A Small Wine Exporter Talks Relationships and Champagne with Dedalus

A Small Wine Exporter Talks Relationships and Champagne with Dedalus

Uncorking a Dedalus Exclusive Champagne with Paris Wine Company’s Patrick Eid

“Who’s in your glass?”

It’s a question we think about a lot here at Dedalus. Our job is to help you answer it. To connect you to the people behind the bottles you love. And when we get the chance to work directly with the winemakers, we jump at it.

We recently collaborated with Paris Wine Company — a small and phenomenal exporter founded by the late, great Josh Adler — and winemaker Petit LeBrun to create a grand cru Champagne just for our customers. It's a collaboration that's close to our heart — which is why the label was illustrated by Dedalus cheesemonger Gragen Gragen Cook and the lettering on front and back labels was written by Marketing & Creative Manager Nicole Bull.

Gardette is delicious. It’s well-priced. And it’s by far our team’s favorite Champagne of 2022. But beyond that, it’s a liquid gold bridge between you, Dedalus, PWC, and the winemaker. 

Made by a small family, crafted from organically grown fruit from exceptional sites, this is precisely the kind of wine — the kind of grower Champagne — we want to get into your glass.

Our team spoke to Patrick Eid from Paris Wine Company about the collaboration, how PWC works with winemakers, his favorite Paris wine bars, and more.

This interview was conducted on October 26 with Patrick Eid, Sadie Williams, Brittany Galbraith, and Nicole Bull. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Brittany Galbraith with Gardette at Dedalus in Burlington, Vermont

Sadie: Good evening, Patrick.

Patrick: Yes. Good evening. Good morning too.

Sadie: Do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself and your work with Paris Wine Company?

Patrick: Yeah. I joined the team fairly recently, in the spring. Before that, I'd always worked at wine shops and bars. My interest in wine came as I got older. First I started working in Lebanon, which is where I grew up. Then I moved to France, where I got quite heavily into wine. Then I moved to Italy, where I started working at a nice wine shop. And then I settled for a few years in Vienna. And after I got married, we decided to move back to Paris. And I've worked in a couple of restaurants here in Paris, and I joined Paris Wine Company in the spring.

Sadie: And so what's the work that you're doing with Paris Wine Company?

Patrick: I've joined the team to help Francesca and Ryan take care of the relationships with clients and the relationship with the winemakers.

Sadie: And about those relationships between distributors and winemakers — Paris Wine Company is an exporter, not an importer. And I was wondering if you could talk to us a little bit about why that is and how it benefits the winemaker.

Patrick: It's a relationship that's pretty classic in France and in Europe: that of an agent. We facilitate durable, long-term relationships between winemakers — who are already busy enough making wine — and distributors and importers. 

Nicole: And are you consulting with any of the winemakers? I know some importers that we work with here in the US are helping some of the winemakers with things like what labels might work best for a U.S. audience.

Patrick: Absolutely. This is precisely the kind of communication that we help make easier. We're in Paris, and we visit our growers quite regularly.

It’s not just [about] "This is what the market demands, therefore that's what we should do." It's also a way of understanding each other. If we need better labels for the market, well, we try to see how that fits with [what] the winemaker wants to express. 

Nicole: We obviously have a lot of questions about the Champagne that we've just received from you all, and from Petit Le Brun. For us, an exclusive bottling is very exciting. But on the winemaker’s side of things, what is the benefit of a project like that?

Patrick: The obvious benefit is that it's a new product in a new market. That is not negligible, right? It's basically a new way to put value on their work. And having a private label is not necessarily a bad way to do that, especially in the way that Dedalus is doing it. It's quite nice that you interview and that you ask about the winemaker and that you feature them and so on. That's great. In a way, they are getting their recognition. And the work that they do realizes its value in another way.

The blend that you have is specific, and so is the label. And so, this is a wine that doesn't exist anywhere else, but it ties into the work that Petit Le Brun does in the vines. The advantage is basically one of liking your own work, liking your job, you get to make something new, and you get to do it with people like you who are also doing work that they like. 

Sadie: Could you tell us a little bit about Petit Le Brun and who the winemaker is, a little bit maybe about their family and their history in the area?

