Chef de Caves – Why Is He So Important?

Before we go into discussion about the Chef de Caves, if you would like to view our family produced Champagne, please click HERE.

Why the Chef de Caves is of crucial importance to your Champagne

The Chef de Cave is typically a trusted individual who possesses a wealth of knowledge of their Champagne house and vineyards that is almost unrivalled within their organisation.

Dom Perignon Champagne

In June 2018 an important event took place, and for this event a fleet of Mercedex-Benz cars found their way through the French countryside and were heading in the direction of Hautvilliers Abbey. This place of course is the home of Dom Perignon, and the setup looked as majestic and presidential as you would have expected for such a rare event in the history of a fine Champagne house. This event being of course the handover ceremony relating to the chef de cave of Dom Perignon.

Richard Geoffroy had been in the role for an incredible 28 years and with his retirement saw the passing of the baton to Vincent Chaperon who took over from the role January 1st of this year.

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Top Champagne House

In a sense Dom Perignon has had a bit of a makeover, and while some may argue that such a large event be overkill merely to mark the retirement on one individual, the chef de cave is key to the identity of the Champagne house. These are the people who know the house vintages inside out, what they don’t know isn’t worth knowing, and it is these people who will decide on which wines to blend for a particular cuvée.
These are the people that will remain with the brand for a long time, all of which ensures that the quality of the Champagne set is to the highest standards.

Fine Champagne Vintage

During his tenure Geoffroy had overseen exactly 28 harvests, of which there were 14 white and 11 rose vintages. His major accomplishment being the 2008 vintage which many wine experts regard as one of the best fine Champagnes that Dom Perignon have produced. He has quite a legacy to his name, and Geoffroy claims that it is not just the weather and terroir that are needed to make a great Champagne, they must trust their instincts and inject some of their personality onto the product.

Geoffroy explains that his predecessor (Dominique Foulon) was employed as chef de cave for around 15 years, and this individual follows the rules of Dom Perignon rigidly. Geoffroy adds that his tenure saw a lessening of following such rules, and in his own words attempted to “change the trajectory of champagne”.

Focus on the Future

He explains that this meant that Dom Perignon has always had a tendency to focus on the future rather than revisiting the past, he also explains that even though the Dom Perignon brand is very traditional it is always evolving and looking to improve the quality of their Champagne.

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Champagne Production Evolution

Winemaking is of course moving into the future and embracing technology, but one thing for sure is that the instincts of the chef de cave are crucial for making a high quality Champagne. A chef de cave must also be a winemaker, and before becoming a chef de cave must have been involved with making wines in order to acquire the necessary skills.

Such skills of course include tasting skills, a good palate and nose are fundamental if success is to be achieved. Every Champagne house has the same requirements, so when you buy Champagne, you know a great deal of work has gone into it in the background.

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A thorough knowledge of the house is paramount if promotion to chef de cave is desired, and of course some close training with the former chef de cave will be required which will ensure thatthe consistency of the brand will be maintained. if we look at the Example of Champagne Deutz, the education is passed from one to the other in the form of the decision-mkaers.

It was back in 1838 that Pierre-Hubert Geldermann and William Deutz founded the Champagne house, and since then it was been run by various members of the Geldermann and Deutz families which ensures the quality of the Champagne..

Champagne Deutz

Michael Davesne is the chef de cave at Champagne Deutz, and he insists the philosophy has been passed on through each successive decade and from generation to generation. This knowledge comprises knowledge of the reserve wines, the vineyard, winemaking techniques, fermentation processes, ageing and liquer de dosage.

A great number of processes are kept as close as possible to the original methods to ensure the final quality of the Champagne.

Champagne & Technology

They are open to the use of new technology on their vineyard however, in fact they believe that technology helps improve the major processes that take place in winemaking. Breakthroughs in technology have always been a part of Champagne production, in the past it has often helped with making Champagne more efficent and much less labour intensive.

Deutz have embraced a raft of new technology at their press-house, good examples of this include a thermo-regulated vat which they now use instead of barrels, they also replaced traditional corks with crown caps when the do the ageing-on-the-lees process, and hand-riddling has now been replaced with ‘gyropallets’.

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Even though it is undeniable that technology has improved the efficiency of the process, the character and the taste of the Champagne is down to the human element, and this is where the chef de caves comes in.

Champagne Terroir Influence

The terroir will naturally influence the traditions, the ageing and of course the winemaking. Deutz have been employing the same process for hundreds of years with great success. New technologies have allowed certain elements such as controlling the temperature, or the use of stainless steel to aid with hygiene, and carefully selecting the yeast to make better Champagne for the public. Instinct must always be relied upon as that is how blends are created through using the nose, palate, intuition and memory.

Chef De Cave

A successful chef de cave cannot be too self centred, continuing the house style is the most important part, and to do that without deviating from what has made the previous chef de cave successful is of crucial importance. Every Champagne house develops over time, and Champagne Deutz are a good example of this as they have gained richness, elegance and complexity in their Champagne over the years.

A chef de cave has an important role in terms of juggling their cuvees while also having to maintain the history of the Champagne house with the heritage of the brand that they serve. With all this they must imprint their personality on the fine Champagne they produce, and at the same time ensuring that they are open to new ideas to allow the identity of the Champagne house and their Champagne to evolve.

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Say It With Champers Champagne

While many Champagne houses do not directly offer the opportunity to purchase a personalised Champagne wedding or birthday gift set, here at Say It With Champers we have some great labels to choose from to allow you to do this. Please click on our labels, then go to wedding, and customise the label as you see fit, and then when you are done choose one of our presentation boxes and then you will have a great personalised Champagne wedding gift set.

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We have sold many of these and they look great, there is nothing like these currently on the market, and that is why we believe that if you are looking for a wedding themed personalised Champagne gift set then our range of labels will be everything you are looking for.