Nicolas Champagneux is one of the Northern Rhône’s rising stars producing wines from an exceptional plot of ancient vines in one of Côte-Rôtie’s top vineyards.
Nicolas Champagneux has lived and breathed Côte-Rôtie since he was a boy. His father was the chief viticulturalist at Guigal and Nicolas would often go and help his father in the vineyards at weekends. He later worked alongside his uncle in one of the region’s top vineyards – the highly revered lieu-dit of Les Grandes Places in the Côte Brune of Côte-Rôtie.
Following his uncle's passing, Nicolas inherited the vineyard in 2014. Previously these prized grapes, apart from a few barrels made for family consumption, were sold to Guigal. Since Nicolas took over the family estate, he made the leap to set up his own domaine and bottled all the wine produced from this hallowed site under his own name. Making wine with his uncle and later under the mentorship of Yves Cuilleron – Champagneux, in just a couple of years, has quickly made a name for himself in the region.
From the vines in “Les Grandes Places” he makes two wines, the flagship Côte-Rôtie “Les Grandes Places” and a second wine called “La Dedicace” – made for earlier drinking. He also produces an IGP Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah called “La Remise”. The plots for this are located in the northern part of the appellation on shale soils.
“Les Grandes Places” has a unique soil formation in Côte-Rôtie, the soils are made of thin layers of mica-schist. It is these friable soils that enable the vines to dig their roots deep into the soils accessing water and minerals at great depth. The wines of Les Grands Places are generally very elegant and at the same time fleshy.
Since taking over the estate, Champagneux has adopted sustainable viticultural techniques in the vineyard but for now remains uncertified. He uses cover crops in most of the plots while working towards increasing the area’s biodiversity.
Winemaking is carried out using gravity as opposed to pumps, which Champagneux believes helps bring elegance to the wines. He also uses a certain proportion of whole cluster grapes during fermentation to increase freshness in the wine as well as increasing aromatic complexity. He uses soft extraction processes and temperature control during fermentation to avoid harsh tannins, while preserving the natural elegance giving by the distinct terroir. Production of all three wines remains tiny and the wines are difficult to source outside of initial release.