CHAMPAGNE FRANÇOISE BEDEL
The Biodynamic Pioneer
In the 1980s, Françoise Bedel, a single mother of two sons who had just inherited a new winery, was in a difficult situation. Her oldest son – Vincent – was sick, and she could find no doctor or hospital that could cure him. There were many weeks and months of searching for an answer. Finally, as a last measure, she took him to see a couple in a nearby village who practised homoeopathic medicine. Under their guidance, Vincent was on the mend. She swore off modern medicine and, within months, had removed every chemical or synthetic material from her winery; Bedel became a biodynamic winemaker before virtually anyone in the wine trade had ever heard of the term.
Today the estate is 8.4 hectares, and Bedel is doing things her way. While others champion the better-known Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, she loves Pinot Meunier, and this variety features heavily in her winery. This is not uncommon as the Marne Valley is known for the quality of its Pinot Meunier, and Bedel only farms small amounts of Chardonnay (13%) and Pinot Noir (9%). Bedel is also patient with her Champagnes, and most bottles spend more than six years on the lees and often far longer. Low or zero dosage is also the rule in winery.
Located on the extreme western edge of Champagne, Bedel farm vines near the village of Crouttes-sur-Marne on the far edge of the Marne Valley – they are closer to Paris than to Reims! The terroir here is dominated by clay with touches of limestone and gravel. Combined with the Pinot Meunier grape, this leads to wines with heft and weight with long, lingering acidity. We don’t often think of decanting Champagne, but these are wines that are transcendent when exposed to air – they are wines of great soul and depth.