Based in the small village of Pierry, in the Vallé de la Marne, Jean-Marc Seleque is a dynamic and ambitious vigneron; a young grower on the rise. In a few short years, he has created an impressive domaine, which produces true grower Champagne, and for some of the best value in the region. The domaine itself was first conceived in 1965, when Jean-Marc’s grandfather began planting vines with the aid of his father-in-law (then the president of the Pierry co-op). Later Jean-Marc’s father joined the domain in 1974, after acquiring a degree in enology, and significantly updated the winery and expanded its vineyard holdings. This is the world in which Jean-Marc was brought up.
After stints at Chandon’s facilities in Napa Valley and in Australia’s Yarra Valley, Jean-Marc returned to Champagne in 2008 to take over the domaine and craft wines that adhered to his vision of sustainable practices. Fundamental was re-aligning practices of the domaine toward the organic viticulture he envisioned. The domaine now covers 36 parcels, which lie across 7 different villages. Most of the vines grow in the communes of Pierry and then Moussy, followed by Epernay, Mardeuil, Dizy, Vertus, and Boursault. About 60% of the vines are Chardonnay; 30% are Meunier; and about 10% are Pinot Noir.
In 2010, he started working biodynamically, and now over half of his 7.5 hectares are farmed this way. That said, Jean-Marc rarely mentions this, as he prefers to avoid focussing on labels, but rather to make the best wines he can without fanfare. Seleque’s ideas are simple: in the vines, ploughing of rows is conducted by tractor or horse; yields are controlled by careful pruning; all of which is assisted by organic and biodynamic applications to boost the health of soil and vine. In the cellar, Seleque moved to much slower and more gentle fermentations, which he believes to be a key to flavour and texture. He ferments at lower temperatures, largely in stainless steel (although some of the wines are fermented in barrels of various sizes and a concrete egg for one parcel of Meunier in Pierry) and works more with wild yeast. In fact, many of his fermentations are wild. He insists on longer lees ageing for most of the cuvees, creates wines of great texture and complexity, and he stopped systematic fining and filtration. And, because his farming reforms have resulted in better grape maturity, he has been able to lower the level of dosage. He has also significantly reduced the amount of SO2 he adds.
In 2015 Jean-Marc divided his Champagnes into three ranges: at the base are the “Solessence” level blends; “Les Solistes” for the single-vineyards wines; and then three proprietary named top blends (“Quintette,” “Commedia,” and “Partition”). “Solessence” refers to the essence of the soil, and included in the range are the Extra Brut Tradition and the Brut Rosé. On the back labels of both are lot numbers that give the base vintage of the wine in the bottle. “Les Solistes,” or the single site wines, are meant to showcase distinctive terroirs, particularly for Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The top range are the vintage-dated wines, the top exponent of which is the cuvee “Partition.” This is a special selection of seven barrels, one each from seven specific parcels, bottled and aged under cork and then hand-disgorged and minimally dosed.
Across the range Jean-Marc crafts wines that are vinous, richly textured, complex, but still incredibly mineral and indicative of the varied terroirs he farms. All the wines, from the entry-level to the vintage-dated, see lengthy lees ageing and are brilliantly balanced. Jean-Marc really is a talent to watch and his wines are only getting better and better.