Champagne Baudry in Neuville-sur-Seine is really a family affair. They’ve been grape growers since the 1660’s. Brothers , Armel and José, now run the business. I met Armel in their beautifully restored 400 year old house.
The family has 20ha of vines in Neuville-sur-Seine and five surrounding villages. Armel noted that at the beginning of the C20th this wouldn’t have been possible. The average vineyard was around 3ha as any bigger was too labour intensive.
They have 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. The former variety was first planted in the 1950’s. Pinot Meunier isn’t suitable for the Côte des Bar and the house isn’t interested in making three variety blends. They also don’t want to use varieties such as Pinot Blanc which are making a slow comeback.
The house cultivates their vines with respect for the environment. They’ve chosen Terra Vitis certification for its flexibility. Organic grape growing doesn’t adapt its practices to particular conditions like this year’s heavy rains and the threat of different kinds of mildew.
The C19th statue of Notre Dame des Vignes stands on the hill overlooking Neuville-sur-Seine. She’s imploring heaven to protect the vines. The house believes in lending her a hand with the use of copper and sulphur that are both natural and efficient. They haven’t used insecticides for at least ten years.
The house carries its green philosophy from the vines to reminding their clients to recycle bottles and packaging. They aren’t though against such modern scientific procedures as genetic modification if it increases resistance to disease. Armel noted that vines planted now would only be uprooted after 40 years so scientists need to move quickly to make improvements.
The house makes 180,000 bottles a year. Their biggest market is France but they sell almost worldwide. The UK and the USA are on hold partly because of a lack of local contacts. Armel met a Chinese importer after our meeting.
The house has won an impressive list of prizes. Armel said there wasn’t an outstanding one. It was more their proof of regular quality for the house and the guarantee of the same for the customer.
It would be impossible to predict if the house could exist for another eleven generations. Armel and José have four young children and Armel believes there’s a strong possibility that there will be one who takes the house another generation further.