Monday, July 25, 2016

Benoît Déhu

I first discovered Benoît Déhu back in 2014. Déhu was (and still is) part of the “Origines” group, which are among many of the tastings you can visit, in what we now know as the Champagne week April.

Origines are a group very friendly people, good intend, curiousness and the willingness to be inspired. However, back in 2014 I witness way too much Chaptalization. Of course I am rudely generalizing (forgive me), but on that day, the bone dry 2011 (1g/l dosage)“La Rue des Noyers” was easy to fall in love with.    

Dehu also served some still wines at Origines. They were pretty bold in character and might have had a bit too much wood infusion – yet quit intense for Coteaux Champenois. I will have to re-taste these wines someday.

Since then – I have tasted the 2011 “La Rue des Noyers” on several occasions and have always appreciated it. It’s a Champagne, which combines the sophisticated side of Pinot Meunier, which has its roots in high pitched energy and spices. It’s far from the heavy and baroque style of Meunier, which is really not my thing.  

“La Rue des Noyers” has a phenomenal linear energy, which is intensified by a singing clarity. In 2011 the Champagne is obviously greener and herbal – which is typical for the vintage. However somehow it works here, though I believe that the 2011 should be drunk young.

Almost since I first tasted the 2011 - I have been eager for the 2012 to be released. It happened earlier this year and a few days ago I tasted it. 

2012 Benoît Déhu “La Rue des Noyers”

Blend: 100% Pinot Meunier
Soil: Black limestone
Vineyard: 1,7ha in Fossoy (roughly 57 km west of Reims)
Vines: 40-45 years old
Viticulture: Bio
Vinification: Oak 228L (comes from local forrest in Fossoy). No Malo
Dosage: Zero
Production: 2.000 bottles
Disgorgement: 14 October 2015
Glass: Zalto White Wine.

The nose is really tense and packed with dynamite young juice.  The 2012 are a sizzling fruit sensation, which feels like small frozen crystallized particles waiting to defrost and explode. Normally you would rarely hear me say, that a Champagne is too young. There is always something to learn and explore from a youthful Champagne and in fact - 9 out of 10 times I prefer a young Champagne. 

But this is really youthful. But goddamn I would still recommend you take a dive here as it’s, filled with lime zest, flowers, apples and mint. In the background you have a slight smokey touch from the oak, which is in perfect harmony, as the fruit overload is so massive.  The taste is awesome, both in terms of purity, energy and a nerve-wrecking acidity.

Hunt it, if you can find it.

P.s. Dehu Also makes a cuvée called “Le Pythie”, which I have yet to taste.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Images from 2016 Terres et vins de Champagne

They can also be found here:

THANK YOU!!! to Terres et vins de Champagne for giving me the honor to be the official photographer.
Secondly for the “Terres et  vins special prize”. I still can’t believe I won it. I am humble and honored. Big hug from me to all of you.
Below are some technical comments on how the images came to life.
About the images.
Although there are a few pics from the pre-reception at L'Assiette Champenoise it’s more some detailed comments on the actual tasting on Monday the 18th of April I want to focus on.
Shooting the images for the 2016 Terres et vins de Champagne, was from technical point of view, my worst nightmare – and yet – also the most fascinating photography task, I have ever carried out.
I already knew from last year, where I also shot a few images, that the beautiful room at Palais de Tau á Reims was a challenge. It’s a big room with huge windows, but only at one side of the room. There is only ambient light, which I in general appreciate – but there is not enough of it. Had I done my research right, I could have had a few good hints. You see, the influence of the sun gets stronger and stronger as the day passes. At the end of the tasting you have the best light, as the sun is at a low positing and directly facing the building. However you can manage to shoot 450 images with 30minutes to go.
The biggest problem is the huge exposure to backlight, as almost half of the producers where facing their back to the windows. Backlit images with silhouettes can be really beautiful – especially if you can tell the shape of the person and in this case - knows the shape on the producer in the frame. But it requires that there is only one person in the frame. Last year this was much easier, as the producers where standing close to the windows without any people behind them. However this year, the setting of the tasting tables was different, so the produces facing their backs to windows had their backs to those producers facing their faces to the windows. With all the people present it I found it impossible to get an interesting silhouette shot. What to do? You use a flash. But I hate flash images and I am not good with it - plus it makes my camera even bulkier to carry around. You can also overexpose (which I have done on the image of Franck Pascal), but you invite a lot of ISO noise, which I don’t like. The other half of the producers was facing the windows, but there was another problem as they were surrounded by a lot of enthusiastic wine people, who sort of stole some of the light. What was sort of left to work with was a clear light shining on the producer’s faces, but fairly quickly faded behind and underneath them. This created a fantastic opportunity. You see if you just shot the images with a normal exposure you would burn out the highlights in their faces – so they ended up looking likes white ghosts. In theory you need to change the way the camera judges the light – from “evaluating” to “spot” or “partial”. But I am not so comfortable with these setting, so I chose another direction. Instead I had to underexpose and really use the maximum capacity of my lens. By doing this – their faces were balanced. Lowering the aperture has the advantage to set dynamic focus on the object (mainly the producers) and away from the crowd. The low aperture: f/1,6 <> f/1,2 plus underexposing by 2/3 <> 1 stop lowered the shutter speed and ISO noise. The result was a completely blurred dark background with an incredible soft light. Of course shooting at so low aperture will cost you a lot of images, which is not sharp. You will have to settle with 1 out of 5 will be fairly sharp. By having so much dark dynamic raw material to work with – especially in portraits you will have to do very little postproduction. Converting most of them to black & white created even more graphic and contrast.  
I also took the opportunity to shoot some of the producers outside, where there was a clear bright spring light. I used a small balcony, just outside the tasting room, which provides great shadow and contrast to work with. I tried not to disturb the producers needed break or lunch. But I reckon that at times I was like the annoying paparazzi. Forgive me.