Lallier – rooted in the past
but looking to the future


Interview with Hervé Delabesse, Founder and General Manager at Premier Cru Wines

What do you love about Champagne?

For me, Champagne has such a beautiful, bright energy. I am cheered up just by looking at it! It’s one of those rare drinks that you can enjoy at any time, for any reason. Champagne turns the ordinary into an occasion and brings people together in happiness!

As with all wines, there has been a strong heritage of wine making discoveries and technology in producing Champagne, but it embodies so much more. It’s a lifestyle… it’s the accompaniment to your life story. It’s not just about celebration and good times. For instance, you’re having drinks after work – “I had a terrible day, so let’s have Champagne and the world will seem better!” One cannot be sad or angry when drinking Champagne; it’s too delightful an experience and it lifts us, just like the bubbles rise to the surface. A bad day can become a better day by deciding to take a moment to savour something good, something special and beautiful.

Why did you choose to represent Lallier in South Africa?

Champagne Lallier is an excellent boutique House founded on the “art of eating and drinking well”. I was a fan of theirs and so I approached them when I started Premier Cru Wines. I feel like I am sharing the best-kept secret! It’s a House that is discreet, elegant and it is great value. They’re also wonderful people to work with!

South Africans are becoming more familiar with Champagne and the wide variety available. It’s no longer just the connoisseurs who are buying. People expect to find Champagne in good retail stores and restaurants. Lallier is positioned as a gastronomic experience - superb dishes deserve to be accompanied by exquisite Champagne. You will find Lallier in many Michelin-star restaurants around the world.

What’s the signature style?

The new direction is to focus on the emotions that we feel around Champagne. Moments are important. We forget minutes, but never moments. At Lallier, they are fascinated by what nature brings each year. They want to reflect the nuances of each harvest in their Champagnes. So, while they use the vintage for depth and consistency, the freshness of nature’s harvest is reflected in the blend.

They speak of four signature emotions that you can taste:

Freshness, depth, purity and intensity.

What’s your favourite Cuvée?

The ‘R series’ – to me, it is at the core of the expression of Lallier. The vintage base for a non-vintage is unusually high – minimum 80%. The ‘18’ in the R018 tells you that it is the 2018 harvest that is the base or the fingerprint, creating a wonderful blend that is fresh, fruity and complex.

Can you tell us a little about the history?

The House is based in Aÿ, which is Grand Cru classified. The village has a 1,000-year reputation and history steeped in Champagne production. In the 16th century, King Henri IV loved Aÿ wines so much – he became known as the "sire of Aÿ and good wine". The slopes are steep and south-facing, hence they receive more sunlight, resulting in depth, freshness and ripeness of expression.

During the World Wars Lallier and its neighbours opened the cellars for a communication network. With the villages under attack, this was one way to safely communicate between the Houses. It helped them to survive and share supplies.

Lallier was established over a century ago in 1906 by founder René Lallier. In 1996 René-James Lallier, grandson of the founder brought fresh ideas and modernised the production tool on the Aÿ site; he also rebuilt the original cellars. It was family-owned until 2004 when the Chef de Cave at the time Francis Tribaut bought it. More recently in late 2020, the Campari Group purchased 80% shares in the business, making it the first Italian company to own a Champagne House. However, the DNA of Lallier remains the same. It will remain a boutique House even as it seeks to expand its footprint. Dominique Demarville, the new general manager and cellar master, oozes passion for viticulture and terroir. It is one of the rare houses headed by the winemaker, so attention to quality remains paramount.

What should Lallier lovers know?

  • The Cuvées are crafted exclusively with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir because Ay is a Pinot Noir village and all the grapes come from Grand Cru vineyards. Lallier, therefore, has a House style of finesse and precision
  • The Grand Rosé is simply delightful. The grapes are harvested exclusively from old, low-yield vines which allow for complexity and depth. Lallier was the first to use a ‘Millefeuille’ technique in maceration, with alternating layers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in the pressoir. This technique adds more depth to the blend, and results in an outstanding wine with a delicate, salmon colour
  • Most Champagne Houses use yeast from labs. Lallier is different in that they have a strain of yeast from their vineyards, which works particularly well. Indigenous yeast naturally produces sulphites, so there’s no need to add extra
  • They apply a vintage-based approach for all their cuvees – using a minimum 80% of the base vintage to create a clear identity and allow for great versatility in food pairing
  • The House is committed to ecological sustainability and is certified Haute Valeur Environnementale

"Working with nature keeps your feet on the ground". Demarville

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The Champagne in Africa team support enjoying life and the responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic beverages are not for persons under the age of 18. Please remember to drink responsibly.