Husband and wife team Virginie and Vincent Vanpoperingh run this small family estate on the banks of the River Marne. Virginie’s family has been growing grapes since the 18th century and Raymond Caillez and Andrée Lemaire began making their own wines from the family plots in 1942. Annie and Henri Caillez took over in 1976 before passing along to their daughter and her husband in 2005. The estate holdings have grown from 2ha to just over 6ha and conversion to Organic faming was certified in 2020 by EcoCert.
The village of Damery is an often overlooked village. It is the easternmost village of the Vallée de la Marne immediately as you exit the wider, more known villages of the Grande Vallée. The vineyard land in this area more closely hugs the river itself and the soils become more dense. The chalk and Pinot Noir of the neighboring Cumières becomes a rich clay with much deeper top soils planted heavily (62% of the village) to Meunier. Damery just missed out of the Premier Cru status being ranked an ‘Autre Cru’ at 89%. While these facts do not make headlines, they do result in amazing Champagne in the right hands. The village and vineyards benefit from their slope down to the river banks and excellent exposures. It has one of the largest planted land volumes outside of the Grand and Premier Crus with 407.4ha under vine. This expansive vineyard land gives way to some magnificent plots and many of the big houses have holdings in Damery.
In the vineyards all actions seek to expand biodiversity and better rooting of the vines. There are no chemical sprays used and in recognition of this, they were awarded with an HVE (High Environmental Value) all the way back in 2004. The vineyards are, as expected in the Grande Vallée, predominantly Meunier (2.59ha) with almost equal plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (1.69 and 1.89 respectively). In the cellars very little intervention and use of wood are the hallmark of Caillez Lemaire Champagnes. The old oak and delicate handling of all the parts of the process allow the grapes to express their unique terroirs. Each plot expresses its unique circumstances that add nuance to the final blends.
The final Champagnes are somewhat of a revelation. Nuanced and textured layers explode from each glass leaving you wanting more. Luckily there is a direct boat from Damery that keeps us well stocked.