Patrick: They're situated in Côte des Blancs, and the brand has existed since 1964, which is relatively early. Often, at that time, many growers would just sell their grapes. They're Richard Petit and Veronique Le Brun. Richard's great-grandfather used to be the manager of the vineyard of Perrier-Jouët. And in the late '50s when it was sold, he acquired some land, and now today, they have four whole hectares, in the entire Côte des Blancs, in Avize, Oiry, Chouilly, Oger, and Cramant.

Brittany: I want to know more about Richard's personality. Paint a visual for us. Who is this wine as a person?

Patrick: It's always been pretty serious in a way, but not in a somber manner, just that, it’s a small winery. Four hectares, as I mentioned. And it's a family. There is Veronique and Richard, [who are married] and I'm often in touch with Veronique, who does a lot of the work at the winery. And I get the feeling that they're a very busy family, but they're also very serious. There's a lot of work that goes on.

I always like to ask about what they do, and they're always saying, "Okay, so I'm here, this can go on...And then my son will be here who can take care of leaving this order," And it was always a person of the family that does something or a friend, "My son and his friend are labeling the bottles," or something like that.

Sadie: It's intimate. 

Patrick: Yeah. I think it's really an intimate operation. And that's at least my impression of it. 

Sadie: I like that. Serious, but not somber.

Patrick: And they're not certified organic but they practice organic farming. They haven't used any pesticides in eight years. Besides that, the Champagne is made very traditionally.

Nicole: I was looking at some of the technical information for this cuvée. And I think the majority of the main parcels are in Avize and Oger, right?

Patrick: Absolutely. In your cremant, there's about 80% or a little bit less that is of the 2018 vintage in Avize, from one particular parcel actually, or one from one particular lieu-dit, which is called the Chemin de Châlons. It's quite famous because Selosse works there as well.

Brittany: That's what I was going to say! When I think of Avize, that's the producer I think of.

Nicole: And the label that Gragen painted is supposed to be the town of Avize.

Patrick: Yes. It's got a very particular soil, on the whole, it's limestone, but it's got a pre-Jurassic sandy clay, and sandy chalk soil as well. Which is generally said to give Avize Champagnes a very distinctive minerality, or a kind of freshness, a little bit of salinity. It's a very distinctive, pretty sought-after terroir that really distinguishes itself from the rest of the Côte des Blancs Champagne in general.

The rest of the wine is from Oger, from a little place called Justice, from the 2017 vintage. Avize is planted 90% with Chardonnay. Oger is all Chardonnay. And your wine is a Blanc de Blancs, so it's 100% Chardonnay. Oger is like Avize, the limestone soil, and both of these soils are very well-drained, which allows for these vines that are digging into the sand to not stay wet, to not tap into pools of water. They're pretty distinctive parcels that are very interesting and make very interesting Champagnes.

Sadie: I'm wondering if in Avize, in Champagne in general, are attitudes shifting toward the use of organic or biodynamic practices in the vineyard?

Patrick: I'd say, it's complicated for Champagne, [but] yes, attitudes are changing towards that. But it doesn't reflect yet for one very self-evident reason, which is that Champagne takes at least three years from harvest to be commercialized. So by the time they get the certification, it might take some time. Attitudes are shifting, we just don't quite see it in the product yet. But I think, yes, especially a younger generation of Champagne-makers are definitely changing the way they're making Champagnes.

Sadie: And Petit Le Brun, are they going to pursue certification? 

Patrick: They are. But as we mentioned, I think attitudes towards certification are getting a little bit controversial as well, and Champagne is not immune to that. “Certification is too lenient, certification is economically unviable.” There are all of these, we mentioned. But I think what's most important is to communicate the good practices. It's not necessarily whether people want the certification or not, or at least that's the general attitude here. And it's the attitude of Selosse, whom we talked about earlier, who's never pursued any certification. He doesn't care.

Sadie: He's like, "We do what we do."

Patrick: Exactly.

Sadie: And how are attitudes or practices shifting to accommodate climate change? And what are people thinking about doing for the next five, 10 years, or immediate future?

Patrick: Some organic practices are actually getting more popular because they provide some advantage to that. Recently having, for example, grass coverage has allowed a little bit of water retention in the soil during the dry and hot summers. That's a ready advantage for this kind of farming. But I think mostly towards climate change — people are warming up to some organic practices or biodynamic practices. 

