In the spotlight: Champagne Devaux

Champagne Devaux in Bar-sur-Seine © Photo: Atelier-Demoulin

Finding Champagne Devaux couldn’t be more obvious, yet many people don’t notice the exit. Located right on the busy Route Nationale D671 that leads from Troyes to the viticultural heart of the Côte des Bar, a long wall at the side of the road hides an ancient manor and a beautiful park from being noticed. Make sure to slow down in the section between Bar-sur-Seine and Celles-sur-Ource so that you won’t miss the entry gate, because Champagne Devaux is open for the public all throughout the year, and loves receiving champagne lovers from all over the world.

A History of three Champagne Widows

The history of Champagne Devaux started with Jules and Auguste Devaux in the middle of the 19th century. However, the most interesting evolution happened through three inspiring women that secured the family estate in the following decades. The first Devaux woman was Claude-Josephte Devaux: widowed at age 39, she took over the humble family winery and set it out for success by founding “Maison Vve A. Devaux” in 1846. Together with her son François-Auguste she managed the family business until the end of her days. 

Maria-Augusta Devaux turned Champagne Devaux into a successful brand
Maria-Augusta Devaux turned Champagne Devaux into a successful brand

When François-Auguste passed shortly after his mother, his wife Augusta-Maria inherited the lead of the winery in 1879, and thus became the second Devaux widow to continue the family business. Under her talent and enthusiasm, the brand Devaux turned into a flourishing champagne house and gained lots of recognition and popularity. She deceased in 1895 and left behind a business that had grown its exports to a staggering 75% of its production by the end of the century.

Charles-Auguste Devaux filled the gap in management afterwards, yet fate had prepared another turn for Champagne Devaux, and sadly he died just a few years later. His wife Marguerite Marie-Louise, the third Devaux widow, then rose to govern the winery in 1907, and stepped into the footprints of her two widowed predecessors, managing the domain for over 40 years until she passed away in 1951, closing an eventful saga of three widows. 

Old advertisement for Champagne Devaux
Old advertisement for Champagne Devaux

From this point onwards, the story extended to the men of the family, and her sons accepted the responsibility. The last member of the Devaux family to lead the estate was Jean-Pol Auguste Devaux. He didn’t have an heir or successor in sight as he got older, but sought a future for the well-established champagne brand his family had built up over so many years. Ultimately, he passed the brand into the hands of the Union Auboise and its president Laurent Gillet in 1987. The cooperative of wine growers, created in 1967, used to be a supplier for the champagne house’s Blanc de Noirs beforehand, and proudly integrated Champagne Devaux into their cooperative, placing the prestigious brand name at the top of their structure: Groupe Vinicole Champagne Devaux was born.

The Heart of the Côte des Bar

After a recent fusion with six further local cooperatives from the Côte des Bar in July 2002, the Union Auboise Vignerons en Champagne counts 520 members with over 1.060 hectares and continues to protect the identity of the local wine growers and defend the recognition of their precious terroirs. The cooperative sells wine to many champagne houses, but keeps the lion’s share of their best grapes and musts for their own high-quality production under the name of Champagne Devaux. 

With the heart of the cooperative anchored in the Aube, Champagne Devaux set the focus on working with the two typical grape varieties from their terroirs: Pinot Noir, the major grape of the Côte des Bar, and Chardonnay, the exceptional minority of the Aube. The Chardonnay used in their production either comes from the great soils of Montgueux – a very expressive Chardonnay terroir that many champagne houses wish they had more of – and they also source some Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs to add more tension, freshness, or length to the blends. 

The Manoir of Champagne Devaux in Bar-sur-Seine © Photo: Atelier-Demoulin
The Manoir of Champagne Devaux in Bar-sur-Seine © Photo: Atelier-Demoulin

Conscious that only good grapes will make excellent champagne, they developed high standards for their production and implemented quality measures early on. One of them was the fundamental Charte de travail which includes a long list of viticultural requirements that sensitize the cooperating members to apply adequate techniques in the vineyards and take environmental responsibilities. Furthermore, the cooperative has set up a team of viticultural consultants who follow and advise the growers throughout the year, helping them to find the best solutions for their unique challenges and overseeing the difficulties of each vintage on a larger scale.

Collection D

Michel Parisot, Chef de Cave, has been working for the champagne house for over 30 years and has played an important role in the constant research for higher qualities from vineyard to cellar. At the turn of the millennium, he created the emblematic Collection D, the centerpiece of the Devaux champagne range, by seeking single-vineyard selections for his cuvées, which was still a new concept in Champagne at this time. 

With his vision of top-quality champagne, he convinced the grape growers of the chosen plots for Collection D to follow even more specific guidelines, for example, no deweeding and no pesticide use. In return, their additional efforts were (and still are) rewarded with premium payments to encourage a collective movement towards better qualities. 

Cellar master Michel Parisot in the oak cask room
Cellar master Michel Parisot in the oak cask room © Photo: Champagne Devaux

Moreover, Michel Parisot pushed towards introducing large oak casks for the reserve wines, as well as a new barrel room that was first used for the 2021 vintage.

Collection D is made using only the best press fragments, called cœur de cuvée, an especially pure and noble part of the pressed must. The collection consists of four cuvées: Cuvée D Brut, Ultra D Extra-brut, D Rosé Brut and D Millésimé Brut. The three non-vintage blends of Collection D undergo an extended lees-aging of a minimum of 5 years for the regular bottle size or 7 years for magnums or jeroboams, whereas vintage cuvée D Millésimé spends 10 years or more on the lees. After such elongated cellar times, the Collection D champagnes have a rich mouthfeel, great complexity and a smooth and creamy mousseux, which makes them beautiful pairing partners for a vast variety of gastronomic musings.

Terroirs de Cœur

Besides Collection D and their traditional line Les Classiques, Champagne Devaux has also added a Terroirs de Cœur line in recent years. Intending to present a modern line of expressive Côte des Bar wines, three new cuvées were launched under its roof: Cœur des Bar Blanc de Noirs Brut made from 100% Pinot Noir, the Cœur des Bar Blanc de Blancs with 100% Chardonnay, and last but not least the Cœur de Nature Brut a Pinot Noir dominated blend from 100% organically farmed grapes. 

By launching their first organic cuvée, Champagne Devaux has rendered their current challenges into a palatable vision: 50 hectares of vineyards have already obtained organic certification, and a further 50 hectares are currently in conversion. Clearly seeing the need for more sustainable farming in cooperative structures, they are determined to preserve their Terroirs de Cœur by shifting towards more sustainable viticultural practices and vineyards plot by plot, and set an example for other cooperatives to follow.

More than 80 oak barrels have found a new home in champagne Devaux' modern barrel room
More than 80 oak barrels have found a new home in champagne Devaux’ modern barrel room © Photo: Champagne Devaux

A special gem : Cuvée Sténopé

And then there’s still another gem: cuvée Sténopé. Looking to capture the unique character of a distinct growing season, cellar master Michel Parisot has developed this prestige champagne in cooperation with Michel Chapoutier, the legendary winemaker from the Rhone Valley. The grapes are harvested from Michel Parisot’s favorite Pinot Noir and Chardonnay plots and the wines are vinified using gentle pressing, partial barrel fermentation and prolonged lees-ageing. So far, the vintages 2008, 2009, 2010, and Sténopé 2011 have been captured under this strictly limited series, of which only 6,387 bottles were produced in 2011. 

Of course, you can find all those special bottles in our shop to taste the panel of Champagne Devaux champagnes and their interpretation of the Côte des Bar.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: