Meet Raphaël and Hannah Piconnet. Together, they are Domaine de Bichery.
For decades, Raphaël’s grandfather, Charles, worked his family’s vineyards on the hillsides that slope down into the tributary creek valleys that intersect the serpentine Seine River, whose source springs from the woods just 75 kilometers south of here.
Just like the majority of the small growers down here in the Aube
in Southern Champagne, Charles always sold his harvest to the local co - op – his work was outside in the vineyard, not in the cellar.
As Champagne’s all - encompassing association, the CIVC, developed hardier, higher - yielding clones for its regions’ growers, Charles propagated his own massal selection from his own vines to replant and plant his vineyards. Today, Raphaël still uses the bud wood from his Grandfather’s original vines to plant.
Grandpa dedicated his life to his vineyards; he felt at home in his vines. Raphaël was born, and grew up, on Bichery, the lieu - dit of his parents’ home in Neuville - sur - Seine. Today, he lives next door where his grandpa, now passed away, once lived and flourished as a vigneron.
Raphaël’s father, Hubert, studied at the Avize Viti Campus, Champagne’s predominant winemaking and viticulture trade school in Champagne’s traditional epicenter to the north, the Marne. Growing up, Raphaël heard stories from his father about the Marnois picking fights with him, the Aubois from the rural south (there’s a generations - long running, “healthy” Champagne competition between the Marne and the Aube). So, Raphaël left Champagne altogether for his studies and headed to the CFPPA in Beaune, Burgundy (yes, that’s where Offshore’s Charles Dufour and Christian Knott (of Domaine Dandelion) also studied!).
After Beaune, he got his masters in viticulture at CHANGINS, the preeminent wine university in Nyons, Switzerland, and then he interned at Chateau Pape Clement on the Left Bank of Bordeaux.
He returned home every year for harvest with his family, and good thing he did in 2012 – he happened to meet a young harvest intern, Hannah,
from Eastfriesland in Northern Germany
The next year, they moved home to Bichery together, and they began to take over his family’s vineyards, dividing them with his brother.
After studying viticulture in Burgundy and Switzerland and working in a big, conventional winery in Bordeaux, Raphaël had a clear vision to continue his grandfather’s footsteps in the vineyards and convert them to organic.
He works six parcels in those same sloping hills above the town where he grew up, Neuville, on the banks of the Seine. In 2015, the first year that Raphaël and Hannah fully converted to organic farming in all of their vineyards, they produced the first vintage of Domaine de Bichery Champagne.
Along with Offshore’s Charles Dufour, they are part of the Association des Champagnes Biologique, the community of certified organic grower Champagne producers pushing a new level of terroir - driven quality; the who’s who of life - sized, artisan Champagne producers. And, along with Offshore’s Champagne Stroebel, they are part of Des Pieds et des Vins, a group of 15 original (yet also approachable – you’d happily while away an evening with any one of them over bottles of... Champagne) grower - producers pushing the next wave in Champagne beyond yesteryear’s more conventional styles.
The label depicts Bichery’s most extreme, steepest vineyard, the Val du Clos parcel, planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay by Raphaël’s grandfather under their Notre Dame des Vignes, ever present as a statue atop the hill above. It is the base of Bichery’s perpetual cuvee.