Damien and Jérôme Labbe come from a long line of grape growers, and more recently winemakers. The house, located in the village of Chamery in the Montagne de Reims, started making champagne at the end of the 20th century; the exact year is not known. For generations the family simply grew grapes in their small plot in their small village and sold them after each harvest. As the land and region slowly transitioned from agricultural farming to grape growing the family began to acquire more plots and eventually formed a local co-op. At this point the brothers’ great grandfather, Maurice Bonet, was the head of the house and was also a founding member of the CRVC (Cooperative Regional Wines if Champagne). Maurice had just one daughter, Jeannine, who married Michel Labbe. Together they formed Champagne Labbe .
It was Damien and Jérôme’s father, who in 1974, secretly installed a press in the cellar (so his grand-father wouldn’t find out) who really pushed the winery in the direction it has taken today. The family has handled every aspect of their winemaking ever since. A second press was installed in 1977 and both have been changed and improved since. Also improved upon has been the winemaking practices. In the 1970’s wine was made in the conventional way with synthetic sprays and weeding. Over the last ten years the vineyards have all been converted to organic viticulture, gradually eliminating herbicides in favor of natural products and allowing the growth of cover crops for biodiversity and other various benefits.
Labbe & Fils now consists of 10ha of vines spread over 40 plots in 4 different villages. All of the plots are very close to the house, the furthest is only 5km away. This proximity does not mean homogeneity, in fact quite the opposite with each village having dramatically different exposures, soil types and personality. Ecueil is mostly sandy with silt and limestone, Sermiers is clay with limestone and Villers aux Nodes is more silty limestone. Their home village of Chamery is rather balanced but more and more calcareous as you go up the hills.
Jérôme is a trained oenologist and spent 7 years working as an assistant cellar master with Bruno Paillard where he learned how to seamlessly integrate oak barrels in to his wine making. They use the barrels to ferment and age single plots that they have identified as the best of the best and use those for their top of the range cuvées and as the base of the rest of the wines in the portfolio.
These Champagnes are vinous, complex and seriously well made. Great things are coming out of this cellar and will only continue to get better.