Maison de Champagne Vilmart & Cie | Rilly-la-Montagne, France

By Dirk Smits

In 1890, Désiré Vilmart founded the house in the heart of the village of Rilly-la-Montagne, at the foot of the Montagne de Reims. He was succeeded by his son Charles, then his grandson Renan. During the Second World War, Renan witnessed the destruction of the estate. With courage and determination, he applied himself to reconstructing buildings and facilities over cellars that had been spared.

In 1963, Renan’s son-in-law René Champs took over the reins of the estate. With a background entirely unrelated to viticulture (skilled carpentry), he learned all about the winegrower’s craft at his father-in-law’s side.

Since 1995, René’s son Laurent Champs has imbued the house with his energy and dedication. He works with precision to reinterpret his wines, with the utmost respect for the work accomplished by the preceding four generations.

Vilmart is a member of Ampelos, an organization that promotes organic and sustainable viticulture and Laurent Champs has never used any herbicides or chemical fertilizers since taking over the estate. All of the vineyards are planted with cover crops and plowed. Champs enjoys an additional advantage in that his parcels are relatively large – only 12 different parcels over 27 acres – meaning that he is more protected from contamination by neighboring plots.

Most of the juice is oak fermented, either in foudres (large oak vats) or in barrels made from oak from the Allier forest. All the wines remain in barrel for 10 months and are enriched through bâtonnage (stirring of the lees). The perfectly pure Champagnes that Vilmart produce all have a high, fine acidity due to the avoidance of malolactic fermentation.

> For more information, visit the Champagne Vilmart & Cie official website.

> Check out the tasting notes of Champagne Vilmart, Grand Cellier, Premier Cru on GAYOT’s Best Non-Vintage Champagnes.