Florent Roques-Boizel represents the sixth generation of the Boizel family involved in the champagne business. He and his brother Lionel succeeded their parents Evelyne and Christophe at the helm of the house in 2019.
A charming, serene and joyful man, he lives his passion–champagne making–as the natural expression of his family, which is the heart, soul, and engine of Boizel. He explains how for them champagne is all about balance, and creaminess, the distinctive features of all their cuvées.
Boizel is still managed by the founding family. How is its identity reflected in your house?
Our family members are in direct control of the whole production process and handle the relations with our suppliers, which is a very important part of our job. We have six hectares of vineyard, and we work with winegrowers who have been supplying us grapes for decades and several generations.
The small size of our team allows us to have direct relations with our customers since most of our sales are B2C. And consumers today are looking for this connection and genuineness. We attract people who seek sincerity in wine, who understand that our house is not just a brand but a family. Our job is our passion and part of our family life, of our common project of work and life.
We attract people who seek sincerity in wine, who understand that our house is not just a brand but a family.
How do you define the style of Boizel champagnes?
The keywords for Brut Réserve, which best embodies our style, are balance and elegance. We don’t want one element to dominate the others. And in the description of our style, two adjectives often stand out: creamy and smooth. At the time of tasting, the wine must be very harmonious, creamy, from the nose to the palate until the finish.
In the description of our style, two adjectives often stand out: creamy and smooth.
Brut Réserve was recently awarded 97 points by Decanter Magazine. Tell us about the composition of this cuvée.
Brut Réserve is built mainly around pinot noirs (55%) with structure and length. Chardonnays are also very present (30%) because there needs to be power but also elegance. The meuniers (15%) bring roundness and suppleness.
The main supply area is around Épernay, in the Côte des Blancs and particularly Chouilly, Avize, and Vertus for the chardonnays. Then the Marne Valley, in particular Cumières, Damery, Venteuil, and Passy-Grigny, for the meuniers. The pinots noirs come from the Montagne de Reims, mainly from the northern part between Mailly and Verzenay. It is the grape variety that we use the most in our blends. We also use a very small portion of pinots from the Aube where we have a vineyard in Les Riceys, where a large portion of the red wines that we use in our rosé champagnes come from.
What about reserve wines?
We like to use a high proportion of reserve wines in our blends, but we do not collect old wines. We keep them for two, three, sometimes four years to keep them very fresh. So in the current Brut Réserve, the base wines (2015) are accompanied by 30% of reserve wines from the two previous years (2014 and 2013). They are fermented in stainless steel vats, but from 2018 we include a small portion (2.5%) of reserve wines refined in oak casks.
Why the introduction of oak casks in your winery?
Oak brings a little more depth to the wine, texture, presence in the mouth, but without any change in the aromatic profile. To avoid woody notes, we carry out the first fermentation of second press juices in these casks for wines that we will not use since we only use first press juices in our champagnes.
We only use first press juices in our champagnes.
In casks we do part of the first fermentation and then at the time of bottling we put reserve wines in them for a few months until the next harvest. We also keep in oak blends of Brut Réserve from previous years to integrate them in the following years. This is relatively new at Boizel and allows us to keep on refining our style with small touches. But we also keep reserve wines separated as much as possible until blending, sometimes by combining similar crus, like Avize with Choully for example.
What is your approach to assemblage?
Assemblage is at the heart of our range of wines because we are convinced that the best champagnes are obtained by blending. The keywords when creating our blends are balance, finesse, elegance, harmony, with consistency between the nose and the mouth.
For this we always do blind tastings of the still wines, knowing only the grape variety, without differentiating between our vineyards and those of our partners, and without looking at the crus of origin because we do not want to be influenced by preconceptions, on grands crus for example.
We always do blind tastings of the still wines because we do not want to be influenced by preconceptions, on grands crus for example.
