Q&A with Dominique Demarville, Cellar Master of Veuve Clicquot
The chef de caves opens up about the autumn release of Cave Privée, his winemaking philosophy and his favorite foods to eat with mature Champagne.
In 1985, Dominique Demarville cut his teeth in the industry working as a grape picker for a family friend’s vineyard in Charly-sur-Marne in Champagne. It was his first harvest and the experience inspired him to pursue a winemaking career. He earned a degree in oenology and viticulture from Lycée Viticole de la Champagne in Avize, and later, a supplementary oenology degree from the University of Burgundy, Dijon. Demarville became Veuve Clicquot’s 10th cellar master in 2009, where he continues the 240-year-old Champagne house’s legacy.
WINE ENTHUSIAST: What’s the most difficult aspect of production when working for a large-scale Champagne house?
DOMINIQUE DEMARVILLE: The most challenging aspect of production is to recreate the same style, the same taste, year in and year out. At Veuve Clicquot, I have many tools to achieve this challenge. The two most important are the quality of the grape supply [from] our own vineyard and the strong relationship with the suppliers, and also the huge stock of reserve wines kept on lees in our tanks from [the] 2011 harvest to [the] 1988 harvest. Blending is crucial in Champagne to achieve the quality level we expect.
W.E.: What is your personal winemaking philosophy?
DD: Respect of the nature. We must never forget that Champagne is a wine, and the quality is in the vines. Thanks to our terroir in Champagne, [we can] elaborate wines with tremendous finesse and elegance. Everything we do must be done to respect this specificity of the terroir. That’s the reason we make winemaking cru [by] cru, year [by] year and grape variety [by] grape variety to make sure we have a maximum of choice at our disposal for blending.
W.E.: Can you describe the new Cave Privée line released in September 2012?
DD: With Cave Privée, we selected several vintages aged 20–30 years on lees [before the] disgorgement [took place in 2008]. The vintages are 1990, 1989 in rosé, 1980 and 1978 in rosé. We have, of course, [750-ml] bottles, but also some magnums and Jeroboams. [This] line was possible thanks to our wonderful collection of old vintages kept in our private cellars in Reims. The wines are more mature, complex, rich and intense, but still with a wonderful freshness. We want to offer Veuve Clicquot lovers and wine collectors the opportunity to buy old Champagne stored in very good conditions in our private cellars at an affordable price.
W.E.: What foods do you think pair well with these aged Champagnes?
DD: I like to match the 1980 with Comté cheese, Parmigiano and old mimolette. We pour this 1980 at the Hôtel du Marc—Veuve Clicquot[’s] guest house—with a selection of Comté or Parmigiano [aged] 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. The 1978 Cave Privée Rosé works very well with red meat like lamb or beef.
W.E.: Besides Champagne, what other wines do you enjoy drinking?
DD: I enjoy discovering new wines and creating new experiences. For example, I tried last weekend wines from Ardèche. However, my heart is booming for Burgundy…and if I must travel to the moon, I will bring one bottle of Château d’Yquem and a Jeroboam of [Veuve Cliquot] Yellow Label.