Pascal Leclerc-Briant, president of Champagne Leclerc-Briant, has died aged 60.
Based in Epernay, thehouse of Leclerc-Briant was founded in 1852; Pascal was the fifth generation ofthe family to run the business.
The company owns around 30hectares of vineyards, principally in the crusof Cumières,Hautvilliers (both premiers crus),Damery and Verneuil, all located to the west of Epernay on the northern side ofthe Marne Valley.
This estate is notable for being one of the largest in Champagne entirely converted to biodynamic production. Leclerc-Briant’s fatherBertrand was one of the first to move away from the use of chemical fertilisersand pesticides, and Pascal followed the same path, going further when he beganexperimenting with biodynamic vine cultivation back in 1970 at a time when suchmethods were very rare in Champagne.
After ten years farming the Cumières vineyardsbiodynamically, after the 2000 harvest he decided to convert all its vineyards.
In 1994 Leclerc-Briant was one of the first in Champagne tointroduce a number of single vineyard wines under the Collection Les Authentiques label: Les Chèvres Pierreuses, Les Crayèresand Le Clos des Champions.
Each was produced on a different terroir in Cumières. More recently headded ‘La Croisette’, a Blanc de Blancs from Epernay, and ‘La Ravinne’, a PinotMeunier from Verneuil. To celebrate thefifteenth anniversary of this collection a sixth suchcuvée: ‘Les Quatriémes’, also from Verneuil but mostly Pinot Noir, was madefrom the 2009 vintage and will be released in around three years.
Leclerc-Briant had a flair forpublicity, encouraging visitors – and charging them €40 – to the company’scellars in Epernay by offering them the chance to learn the art of sabrage – opening a bottle of Champagne with a sabre, abseiling30 metres into the company’s chalk cellars or visiting the museum he opened in1992 to house his collection of old tools, plus over 400 types of cork andbottle.
In 2004, at the Charles de Gaulle Hilton Hotel, he celebrated the tenthanniversary of his new range by breaking the record – for the third time – formaking the largest Champagne fountain, a pyramid of precisely 33,081 Champagne flutes.
Pascal Leclerc-Briant had been divorced for several years. He leaves his four daughters, Ségolène – who it is understood intends to take over the business – Astrid, Sonia and Diane.
Written by Giles Fallowfield