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Picture a lovely hot day in Champagne, perfect for a trip to the region. Our team consisted of Koen, a critically minded, evidence-based thinker with a background in science and engineering; Gomaar, an open-minded wine expert, romanticist and existentialist who is into meditation; An, a great seeker and champagnelover who explores spiritual paths to help grasp life’s meanings; and then there is myself, a hyper-sensitive epicurian in search for answers. We were about to get submerged into a world of esotericism and mysticism.
Marc Augustin is a fourth generation winemaker. His wife is a reflexologist and practitioner of HomSham, a bio-modular, sensitivity-driven way of homeopathy practiced without chemicals or machines which works in five realms: mineral, vegetable, animal, mental and homeopathic. The couple also lives according to the teaching of the Kabbalah.
Marc owns 9.5 hectares, mainly in Avenay Val d'Or (Montagne de Reims) and also a small vineyard in Vertus (Côte des Blancs), both of which are Premier Cru. Production is limited to 10,000 bottles. Besides this, he sells grapes to houses like Duval-Leroy and Leclerc Briant for their biodynamic cuvées. Marc’s father Jean never used herbicides in the vineyard and didn't fertilize the soil with municipal waste from Paris (sad reminders of which this practice are still evident in the tattered remnants of blue plastic bags still seen in so many of Champagne’s vineyards). Further, he chose to work the soil by ploughing manually so Marc was grateful for the opportunity to work with a healthy, unpolluted vineyard. Marc did use herbicides sparingly at the beginning, but in 2004, he started to work by organic principles. Herbicides were eliminated and the vineyards were certified in 2012. Champagne Marc Augustin is certified organic, demeter and biodynamic, but his viticulture practice — as you could guess — goes way beyond that. Bio-energetic viticulture or some may call it vitalism: one assumes that everything consists of energy. That energy has a phase or vibration which can be changed when its nature is disturbed. Positive vibrations attract positivity and vice versa. The summum of all energy is love. He also uses the conventional biodynamic preparations with cow manure and quartz minerals as well as several plant concoctions and herbal preparations made of plants close to the vineyard such as golden thistle, geranium, dandelion, grape hyacinth and many others. Quartz crystals are buried at the borders of the vineyard for protection and conduction of energy. Aromatherapy and homeopathy is applied on the vines. This approach is unusual but hardly unique as growers like Amaury Beaufort and Eric Rodez have been doing this for quite some time now.
Marc sees himself as a sort of alchemist — he’s not trying to transmute gold, but he does seek to harness and apply what he considers the spiritual powers of the elements. "My vineyard is like a canvas. By drawing the best of each element, letting the alchemy make it, the beauty bursts." Marc does not reject science so much as reinterpret it — Mendeleev’s table is of great importance. The elements with an equal electron configuration are grouped. Underneath the element copper we see gold and silver. He adds a tiny amount of gold and silver to the soil in order to reduce the heavily polluting copper. As for sulphur, he vibrationally or telepathically requests that the universe doubles sulphur’s notation of “8” so that oxygen, with a notation of “16”, can amplify and replace sulphur, thus restricting the use of actual sulphur.
The golden Ratio and numbers of Fibonacci are also very important. Marc has a special copper device which lets liquid (wine or water) make numerologically significant passes through copper tracks 3, 5, 8, 13 and 21 times. A 432 Hz tuned tone device is used to protect the vines against diseases. A custom made cone shaped barrel that represents a womb is where the baby wine is growing. Women have a crucial role. The grapes are only picked by women to preserve fertile energy in the grapes.
The cellar is a special sanctuary where fermentation occurs in all serenity. Painted red walls represent fire, the clay baked amphorae earth, there is dynamized water everywhere,and the old-Greek element aether is represented by the stars on the ceiling with the sun hanging on the front wall. The wines ferment in enamelled tanks that are softer than stainless steel, wooden barrels, jars that are made with oak from the Montagne de Reims and clay amphorae.
"Wine is living matter, manipulating the process of wine making destabilizes the wine." Marc’s wines are never chaptilized nor filtered and only natural indigenous yeasts are used. A very small amount of sulphur is used except for his cuvée Sans Soufre. According to Marc ageing the wine sur lattes and the process of autolysis is not important. Bottling is done in bottles designed to respect the principles of chromatology, the days of tides with low coefficients, when the osmotic pressure is the least strong for the molecules. The goal is always the same: to preserve harmony, stability and balance.
Although the weather conditions were perfect, we didn’t see the vineyard.
All of us were so perplexed that we simply forgot to ask to see them!
The wines are — as expected — extraordinary and very hard to analyse because of their volatile and tremendously complex aromas. Many of the elements in the scent were unknown to me. Exciting indeed! Wines are likened to the principal elements: Earth "terre", Air "air" and Feu "fire". His cuvée Sans Soufre is a symbiosis of those elements. All wines are made with grapes from Avenay val d’Or and from harvest 2013 but the vintage hasn't been declared.
I had tasted the Marc Augustin wines in December 2015 and have retasted them in July 2017. Therefore there are 2 reviews per cuvée.
CCXCI (291) Terre is made of 100% Pinot Noir from young vines. Dosage 0.5 grams. Light golden color with a fine sparkle. The aroma is soft as butter, quite intimate, with strawberry, jasmine, prune, vanilla pudding, juniper, brandy, currants and cake bread. Soft mouthfeel. On the palate we get rhubarb, gooseberry and Cavaillon melon. The finish is mellow with melon appearing again,and a soft touch of popped rice kernel. This wine lacks depth and presence and after some time in the glass it became quite plain.
Retasting this in 2017 was a pleasant surprise. The aroma and taste showed more weight. The nose has a lovely caramelized sucrosity, again with jasmine flowers, coconut, yellow raisins and a more tropical profile with Ceylon gooseberry, mango and a hint of tropical melon reminiscent of granadilla. Soft caressing mouthfeel. On the palate you get delicious gooseberry, rhubarb, a light honeyed tone and dried fig on the mid palate. There is much more going on in the spectrum of candied vegetal flavors but I’m unable to define it. On the finish you get puffed rice and a hint of toasted macadamia nuts. The evolution of this wine is remarkable and was - at least for me - unpredictable.
85 points with 86+ potential
CCXIV (214): Air is made of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. Dosage 0.4 grams.. Light yellow gold with green color with very fine bubbles. In the nose, we get refined baker’s yeast, pineapple, papaya, apple, steppe grass, dried cranberries, sauerkraut and a touch of goat. A rather peculiar scent but certainly more than pleasant. After giving air the aroma evolved towards brown rum, geranium and a mild smokiness. With time in the glass the goaty aroma disappeared completely. The mouthfeel is intense with body and structure. On the palate we get creamy vine peach, pineapple and sour rhubarb. The finish is complex and comes in 3 steps. First we get white currant with lemon followed by salted nuts, dark mineral accents and ending with cornflakes. The sharp acidity gets this wine just a little bit out off balance but this will disappear with time. For me this is more “Feu” than “Air”. Drink starting from 2017.
Tasting this now in 2017 was a little bit unsatisfying for me. Out of Zalto White Wine it showed geranium, frangipane cake, brown rum (almost exigeant), yeasts, stewed pears, pineapple and still a hint of papaya but was less complex than before. On the palate this is a very different wine with very prominent sweet lemon, overripe vine peach, cherimoya and again the stewed pear together with mucilage-like flavors. The saline, Pouilly Fumé-like minerality extends into the finish, but the fruit doesn’t persist. The sharp acidity did calm down and became more harmonious but for me the wine became less complex than before.
CCCI (301) Feu is made of 100% Pinot Noir of vines planted in 50s and 60s. Dosage 1 gram. Light golden color with a refined effervescence. On the nose, we get papaya, buckthorn, lime, marzipan, apple fritter, orange blossom, citrus zest, sweet cherry and earl grey tea. The mouthfeel is dynamic . On the palate we get kumquat, lemon, peach, pomegranate, and watermelon. On the mid palate we get papaya and a haze of old mimolette cheese. The finish warms up the palate with popped rice and and cornflakes. A lovely elegant wine with good intensity and a surprisingly long finish.
What a huge difference with before. Intense golden color with a perfect effervescence. On the nose you get Mulberry, dried honey, apple fritter, bergamot, orange blossom, candied dark cherry a hint of grenadine on a foundation of bramble berry and Dutch syrup waffle. After a longer while in my Zalto glass came blackberry, roasted orange and licorice, fantastic toasted macadamia nuts and a hint of chocolate. The mouthfeel has depth,presence and serious character. This is fantastic. On the palate you get a dark fruit profile together with candied blood orange, orange blossom, again that mimolette, orangettes, lovely viennoiserie and vanilla macaron. On the mid palate you get licorice and a hint of elderberry together with dried honey and dried herbs. The finish is long with orange, plum tomato and a striking smoky minerality.
88 points with 89+ potential
CXVI (116) Sans Soufre is made of 100% Pinot Noir planted in the 50s and 60s. Like the name suggests no sulphur was added. No dosage. Light golden yellow color with a very refined effervescence. Intense nose of red apple, honey, brown sugar, ground almonds, peach, glue, popcorn, corn flakes and cream. After some time in the glass there were notes of sherry. Quite oxidative in style. The mouthfeel is deep and vinous. On the palate we get Boskoop and Reinette apples, peach, cocoa and tobacco. On the mid palate we get crisp acidity and a slightly metallic note. On the finish we get rice crispies and cornflakes. I thought this was made as a solera of different vintages but it appears to be a single vintage 2013. Yet this young champagne has a somewhat overripe character. Very nice paired with veal sweetbreads with a Xerès dressing. Drink now to 2016.
The color is going towards old gold with nice tears on the glass and a refined effervescence. This is a totally different wine… The nose is bold and autumnal. My colleague Gomaar smiled and noted “omelette with truffle”. The nose became earthy and autumnal but also very tropical with papaya, almost overripe cherimoya, clover honey and baked apple with caster sugar. Not one sign of oxidation. After a while in the glass it showed even some leather. On the palate you get baked apple, pineapple flamed with a young cognac, biodynamic honey with pomegranate and papaya on the mid palate. Lovely multi-staged finish with dried berries followed by citrus acidity and ending with minerality and a hint of black kampot pepper.
88 points with 88+ potential
Energy can’t be created or disappear but is converted from one state to another which is paradoxical because it states that energy can never be created. So how is it possible that matter can exist if it never was created?
The answer of many people is the "big bang". But what is the big bang?
Is this not just a name given to the impossible, the Divine?