Another one is that there's a small but growing revival of old varietals, well, namely Petit Meslier and Arbane. And that's quite nice because these were varieties that take time to ripen and they were always very acidic, very fresh. But now they can ripen earlier and provide a little bit more balance since our Chardonnays are just too ripe or give too much alcohol, and don’t have enough acidity.

Sadie: That's very exciting.

Patrick: Yeah. It is.

Sadie: Are there any winemakers that you are working with at Paris Wine Company who are growing those varieties?

Patrick: Yes. At the moment there is one who does, who works with these varieties, his name is Étienne Calsac. And he has a Cuvée that is distinguished by using those varieties, basically.

 Brittany: It's nice that Champagne, it's still within the rule book that winemakers can use these varieties and still call their wine “Champagne,” so that no one will be punished as far as the market, as far as selling their wine.

Patrick: Yeah. What do you think of the Champagne, Gardette?

Brittany: The mousse is very delicate. It has a really beautiful, fluffy texture, and the acidity is so well-balanced as well with that texture. And it has almost a meringue flavor to it. It's like when Champagne can almost be dessert-like in its aromatics. It leans more in that way than being more oxidative or super reductive. It was really well-balanced and just so beautiful, and I can't wait to have it with some food. But it also was really lovely as a welcome beverage, just on its own or as an appéritif.

Patrick: It comes from two really interesting vintages, it's 2018 and 2017. 2018 was a very wet and cold winter with a hot and dry summer. But there was a little bit of hail, but no big losses overall in Champagne. But this wet, cold winter and hot summer let the grapes have enough moisture or enough health, enough reserve to mature and not suffer from the heat. Whereas 2017, which is the rest of the wine, it was a pretty, pretty difficult vintage. It was all over the place. You had a spring that was really dry and warm, until March. In April, there was frost, which hurt everybody really badly. Then it got extremely hot until mid-July. And then end of July through the summer, it was just rain. It was a very, very delicate and very difficult year. I think a lot of Champagne-makers struggled to harvest, really. And it's really funny, often, these most difficult years — we can't generalize — but these can yield very, very interesting results, precisely because of all these constraints.

Brittany: What are some of your favorite wine bars in Paris right now? Talking about the artisanal wines that you work with and the love of getting to drink these terroir-driven wines. Where would someone go in Paris to get a glass of something exciting? Where do you go?

Patrick: I go to a couple of places. I think, there's one that's right down the street from our office, which is called Ici-même. It's on Rue de Charenton. They have a fantastic selection of wines, not just French. And they're really, really good. It's not exactly a wine bar, it's more of a wine shop, but you can taste your wines there, along with a little plate of cheese. It's really nice. Another wine bar that I like is A Lot of Wine. It's very much in the center of the city.

Sadie: It's called "A Lot of Wine?"

Patrick: Yes.

Sadie: I love it.

Patrick: Yeah, I do too. They have been friends of mine. I have been a friend of that wine bar since I first came to Paris in 2012, and I think they must have opened shortly afterward. And actually, it turned out when I joined Paris Wine Company that my colleague, Ryan was another regular of that place as well, so we knew each other from afar.

I'm also not gonna hesitate to plug in my friend at Gargantua, in the Fifth.

Sadie: Don't hesitate. We love plugging friends.

Brittany: It's great to connect with where people are drinking, and when we think of winemakers, 30, 40, 50 years ago — where were the places that Marcel Lapierre would hang out, or Pierre Breton? Where conversations about natural wine really set fire. And how Paris was the epicenter for those conversations for winemakers from other regions. It’s so great to know  where those watering holes are now.

Patrick: Oh, it's really funny. Marcel Lapierre is one of the first names I ever recognized in wines. Before I started focusing on wine, I used to study literature. And in one of Guy Debord's memoirs, he talks about his own friendship with Marcel Lapierre.

Brittany: No way.

Patrick: And I think it must be one of the first wines that I sought out. Like, "Guy Debord likes it, I need Marcel Lapierre. Where is it?"

Sadie: I love that. Finding our way to wines or winemakers through some completely separate avenue.

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