Champagne Devaux was founded in 1846 and was family owned until 1987 when Jean-Pol Auguste, the last member of the Devaux family, who didn’t have an heir, decided to entrust the future of the company to Laurent Gillet, president of Union Auboise – known today as the Groupe Vinicole Champagne Devaux.
This led to a number of changes at the house, and despite being part of a large co-op Laurent made the decision to focus on quality at Devaux. With the backing of the Union Devaux was able to secure higher quality grapes, 90% of which they chose to source from approximately 100 hectares in the Aube region. This included the renowned Montgeaux area – sometimes referred to as the Montrachet of Champagne due to the similarity in terroir. In fact this commune is closer geographically to Chablis than to Reims, and being further south it benefits from a slightly more continental climate, which means the grapes generally achieve phenolic ripeness and they rarely have to chapitalise (add sugar during fermentation). The links with Burgundy are not just geographical: Michel Parisol, Chef de Cave at Devaux, has worked with renowned oenologist Nadine Gublin, the winemaker at Domaine Jacques Prieur.
The other 10% of their grapes come from Mailly and Verzy, which add different characters to the blend. All the vineyards are farmed sustainably and they are working towards being biodynamic. There is also an interesting collaboration with maverick Rhone producer Michel Chapoutier: together they are making an 100% biodynamic cuvée from the top three hectares of Devaux grapes in Montgeaux, which will be released in the UK this September.
This week we tried Collection D, the flagship range recently launched by Devaux, with an even higher accent on quality. The grapes are from selected parcels, from just 35 hectares, and the wines are aged for five year before release. The blends incorporate a percentage of reserve wines which have been aged in oak and include two soleras: a Chardonnay started in 1995 and a Cuvee D blend from 2002 onwards.
Cuvee D (2007 base vintage)
Cuvee D is made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, 40% of the blend is reserve wines, with 7g/l dosage. The nose was full and fruity. In the mouth there were sharp green apples and some baked apples, followed by quince and a touch of biscuit. The high percentage of older reserve wines was evident in the depth of flavours – in magnum the reserve percentage is event higher at 50%. 92 points
Ultra D (extra brut)
Also made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, with 40% reserve wines albeit different to those added to Cuvee D, and with 2 g/l dosage. The aromatic floral, honeysuckle nose with a touch of smoke belied the low dosage – this champagne is not at all austere! The palate was refined with biscuit, nuts and some citrus. The ripeness of fruit came to the fore, but was balanced by minerality, very complex. 90 points
D Millesime, 2006 Vintage
D Rose (2008 base vintage)
The rose is made from a blend of 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir, 10% of which is vinified as red wine. Just 10% reserve wine is added and a dosage of 6 g/l. This was an incredibly pale almost golden rose. On the nose there was a bouquet of fruit – strawberry, sherbet and hibiscus and a touch of fresh baked bread. It was round in the mouth with rose-hips and raspberry sorbet, really appetising. 93 points
There are complex layers to all of these wines which is not surprising given the grapes are sourced from a variety of vineyards, the range of wine making techniques, and the addition of the solera reserve wines. There is also balance and freshness, it will be exciting to see how these wines develop and mature. It seems Michel and the team at Devaux are pushing multiple boundaries: sourcing high quality grapes from the newly fashionably Aube district, experimenting in the winery, and forming partnerships with influential figure in the industry – we will be watching developments at Devaux with great interest.