A current trend is that of mono-cru champagnes, without blending, which are pure expressions of their terroir. What’s your opinion on these wines?
For me, terroir is the combination of soil, climate, and man. We cannot express just a place as the man is part of the wine with his choices in viticulture practices.
In the cellar, we respect what nature gives us, but human work has an impact; you can have a great vineyard and make bad wine. We use wines from different crus with different expressions, and our work makes them an interpretation of these crus. Champagne is always an author’s interpretation, otherwise all champagnes would taste the same.
Blended champagne will always be more complete than non-blended, although in some years you can produce extraordinary wines from a single cru, but it’s like a soloist versus an orchestra. Mono-cru champagnes are also very interesting in that they allow consumers to learn about specific crus.
Blended champagne will always be more complete than non-blended, although in some years you can produce extraordinary wines from a single cru, but it’s like a soloist versus an orchestra.
We are experimenting in this direction to produce wines from our historic vineyards and crus. We have just bottled them [in 2020] but they will remain stylistic exercises to show our diversity and highlight our best parcels.
Brut Réserve remains our most important wine, and the most difficult and challenging to make. Consumers discover us with this champagne and are increasingly curious about the wines that compose it, their origin, their aging, and so on.
Your range of wines includes Ultime Extra Brut, which is actually a Brut Nature. What is your approach to dosage?
The balance of the wine is our priority and dictates all our decisions. Brut Réserve receives a dosage of around 8 g / l after a minimum of three years of aging in the bottle (the current 2015 blend was disgorged in 2019). Then we keep it after disgorging for at least six months and the ideal tasting time is perhaps between 12 and 18 months after disgorgement. But nothing prevents this champagne from aging longer. I see no need to reduce its dosage. Thirty or 40 years ago, beautiful vintage champagnes received a dosage at 12 or even 15 g / l and today they are sumptuous.
But we also wanted to include in our range a champagne without any dosage, while leaving us the option to add a very low dosage in years when it would be necessary to maintain the balance of the wine. In fact, in 10 years, this champagne has never needed dosage, also thanks to the use of a specific blend which is not the same as Brut Réserve, with a strict upstream selection for its long aging, which is six years minimum before disgorgement (current base is 2012, reserve wines are from 2009 and 2010).
The number of houses producing organic champagnes is small but is increasing. Will you do one?
Organic viticulture is a major subject nowadays, not only for consumers but for producers, to increase the quality of grapes and wines.
Champagne has always been the leader in the production of sparkling wines and we must also remain leaders in viticulture and things are moving very quickly in this direction. But there are major difficulties linked to our climate. We always strive to make the best wine possible and most years in our region this is not achievable with 100% organic practices. For example, the quantities of molecules that we use today against mildew are tiny compared to the past, but they can save a harvest. So I don’t think that all of Champagne will be able to convert to organic viticulture but yes to more conscious and natural viticulture and in a few years we will have stopped using herbicides.
I don’t think that all of Champagne will be able to convert to organic viticulture but yes to more conscious and natural viticulture.
At Boizel, therefore, we do not seek to produce a certified organic champagne but rather to be more reasonable in the amounts of treatments we use in our vineyards and those of our partners. It is much better that the whole Champagne region implements a more natural viticulture rather than a very small part of it is certified organic.
Champagne is under the increasing competition of other quality sparkling wines. How do you feel about the future of Champagne?
Champagne is one of the three most famous French words in the world. It is a product that symbolizes joy and celebration around the world, a tool that participates in moments of happiness and conviviality.
We, therefore, have a great chance but also a great responsibility to continue to defend the appellation, move it forward by seducing new generations, and developing the appetite for champagne in other parts of the world.
What does the word champagne means to you?
Elegance, sophistication, history, family, terroir, all together.
Champagne is elegance, sophistication, history, family, terroir, all together.
How would life be without champagne?
It would be a little less fun.
Do you drink champagne every day?
It’s rare that I don’t drink it 🙂