Champagne Geoffroy | Aÿ, France
The Champagne Geoffroy winery is in Aÿ, on the north-east edge of Épernay, but the Geoffroy family’s heart is a few miles west in Cumières. Since the 17th century, members of the clan have grown grapes in this village on the edge of the Montagne de Reims and the family’s parcels of land here still form the centrepiece of its mosaic of 35 plots, scattered across 14 acres to the north of the Marne river.
For centuries, like most growers in Champagne, the Geoffroys sold to négotiants. Then, in the 1950s, husband and wife Roger and Juliette took the plunge into winemaking. Sadly Roger Geoffroy died suddenly, far too young. His son took over, changing the name to Champagne René Geoffroy, and expanding the ownership of vines to parcels on the slopes of Damery, Hautvilliers and Fleury la Rivière. The current owner and chief winemaker, Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, joined his father in the profession in the 1980s and gradually took more control in the 1990s - although he ended the practice of superseding his father’s name and changed it to the inclusive Champagne Geoffroy.
The family doesn’t adhere to a specific farming code. It is not specifically organic or biodynamic. What Champagne Geoffroy’s viticulture is, however, is eco-friendly. The soil between rows is aerated by animal-drawn plough and wild grasses are allowed to propagate. Intervention is kept to a minimum - the team keeps a watching brief on the vines.
In 2008, Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy and his wife Karine decided to relocate winemaking (and commercial operations) to a 19th-century building in Aÿ. This contains two traditional Coquard basket presses, which quickly and gently release the finest juices. Because grapes are hand-picked and sorted, parcel by parcel, depending on the moment of perfect ripeness, what happens next to the single-vineyard juices is dependent on what Jean-Baptiste and his team deem appropriate to the individual expression of that vine. It could flow into oak barrels, tuns, 600l demi-muid casks or enamelled vats.
Whichever the choice of fermentation vessel, the juice flows into it unforced and naturally through gravity. It is one of the means by which Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy maintains his Champagne’s authenticity and vitality - as is the assemblage, which is done entirely by taste. Another method by which he ensures the survival of the original freshness of the wine is to stop malolactic fermentation, maintaining the wine’s acidity and avoiding the buttery character often associated with the process. To counter any tartness that this decision might lean towards, all Geoffroy Champagne ages on the lees for a minimum of three years while the acidity rounds out into perfect balance - some bottles are not released until eight harvests have passed.