Fabrice Gass has a day job, working in the cellars at Bollinger, but in his spare time he produces a little wine at his own estate in Damery, selling it under the label Alexandre Filaine. To say that Gass works artisanally is an understatement: his methods are essentially those used a hundred years ago, and visiting his small winery on the rue Poincaré is practically like stepping into a time machine.
Gass owns just one hectare of vines, divided between seven parcels and all farmed organically. He plants all three varieties: while meunier is the predominant grape in this sector of the Vallée de la Marne, it represents a minority in Gass’s vineyards, as he favors pinot noir for its greater ageability.He presses his grapes in a traditional vertical press, and after a débourbage in old, enameled steel tanks, the must goes into barrels for native-yeast fermentation.
His barrels, formerly used at Bollinger, date from 1937, and while they were rejected by the house for being too old, Gass thinks they’re perfect. “I’m not only aging wine in barrel,” he says, “I’m putting grape juice in these barrels to ferment, and they ferment new wine every year. So the older the barrels, the better they are.” It’s not only the barrels that are old, either:
Gass does all of his racking and other winery operations by hand, and the tools that he uses are as ancient as his barrels are, making his cellar seem almost like a museum, albeit a fully functioning one.In keeping with historical tradition, Gass’s wines don’t go through malolactic, and their acidities can be notably high by modern standards. However, he doesn’t see this as a problem, due to his winemaking methods.
“The old barrels round out the wine and balance the acidity,” he says. “On paper, a wine with this sort of acidity is supposed to be undrinkable, but my wines are fine.” The wines eventually see a light isinglass fining, but they undergo no filtration, cold-stabilization or any other operation before bottling. Peter Liem