Ruppert-Leroy is one of the most exciting new producers to emerge from Champagne in years. In 2009, Benedict Leroy took over the domaine from her father Gerard Ruppert, who farmed organically since 1970, while selling his grapes to the local cooperatives. It’s only with Benedict that the wines are bottled under the domaine’s name. She manages the winery with her husband Emmanuel Leroy; they keep farming organically the same tiny plots in the Aube Valley, located at the southeastern limit of the appellation, outside the small village of Essoyes, close to the border with the Côte d’Or. Their quest for the simplest winemaking has lead them toward the spirit of natural wine. Each cuvée comes from a single vintage of a single vineyard, bottled without dosage. And since 2013, no sulphur is used either. Their champagnes show elegance, energy, and pure class.
Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wine. What’s the difference?
To understand this concept and its various ramifications, it is necessary to keep something clear in mind: before the 20th century and the spreading of affordable synthetic fertilisers, all farming was organic. When the shift to the use of synthetics and pesticides happened, it became necessary to diversify traditional organic farming from the new modern farming.
Simply put, organic farming forbids the use of synthetic fertilisers, synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or genetically modified organisms. The basic requirements are generally specific and engage the farmers not to use any chemical fertilisers and other synthetic products in the vineyard. It does not prevent the vintner from using the conventional winemaking process after harvesting.
Let’s take organic farming one step further: Biodynamic. The creator of this agricultural system is the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who developed the principles of biodynamics in a series of lectures given in 1924 in Germany. Here lies the foundation of true organic wines, with a strict limit in the use of additives, stringent requirements and at the end obtaining a biodynamic certification.
The previous definitions are usually, and rightfully, associated with it, because most natural wine is also organic and/or biodynamic. But not vice versa!
Natural wine is wine in its purest form, simply described as nothing added, nothing taken away, just grapes fermented. No manipulation whatsoever, minimal intervention both in the vineyards and in the winery. Healthy grapes, natural yeast and natural fermentation, with no filtration nor fining. Sounds easy, right? However, making natural wine is unforgiving and it requires a bigger amount of work than conventional wine. To this day, natural wine has no certification yet.