Champagne Apollonis may belong to one of the oldest families in the Champagne region, but their approach is anything but conventional. Since 2010, they have aged their bottles to the sound of music. And since 2012, their vineyards have also received their share of great composers in order to stimulate natural resistance in the vines.
The origins of Champagne Apollonis can be traced back through Michel Loriot’s family to the 17th Century when his ancestors started growing vines, in 1675. Twelve generations have followed, including Paymyre and Leopold, who built the very first local press house in 1903. I met Michel for the first time back in 2016, when travelling in Champagne. He is joined by his wife, Martine, their daughter, Marie, and her husband, Alban, who heads-up production. To this day, the domaine remains small and family-run, reinforced by Michel’s association with the Vignerons Independents that he presides over.
Apollonis may be an odd name to call a champagne producer, a reference to Greek mythology’s daughter of Apollo, and goddess of music and the arts. But it all makes sense once you’ve visited. More on that later. The brand’s name is relatively new, introduced in 2015, replacing Michel Loriot’s namesake label, to distinguish it from the ‘Loriot’ name commonly found in the area.
Festigny, located on the left bank of the Marne River, is home to Michel’s domaine as well as some of the best meunier in Champagne. The village is characterised by some chalky soils, more than average for the Vallée de la Marne, and receives excellent sun exposure.
Apollonis’ vineyards are found surrounding a hill on steep, clay-rich marl and limestone soils. They are planted mostly to meunier (80%), as well as some chardonnay (18%), and a little pinot noir (2%) across seven hectares. Soils are aerated, once winter has passed, before allowing grass to propagate between rows. Come growing season, the grass is cut several times and hoed away under the vines. Only natural fertilisers are used to treat vineyards following conversion to environmentally sustainable farming over a decade ago.
Getting things right in the vineyard, says Michel, requires less work in the cellar. And whilst a minimalist approach is preferred, winemaking receives an extra special touch; not from the hand of the winemaker, but – unusually – by the reverberations of music.
Read the full story in ISSUE NO. 3 of VINE & BUBBLE Magazine.
Words by Cam O’Keefe
Photography supplied by Apollonis