The initial plan was to just drive home after visiting the Beaune vineyards, but then I saw the Champagne region wasn’t an enormous detour to get back home… so what else could I do?? I just had to make the little ‘detour’ via the Champagne region to visit my 2nd Champagne vineyard aka J. de Telmont. I wanted to visit the J. de Telmont vineyard for a while now, it is one of the 3 champagne vineyards on my ‘wish /to do’ list (the other 2 are Bollinger that I visited last year and the 3rd vineyard I’m not gonna say yet 🙂 ). I know there are more than 3 vineyards in this region, but these are already for a long time the only ones I feel like visiting…. (it is like with everything else, you always have a few favorites)
When most people think of the Champagne region they automatically think of Reims or Erpernay, but there are many more little towns around those 2 bigger ‘cities’ where Champagne is made. I know this is only my 2nd time in this region, but I do find it funny to see how close all the Champagne houses are to each other… no matter how you turn your head, you’ll always see another/ different one 🙂 Just made something clear, there is Champagne and champagne. I’ll clarify, it is not because on the label there is written ‘Champagne’ that it means it is a good champagne… Drinking a good champagne is a totally different sensation. In a good champagne there might be lots of bubbles, but they don’t disturb you or don’t get acid reflux or a headache the day after like you sometimes get when drinking ‘lesser quality’ champagnes. In case you were wondering, J. de Telmont is one the good ones, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about them 😉
What I like and admire about J. de Telmont is that besides making very nice Champagnes, they also try to teach people how the whole ‘making-of’ process works. (BTW this is also the motto and philosophy of the house: conviviality, hospitality and sharing) They even go that far that you can blend your own champagne aka ‘Les Ateliers J. De Telmont‘ … I can hear you think that this is probably something only for professionals?? Wrong! This is something they do for and with everybody who is interested in it . Even the best sommeliers learn a lot from these workshops. For our visit we were honored to be guided around by mr. Bertrand Lhopital himself, 4th generation of the Lhopital family to lead the company and to work (together with his team) to make every champagne they make their best champagne. He told us that from time to time some couples who are getting married come to make their own champagne for their wedding…
I did already tell you this but just in case you forgot, champagne gets made from 3 grape varieties:Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These grapes must come from the area/region defined by the Champagne heritage board, if they don’t the finished product may not wear the name ‘Champagne’ but rather ‘Crémant’ (like Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Bourgogne). Champagne gets made in 2 fermentation periods. During the first fermentation the champagne makers will be making an actual (normal, but slightly more acidic) wine and it is only during the 2nd fermentation (aka Malolactic fermentation) by adding sugar that over time the bubbles will get in the wine and it will be come a Champagne. The assembling of different wines (from same or different grapes) happens just before the 2nd fermentation. Then what makes that not all champagnes taste the same?? Well because every champagne maker will just like any other winemakers ‘play’ with assembling wines from different vintages, age their wines in wooden barrels or stainless steel tanks and age wines longer etc…. all of this also in combination with working with the best grapes and traditions (FYI these are just a few examples)
J. de Telmont was founded in 1912, but it was not until 1959 that André Lhopital (Bertrand’s grandfather) decided to change their name from Lhopital into Telmont… Why Telmont?? Well, it might seem like it corresponds to a person (I also initially thought this), but this is not true. As new name he wanted to use the name of his best parcel of land with historic vines from the vineyard on them aka “Beaumonts”. Unfortunately this name was already in use and there was refused by the CIVC. Mr Lhopital then opted to chance “Beaumonts “into “Belmont”, but again CIVC refused as there was still too much resemblance with the name“Beaumonts”. As Mr. Lhopital was no quitter he decided to try one more time by change “b” into “t” and adding initials to make it more special with as a result that in 1952 finally CIVC approved the vineyard was known as J. De Telmont 🙂 talking about perseverance!!
It was not my first contact with J. de Telmont as I was already able to taste some of their Champagnes during the yearly ‘Best Belgian sommelier’ trophy from which J. de Telmont since a few years is sponsor. It was during these first contacts that J. de Telmont came on my ‘wishlist’ of vineyards I definitely wanted to visit as the few things I tasted gave me taste for more exploring of their selection 🙂
I don’t want to sound cliche because I keep saying this, but I love hearing a passionate person like in this case mr. Lhopital speak. It is so contagious, I mean you just want to keep listing to what they have to say. They can make the most technical things sound like some the easiest and explain it in such a way that you can actually understand it as they really want to you to understand it (without only throwing around with fancy terms that sometimes make things more confusing). This is also what I always try to do in my blogpost of when explaining something in person. A good example was that we got to taste some wines before their 2nd fermentation to understand how the wines keep developing and change over time and during the 2nd fermentation. The frosting on the cake for me (besides tasting the finished product) is always walking through enormous cellars where maybe millions of bottles are stored from all vintages… a walk through Telmont’s history basically.
To celebrate this exceptional anniversary, the family Lhopital wants to share some of their history by reselling some of their older (best) vintage from 1964, 1969, 1975, 1976, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1990 and 1992. Champagne from ‘Collection Héritage’ as they are called are elaborated with 100 % Pinot Meunier grape variety You would expect this would be for exceptionally high prices, but you are wrong. They Lhopital family wanted the prices reasonable as they want everybody to be able to enjoy this and not only the happy few… it is part of their philosophy (sharing). It speaks for itself that they won’t be giving them neither, but can be bought ,depending the vintage, from 70 to 150EUR… Just as comparison if you would want a Burgundy or Bordeaux wine from 1964 you’ll have add a few zero’s.. J. de Telmont just wants everybody to be able to enjoy a bit of that legacy. SOOO if you want to know how 1985 tasted like… here is you chance 🙂
My absolute favorite champagne of the Telmont selection would be the Centenaire which unfortunately is not for sale and can only be tasted in exceptional cases like this year’s Gala diner after the ‘Best Belgian Sommlier’ trophy where fortunate enough to be part of :-). This one does without any doubt get followed by the O.R.1735 which is has the wonderful smell grilled/ freshly baked brioches or bread with notes of vanilla and a taste that makes every sip of champagne a feast… the O.R. 1735 is in a few words a Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (Grapes come from Grand Cru area’s). If you afterwards compare it with the ‘regular’ Blanc de blancs, you’ll find the same notes, but less complex and less vanilla notes.
From the non 100% Chardonnay champagnes my preference went to the Grande Réserve Brut which had and is the perfect balance between all 3 grape kinds as it exists out of equal shares of all 3 grape types (Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir). A very round full bodied wine with notes of fresh hard white fruits. I guess it won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that by miracle the just mentioned champagnes found its way to our homes (both mine as Carlos’) 🙂 🙂 My excuse was my daughter’s birth and being able to celebrate it with a good glass… not sure what Carlos’ excuse was 😉 ???
After our visit we can confirm that their philosophy isn’t only a few words, but in fact their way of work as it felt like visiting friends for whom they took all their time and we were the most important (hospitality and conviviality)and we learned a lot about champagne making and got to taste some real beauties (sharing)….Just the way I like it!!
The end 🙂 We go back home with lots of new knowledge and a trunk full of wine 🙂