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  • Writer's pictureThe Butler

Should you drink Drappier champagne, the General's favorite?

It is said that Drappier was the General's favorite champagne. He didn't drink much but he drank well. A note signed by him, kept in the archives of this family house located in Urville, in the Aube region, in the heart of an austere Champagne region, in keeping with the tastes of the founder of the Fifth Republic, provides proof of this. Twenty-four bottles of extra-dry champagne invoiced at the unit price of 7.75 francs to "M. le Général de Gaulle, La Boisserie, Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, Haute-Marne, March 3, 1965". At one time, Michel Drappier, who took over from his father André - whose 94th birthday does not prevent him from drinking champagne every day - had displayed this relic. He eventually put it away.

"It was a wink. We do not want to reduce Drappier Champagne to Charles de Gaulle. It remains anecdotal.  "Drappier champagnes, it's 1.5 million bottles produced per year. Conceived in 1990 to salute the fiftieth anniversary of the Appel du 18-Juin, the Charles de Gaulle cuvée is a step aside within a wide range. It is composed of 80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay. But Michel Drappier, assisted by his daughter Charline and his sons Hugo and Antoine, does not want to make it a standard. The 95/100 rating given to him by the Wine Spectator tasters has not changed anything. Between 4,000 and 10,000 bottles are sold each year. That's all there is to it. The Charles de Gaulle cuvée remains a discreet tribute," confides Michel Drappier. In our mind, this champagne must resemble the one that the General loved. "

However, the winemaker did not push the coquetry to the point of producing a cuvée extra-dry, in the taste of yesteryear, with a dose of sugar between 12 and 18 g/l. As its name does not indicate to the layman, the extra-dry champagne is more dosed than the brut - less than 12 g/l of sugar - and the extra-brut - between 0 and 6 g/l of sugar. Even if Anselme and Guillaume Selosse manage to elaborate marvels of dry champagnes with the cuvée Exquise, whose dosage oscillates between 22 and 26 g/l of sugar, this taste of champagnes that English ladies used to drink at tea time, in the palaces of the Riviera, has a bit passed.

The trademark of the Drappier house is rather the complete absence of expedition liqueur in the famous Brut Nature Pinot Noir Zero Dosage cuvée. A blanc de noirs to which not a single gram of cane sugar is added, as is commonly done in the region. If the Marne is a department with a vineyard dominated by Chardonnay - and in particular the famous "Côte des Blancs" -, the Aube, whose subsoil is made up of marly limestone from the Kimmeridgian period, is particularly well suited to the growth and maturation of Pinot Noir. This fine grape variety, which is at the origin of the great red burgundies 200 km to the south-east, gives birth to winey, fruity champagnes, with a nice nose of bread, apple and quince jelly. To taste the Brut Nature Pinot Noir Zéro Dosage from Drappier is to adopt it.

In the cellar of Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle didn't drink much wine, but he liked to be photographed with a glass in his hand, toasting or celebrating some corner of the "dear old country". He knew that wine is not just an alcoholic beverage, it is also, and above all, a know-how, a culture, a history, a landscape, a heritage. And he knew, with the agronomist Olivier de Serres, that the great art of winegrowers consists in cultivating the terroirs "according to their various qualities, situations and climates". In April 1959, the General had been back in office for a short year when he stopped at Gevrey-Chambertin, on the Burgundy wine route, and said to the mayor: "I could not stop in your country without marking the particular consideration I have for the illustration it brings to the national fame. "Four years later, while visiting Épernay, in Champagne, and still holding a glass, the first president of the Fifth Republic celebrated "something unique that belongs to us and is now consecrated.

The biographers of the General and those who, like Claude Dulong, have endeavored to evoke the daily life at the Élysée during the time of Charles de Gaulle (Hachette, 1974) have evoked his penchant for frugality and his rejection of all forms of luxury. "I don't want waste, there has been too much of it before me in this house.  "This was true of wine as well as everything else. When he was at the Élysée Palace, he was served the light and aromatic Beaujolais produced by Jules Chauvet in La Chapelle-de-Guinchay. For official lunches, the Élysée's sommelier had identified a round, supple, elegant and fruity Moulis, Château Poujeaux. And the author of Le Fil de l'épée was never a fan of the famous "great wines" that label drinkers love.

To talk about wine, he was well surrounded. His aide-de-camp, Colonel Gaston de Bonneval, was in charge of choosing his champagne. Between 1958 and 1960, one of the members of the General's cabinet was none other than the mining engineer Jean Méo, of the Méo-Camuzet estate in Vosne-Romanée, one of the jewels of the Côtes-de-Nuits. A man of the North and the East, Charles de Gaulle was fond of continental wines and fruits that were slow to ripen. In his time, the cellar of the Élysée, created in 1947 under Vincent Auriol, was mostly composed of Burgundy wines. The menus preserved in the archives of the Élysée give us an idea of the elegance and sobriety of his tastes. On June 24, 1964, at a dinner given in honor of Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia, a 1957 Puligny-Montrachet and a 1955 Nuits Cailles - two Burgundy wines - were served in turn. Then came the turn of Ruinart champagne. A simple cuisine combined with fine wines. "Everything counts if it is about the prestige of the State", the General liked to repeat.

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