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Interview with Pierre Larmandier [Champagne Larmandier-Bernier]

Björnstierne Antonsson

Björnstierne Antonsson

Every bottle tells a story. What’s Yours? Every week we interview people in the world of Champagne on their iconic bottles. Now & then TheChampagneSommelier will interview some of the true people of Champagne. He will ask a few questions about their company, their profession, current trends, etc.

We had a bubbly chat with Pierre Larmandier from Champagne Larmandier-Bernier in Vertus. Merci Pierre ! 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Describe yourself in a few sentences!

‘The Larmandier family started working in the vineyards of Champagne and making wine in the 18th century. I was born in Vertus in 1963, I grew up in the vineyards and the cellars of my parents. After graduating from Audencia (Nantes Business School), I decided to return to the craf “that runs through my veins”. In 1988, I married Sophie and breathed life back into the various Larmandier-Bernier terroirs by working the soil and abandoning herbicides. This was not trendy at that time, I just felt it was the best way to make great wines. In the early 1990’s we visited some great growers in Alsace and Burgundy who inspired us.

We have been organic certified for 20 years and we are now working with our sons Arthur and Georges. We’re happy that they share the same philosophy and bring new energy !’

‘Like Obelix, I fell into it as a child.’

Pierre Larmandier on the question ‘How did you get into the champagne profession ?

Since Your Champagne company started, how many chef de caves have your company had ?

‘None, we are a family company, we don’t have any chef de cave, we are directly involved from beginning to end.’

How would You describe Your ’house/producer style’ and how do You achieve it ?

‘We love pure, tasty and balanced wines. We are confident in our grapes so we have a non-interventionist vinification to preserve the potential of the initial juice.’

What role do grape varieties play in creating Your style ?

‘We think grape varieties are only a way to express the terroir. We mostly grow Chardonnay, nevertheless we create cuvées with different styles depending on terroirs.’

What do You think of the current trend of ’terroir champagnes’ made of single parcels ?

‘I created my first single vineyard cuvee in 1988 (Vieille Vigne de Cramant) when it was not trendy. I only choose to create a single vineyard cuvee when the terroir is exceptional and when I think it is worth it. It really is a wonderful way to “taste the terroir”, but identifying the right parcel and putting everything in place to create the wine that will deliver its purest expression requires patience and dedication, it should not be rushed or forced. This is how I created Terre de Vertus in 1995 and more recently Les Chemins d’Avize in 2009.’

2020 was a very special year. What’s Your idea of the near future for Champagne in general ? 

‘2020 was a very good vintage. It’s a shame Champagne authorities got scared and decided to lower the maximum yield. In 2021 they ended up needing more grapes to meet the demand, but unfortunately the vintage turned out to be very small. We should all remember that vineyards are not a factory, Nature decides on the yield! And the variability of the yield is (and will probably be more and more) high due to climate change.’

What else do You drink apart from Your own Champagnes ?

‘There are many wines we love, especially from Rhône, South of France and Italy. We love the wines (and the people who make these wines!) of Marcel Richaud, Dominique Hauvette, Marlène Soria, … ‘

Which Champagne would You treat a dream guest, and why ?

‘Vieille Vigne du Levant 2012. It is a wine to enjoy slowly in a big wine glass to let it breathe and show its complexity little by little. This is a wonderful opportunity to take the time to share ideas with a special guest!’

PS [ what piece of music would you listen to drinking Champagne with Your dream guest ? ] 

‘Hotel California. Great memories for Sophie and me, it reminds us of our US road trip when we were students.’

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