Since 1979 Michel Drappier has been head winemaker at family house, Champagne Drappier, whilst his father André keeps a watchful eye over the vineyards. Michel's children also work in the family business of this Champagne House that has been crafting wines since 1808. We are proud to present this interview with Michel Drappier on the Emperor blog!
1. You consider yourselves winemakers first, business people second. How does this impact your winemaking?
Making wine is our life. Making Champagne our reason for living! In fact we are rather selfish. We like to make the Champagne we enjoy drinking: dry, pure and full of the aromas found in our terroirs.
During the harvest, Antoine at the press, Hugo in the winery and Charline bringing visitors to taste, all work with me to keep the style of our house. Drappier has to be recognisable. In the 70’s, when Champagne had to be refreshing and rather sweet, Drappier was not trendy. Today, Champagne aficionados go for dry wines that don't hide their personality using sugar or too much technology. Champagne is so much more than a refreshment.
2. Tell us about your relationship with De Gaulle and how Drappier because a champagne enjoyed at the Elysée (Resident of the French President)?
Charles de Gaulle discovered Drappier in the early 60’s when he was President. He ordered only Drappier Extra Dry for his private consumption in his private home of Colombey les deux Églises. In 2002, under the presidency of Jacques Chirac, a young sommelier appointed Drappier as one of the preferred Champagne suppliers to the Elysée Palace where it is still served today.
3. What is your creative vision for Champagne Drappier?
Born and raised in Champagne, my children have acquired the Drappier taste in our village through our every day’s life. The raw material to make our wines will never change, but the construction will evolve.
This is what happened between my father André (soon 95 and still with us drinking every day) and myself. You can recognise the wine like a child being the heir of his parents, but his is different, a new creation.
4. Your wines are low or no sulfur, can you tell us about this decision?
My father André and myself have always been sulphur intolerant. My children have the same repulsion for sulphites. In the 90’s, against laboratories advices, I decided to reduce the quantity of sulphur used in the winemaking, and in 2007, we were able to release the first Champagne with no sulphur added.
Sulfites are an antioxidant but also can act as an anaesthetic to the taste buds. They dry out the palate and cause headaches. We found out that less sulphur means a better expression of the wine, more comfort for the consumer and it doesn’t mean a shorter life of the wine as long as vinification is done well.
5. What's behind your decision to make your rosé as a de Saignée instead of an assemblage.
Rosé de saignée is to Champagne rosé what solid gold is to gold plated. Adding a few drops of red in a white Champagne can produce absolutely top cuvées, but tasted blind one will not always notice if it is rosé or white. Only an infusion will give the wine that unique red fruits flavour.
6. We’ve just come through such a challenging year, what impact do you think it will it have on your wines in the coming years?
No big effect. Crop and sales fluctuations have always been 'usual' in Champagne. We have been through a lot worse situations in the past two centuries. We have learned to stock, to refresh, to hold or to release.
Compared to many wines, Champagne can actually mature gracefully on its lees. We have not been over affected by the pandemic so far and the rotation of our cuvées is quite normal. We have just sold less large formats like Mathusalems or Nabuchadonosors, but they will find their way to the market sooner than we think. It has always been so.
7. What would be your dream job if you didn’t work in Champagne?
Architect. I like the idea of protecting people inside a construction with a view on the out world and passing the building to the next generations.
8. Describe one of your favourite food and Champagne pairings.
Vintage Champagne and comté cheese.
9. What’s your drink when no one is watching?
You are sure nobody is watching? Then, Porto! It is dark, sweet and warm in the mouth. The opposite of Champagne. It is good to make a change. I enjoy it with my father and sons.
10. If you could choose one person (dead or alive) to share a bottle of your champagne with who would it be?
My mother, now in another world. She had a great nose. I would love to have her comments on my wines and those produced by my children.
11. What’s trending in champagne right now?
Champagnes that look like the place they come from. We love it.
12. Who is your ‘winemaker to watch’ at the moment? Someone who is up and coming.
Ask my children. Those I know are as old as me!
13. What’s the biggest ‘faux pas’ you have come across with champagne?
In 1982, I almost lost my life in a tractor’s accident that I was driving carrying insecticide. The tank broke and the liquid killed the trouts in the small river beneath the vineyards. On that day I decided not to use insecticides anymore. The fish population was quickly restored and we made the move to organic production.