The Cumieres-based house of Georges Laval is special on many levels. Their production, from 2.5 hectares, is so tiny that they often make less than 1,000 bottles of a cuvee, all of which is swiftly snapped up by devoted fans. The wines are farmed organically, certified by Ecocert. Excellence is the name of the game here.
16 Ruelle de Carrefour, Cumieres +33 3 26 51 73 66
In short, the wines of Georges Laval are some of the best in quality and some of the least familiar. The reason for their comparative anonymity is due solely to the tiny amount of wine they produce each year. Each of their approximately 10,000 bottles is eagerly anticipated, and snapped up by devoted fans. If you are fortunate enough to come across these wines, you will find them to be full of character.
Georges Laval Cumieres Premier Cru Brut
40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 30% Meunier, all from Cumieres. Fermented in oak barrels. Low dosage of 5g/L. The portion of reserve wines varies.
Georges Laval Cumieres Premier Cru Brut Nature
50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 20% Meunier, all from Cumieres. Fermented in oak barrels, it is a blend of two vintages, with no dosage added.
Georges Laval Les Chenes Brut Nature
100% Chardonnay from the reputable single vineyard of the same name in Cumieres. Fermented in oak barrels, where it stays for 10 months before bottling and ageing for an additional 4 years. Only 880 bottles were produced of the 2008 vintage, of which only 24 were imported to the US. ‘Minuscule’ production indeed!
Georges Laval Rose Brut Nature
Made from a blend of old vine Meunier and Pinot Noir. Made in a saignee style with short maceration before a natural-yeast fermentation. Aged around 10 months in barrels before bottling. A zero dosage rose is quite rare in Champagne.
Georges Laval Les Hautes-Chevres
100% Pinot Noir from Les Hautes-Chevres in Cumieres. Produced only in the best years, the first vintage was made in 2004 with just 600 bottles. That has increased to around 1200 bottles with the 2009 cuvee.
Georges Laval Les Meuniers de la Butte
100% Meunier. This cuvee was only produced once in 2006, with grapes from vines that were subsequently replanted, so this is their swan song tribute. Several of these vines had been planted in 1930. Only 800 bottles were produced.
The Laval family have been winegrowers in Champagne since 1694, however, it was not until 1971 that Georges Laval began bottling his estate wines in the village of Cumieres. Almost immediately, Georges made the decision to change the practices in the vineyards and began to use organic viticulture. At this time in the early 1970s, it was a brave and rare choice – less than a dozen others were doing the same.
Georges and his wife Nicole were joined in the business by their son Vincent in 1996, and he now oversees the winemaking. He tells the story that his father warned him to stay out of the champagne business if he wanted to be financially successful, but his passion for the land and the wines was too strong to keep him away!
Vincent is proud of the health of his vines and the ability it allows him to make wines with a unique character. He is a great believer in organic practices and, like his father, is a member of the Interprofessional Association of Wine & Organic Agriculture in Champagne (AIVABC).
In stark contrast to many of the grand houses in Champagne, you could easily drive past the Georges Laval domaine many times without ever noticing it. But once through the inconspicuous doors, wonders await!
Two of their 2.5 hectares of vineyards are located amongst 7 parcels in the Premier Cru village of Cumieres. The other half hectare is located in Chambrecy in the Vallee de l’Ardre, and is planted with Meunier, which is sold to a negociant. Over the years they have done several ‘parcel swaps’ to enlarge each plot, which boosts the impact of their organic practices. The average age of the vines is 30 years, and some plots are as old as 70 years.
The grapes are hand-harvested and pressed on a traditional Coquard vertical press. The individual grape varieties and plots are vinified separately and fermented in oak casks, initiated by indigenous yeasts. The wines are not chaptalised or cold-stabilised. They clarify naturally without the use of fining or filtration.
Bottling takes place about ten months after the harvest, which is later than most, and the levels of sulfur applied to prevent oxidation are minuscule.