about visiting the House. His parents felt that these Champagne lovers had made a lot of effort to come and so they should receive the warmest welcome – come rain or shine, Monday to Sunday.

This focus on family and the earth is what Drappier is all about

I’m sensing deep roots here?

Yes, the history is fascinating. The Gallo-Romans started planting vines in the region around 2,000 years ago, then in 1116 Saint Bernard re-established the vineyards and cellars which belonged to the Clairvaux Abbey. Napoléon Bonaparte turned Clairveaux Abbey into a prison, and later in the nineteenth century, the Urville wine cellars became the village presbytery. The Drappier family had been farming in the region since 1808 and they bought the cellars post World War II. These cellars now hold the House’s best vintages and largest bottles.

Speaking of history, what’s the connection with General Charles de Gaulle?

The vintage Champagne Drappier Charles de Gaulle was created in his memory in 1990, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Appeal of 18 June 1940, (his speech was said to have inspired the French Resistance). He loved the Champagne and in the 60’s, he was Drappier’s most famous customer.

A staff member tells a story that once while he was giving visitors a tour, he joked that Charles de Gaulle was unfortunately not like Winston Churchill (referring to his drinking habits) hence de Gaulle was not frequently at Drappier. At which point, 96-year-old Mr Andre Drappier interrupted to say, “you are totally wrong young boy, Charles de Gaulle was here every two weeks with his kids!”

Cool history aside, what else should a Drappier lover know?

They have a reputation of pushing boundaries.

Back in the 1930s, Georges Collot, Michel Drappier’s maternal grandfather, decided he would be the first to replant the Pinot Noir grape in the canton. This was a contentious decision and earned him the nickname ‘Old Man Pinot’. However, his intuition proved to be right, and Pinot Noir is now their calling card, representing 70% of the vineyards.

They have adopted a minimal intervention approach, allowing nature to ‘do her thing’, the wines are not filtered or discoloured, and Drappier use the least amounts of sulphur in the industry. Furthermore, no animal products are used in this process, so they are suitable for vegans.

They have replanted heirloom grape varieties from times gone by to preserve the genetic heritage of the varieties grown in Roman times, and they have even experimented with aging the Champagne under the sea!

They were the first Champagne House to be carbon neutral. They don’t use any herbicides or pesticides and use only gentle, sustainable farming practices such as partial grass coverage and horse-drawn ploughing. In fact, Michel Drappier, was awarded Green Personality of the Year in 2017.

They are also pioneers of the big bottles – 3,5 and 9 litres and everything is better in a big bottle! They even invented the Vcanter to assist the sommeliers with pouring from these bottles!

There is a debate that Drappier is the most underrated Champagne in the world. I would tend to agree that to be able to get a pedigree Champagne of this complexity at such reasonable prices, is astounding. The Cuvée Grand Sandrée is simply ‘wow’!

Jolette Steyn

Jolette is a career wine geek and deeply passionate about diversity and sustainability. She studied BSc and MSc in Oenology and Viticulture in SA and Europe, produced wine across four continents with 15 harvests under her belt, judges on local and international panels, and can sell you a wine in at least 4 languages. In her spare time, Jolette makes wine under her own label, The Vineyard Party, with the maiden vintage of two small-batch Sémillons released in June 2021.

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