While only a short drive from the southern tip of the Cotes de Blancs, the village of Congy feels a world apart from the rest of Champagne. A distinct rural character remains – removed from the glitz and glamour of the wider area, this is an unassuming, tightknit community. Instead of the continuous expanse of vines encountered elsewhere in Champagne, vineyards are sprinkled amongst old growth forests and rolling hillsides.
A most humble man, Sébastien Girost is, perhaps, a reflection of his hometown Congy’s own modesty and grit – since 2002, he has estate bottled a portion of the wines of his family’s small holdings (just under 4 hectares) under his eponymous label. Like most of the small handful of growers in his village (save for his next-door neighbor and insider favorite Ulysse Collin), his wines remain unknown outside of France.
Harvests are made entirely by hand from 22 separate plots, all within the village of Congy. Pinot Meunier reigns supreme in and around the village; however, the estate’s vineyards benefit from the chalky, limestone heavy soils north of the Petit Morin River where Sébastien has a healthy percentage of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir planted as well. Vines average between 60- and 70-years old across all plots. Sebastien is committed to working as naturally as possible in the vineyards – he stopped using insecticides in 2002, preferring instead to use organic techniques and uses chemical treatments only when absolutely necessary.
In the cellar, Sébastien accords a striking attention to the blending process – he separately vinifies each of his 22 different parcels, performing three distinct presses for each, and ages his wines in used 228 liter oak barrels sourced from top growers in Burgundy and Champagne, including Egly-Ouriet. In more recent vintages, the decision was made to block malolactic fermentation to preserve freshness and acidity. Disgorgements are done entirely by hand.
Sébastien isn’t about flash – instead tradition and hard work rule the day resulting in hand-crafted, soulful and expressive wines that represent exceptional value. When not in the vines or his cellar, you can find Sébastien, ever the lover of American automobiles, tuning-up his grandfather’s 1940’s Dodge pick-up that still sees duty during the harvest or cruising through Congy in his 1966 Chevy Impala.