Champagne Rene Jolly Interview
ABS Wine Agencies, Thu 05 Nov 2020
This month we catch up with Pierre-Eric Jolly, of Champagne René Jolly. Located in Landreville in the Côte des Bar, Champagne René Jolly is a family owned business with a history dating back to 1737. The winery only produces wine made from grapes from its own vineyards, which are treated organically with no chemical fertilisers. Pierre-Eric took over from his father in 2000 and has brought new vision alongside a heightened awareness of sustainability, to the business.
WAS IT PRE-DETERMINED THAT YOU WERE GOING TO BE A WINEMAKER, OR DID YOU TOY WITH THE IDEA OF ANOTHER CAREER FIRST?
It was clear that I would take our old family business over very early. I think we all wanted that for various reasons… So I started the technical school in Avize, near Epernay when I was 16. I took the business over when I was 26. After a long and international training. Piloting helicopters would have been my other career I think.
WHICH WINE PRODUCERS INSPIRE YOU?
So many! Very early I met people who were very careful with their vineyards such as (near our school) Anselme Sellosse, Didier Daguenau when I was in Sancerre or Cyril Jeaunaux (Talus Saint Prix) near Epernay. Some were impressing with the marketing and their philosophy: Champagne Guy Charlemagne (Mesnil sur Oger) or Champagne Laurent-Perrier where I spent few weeks. At the end of the day I understood that they all had a specific know-how and try to make it work.
HOW IS CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTING THE CÔTE DES BARS, ARE YOU HAVING TO AMEND YOUR WORKING METHODS TO ACCOMMODATE WARMER TEMPERATURES?
Slowly but surely. In 80 harvests my grand-father started his earliest 2nd Sept. In 20 harvests, I’ve already started 4 times in August. Very ripe grapes. We have to be careful to keep the balance between sugar/acid/taste. It is a whole job! It will be the next mid-term challenge.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS ABOUT WINEMAKING YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT?
Managing the volume right. As we harvest by hand, we carefully select each grape. We can lose from 1 % to 20 % when harvesting. So the presses are always loaded with top quality grapes which is the most important thing. We can only drop the quantity that can be a problem.
YOU ARE ALWAYS COMING UP WITH NEW AND INNOVATIVE IDEAS TO CHANGE SOME OF THE TRADITIONAL ELEMENTS OF CHAMPAGNE, (E.G 3 LEGGED MUSELET) ARE YOU WORKING ON ANYTHING SPECIFIC AT THE MOMENT THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO SHARE WITH US?
Yes, but I’ll have to kill you then. The three leg muselet is finally coming out. Early 2021 it will be on our Blanc de Noirs Brut. First bottle in the world to have it on a wide scale. We also have just launched a new case of 6 with no plastic tape on it (save 5 miles/y) with an automatic opening system.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON ENGLISH SPARKLING WINE, WILL THEIR BE A FIERCE RIVALRY BETWEEN THE UK AND CHAMPAGNE REGION IN THE FUTURE?
The rivalry between you and us will never end I’m afraid!! I’m amongst the very few champagne producers to have done a vintage here in the UK (Kent). As well as the Higher certificate at the WSET in London. So I’m proud to know our competitors. From a quality point of view your bubbles can be great. With a little help. But it might be difficult to challenge a 300 y old history and marketing… Champagne can only be made in Champagne.
IF YOU WERE TO MATCH RENE JOLLY BLANCS DE NOIRS, RENE JOLLY BLANC DE BLANCS AND RENE JOLLY ROSÉ D’ASSEMBLAGE EACH WITH A RESTAURANT DISH – WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY?
Food pairing is a big thing. When it comes to champagne, I prefer by far friends pairing. The meet over the meat. You definitely need to be with the right people to celebrate something. And if it happens around a table, then I would go for the Blanc de Blancs first. Fine and sharp. Blanc de Noirs or Rosé for a plain meat. Not too oily. Rosé on a nice red fruit dessert. Then back on Blanc de Noirs Brut for the rest of the night. Of course.