Champagne (Festigny), France
According to Antonio Galloni of Vinous wine journal, “Christophe Mignon might very well be the finest grower in Champagne most people have not heard about, yet.” Galloni may have a point. Located just outside the tiny village of Festigny, Mignon farms a mere 6 ha, planted almost exclusively to Pinot Meunier. The vines were planted by his great-grandparents and are spread among thirty parcels between the villages of Le Breuil and Festigny in the Vallee de la Marne.
While it would be simplest to describe Mignon’s approach as biodynamic, it is much more complex and dynamic than that. While visiting him, Christophe tried – perhaps in vain – in a few short hours to expound his philosophy, which combines natural practices including biodynamics, phytotherapy, homeopathy and geobiology. Mignon has practiced biodynamics for 16 years and followed the lunar calendar for 20 years, allowing the moon’s cycles to dictate his work in the vineyards and in the cellar. Harvests adhere strictly to this calendar, as do tirage and disgorgment. In essence, Mignon strives to follow the rhythm of nature and this informs each decision he makes. While this might seem a tad esoteric to some, the results are well worth the potential befuddlement.
For the most part, Christophe does all the primary fermentation in stainless steel with ambient yeasts, while only the reserve wine is held in oak foudre. He strives to vinify each parcel in a separate tank in order to distinguish the unique qualities of each micro-climate. The non-vintage Champagnes spend a minimum of 24 months in bottle before disgorgement, while the vintage wines may spend as long as five or six years. Christophe uses the bare minimum of sulphur at bottling and the majority of his cuvees are bottled without any dosage.
The resulting wines offer a delightful balance between intellectual and visceral enjoyment. They are at once vinous and rich, with complex brioche notes and herbal inflections, but also fresh and simply enjoyable. While Christophe may have a very complex philosophy, he also believes that Champagne should be enjoyed and not fawned over. Christophe is a serious winemaker, but not too serious, and seemed always to have a smile on his face, even when expounding the complexities of cosmic energy and the importance of the lunar cycle. Put plainly, Christophe makes some of the most interesting and delicious Champagnes out there and they need to be enjoyed.