Aurélien Suenen took charge of his family’s Cramant estate in 2009, when he was just 23 years old. His family has been established in Champagne for five generations, first in Damery, where his great-great-grandfather started growing vines in 1898, and later in Cramant, where his grandfather Bernard owned a grocery store in addition to cultivating his vineyards. The Suenen family had been making champagne since the 1940s, but it was Bernard who began estate-bottling in earnest after the Second World War. His son Daniel, Aurélien’s father, expanded the estate’s vineyards and increased champagne production, and he continued to make wine here until his death in 2009. Aurélien, who was formerly training to become a professional basketball player, began to develop a more serious interest in wine by 2003 or 2004, and when his father took ill in 2008, he assumed responsibility for the management of the estate.
Suenen owns five hectares of vines, spread over 17 parcels: three hectares are in the Côte des Blancs, in the villages of Cramant, Chouilly and Oiry, and two are in the Massif de St-Thierry, planted with pinot noir and meunier. His vineyard work is largely organic, with some trials in biodynamics, but he prefers to explore his own path rather than adhere to predetermined systems. In this he is heavily influenced by his friend and mentor Pascal Agrapart, another grower whose vineyard work is highly conscientious and quality-oriented without being easily categorized.
“For me,” says Suenen, “the most important thing is to work the soil.” Since 2014, all of his vineyards in the Côte des Blancs have been regularly plowed, and in terms of other vineyard work, each parcel is treated according to its individual needs. Suenen has taken great pains to learn as much as possible about each of his parcels, not only through the empirical experience of working them on a daily basis, but also through detailed soil analyses, conducted with the help of Claude and Lydia Bourgignon. “I’m putting in 200 percent of effort,” he says, “and I’m learning something new every day.” - Peter Liem