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Playing Amongst The Angels

by / Comments Off on Playing Amongst The Angels / 22 View / January 20, 2022

The magic and mystery of Maison Deutz

"We loved to taste the grape must, hide from the workers in the cellars, and play hide-and-seek down there."

BJÖRNSTIERNE ANTONSON

MY first meeting will be with the timid and elegant Jean-Marc Lallier-Deutz. He is ready and stands out in the yard by the famous angel statue that adorns Amour de Deutz’s labels when I drive in through the magnificent gate in the heart of the medieval city Aÿ. With a firm handshake and subsequent Nordic hug, he greets me and welcomes me into the house where he grew up.
We walk through the small dining room adorned with stunning Romantic art that once hung at shows in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. I am immediately reminded of all the times when we drank magic magnum bottles from the 1970s together. With brisk steps, we go up the rickety and curving staircase and walk through the two living rooms, which look like they could have been used in Sofia Coppola’s film about Marie Antoinette. Finally, we end up in the fairylike flower garden. We walk by some yellow roses, and we stop to smell. He bursts into a smile and sits down in one of the beautiful, but a bit uncomfortable, outdoor chairs from the 1800s. He starts a little hesitantly to talk about himself, but quickly warms up. Vivid and crisp with a gentle voice, he talks about his childhood and his present-day life. Between anecdotes, he fixes his wavy fringe before taking new air to beautifully and committedly deliver the next episode of his life.
Jean-Marc Lallier-Deutz is as rare a man as the champagne that his label carries. He breathes Aÿ throughout. He was actually born in a car outside Aÿ and raised in the Champagne soil just like the famous champagne houses he represents. He grew up on the estate and has had the famous entertainment rooms as living rooms. He relates that the production rhythm always steered his upbringing, and he stresses that the life cycle of wine and vines still rules his calendar. When I ask him how he was as a child, Jean-Marc responds that he was shy, but very curious and attentive. “If I wanted to do stupid things, I did so with my older brother, who likes to take risks. None of us liked the office—it was the cellar that attracted us. We loved to taste the grape must, hide from the workers in the cellars, and play hide-and-seek down there.”
But the highlight was probably seeing the bottles disgorged by hand. Jean-Marc has very clear scent memories from his childhood, molded by wine production: earthy, yeasty, floral, and fruity. Nowadays, his favourite scents are nuts, honey, vanilla, a generous warm and friendly atmosphere, and the healthier scents of grapefruit, apricot, and peach.
Throughout his childhood, a gastronomic lifestyle was prominent. In the 1970s, his father’s promotional events were mixed with the family’s private life. His parents arranged weekly dinners with renowned artists, businessmen, and journalists from around the world. The mood was high, and it was notable that the guests loved to share a moment with the family in their private sphere. Every occasion was worth celebrating. His dad told Jean-Marc that the founder, William Deutz, acted in the exact same way back in the 1800s, and it is a tradition Jean-Marc shares with his customers and friends today. When the guests moved to the living room, the brothers, dressed in pajamas, tiptoed into the dining room and smelled the half-empty glasses, unaware of the precious drops that they had in front of them. Jean-Marc clearly remembers that at the age of five, he told his astonished father that champagne was not good, but the aromas began to fascinate him more and more with age. Jean-Marc also had an early interest in biology and physics, but they did not speak about this. The Deutz baton would be passed on to him.
His philosophy for his beloved house Deutz is an uncompromising obsession with quality and a place where innovative solutions are welcomed as long as you are true to his style and his roots. Together with Fabrice Rosset, he steers the style of the house toward perfection, and together they are on track to succeed. They have incredibly strong friendships with the top growers in the grand cru and premier cru villages, and I can myself testify to the pride the growers feel as they deliver their grapes to Deutz. Jean-Marc adds that although all wines are cuvées, a great importance should be placed on preserving the terroir character. Personally, I am extremely fond of the way Aÿ works with all the pinot-dominated blends and how beautiful the blanc de blancs, Le Mesnil, tastes as the leading tone of the house.
Today, he lives with his wife—who happily enough is also in the wine business—and a bundle of energy for a daughter in Reims with a magnificent sacred view of Champagne’s biggest icon, the gigantic cathedral. When he is not in Aÿ, or travelling around the world as a champagne ambassador, he retires to the natural tranquility of the summer house in the forest between Aÿ and Reims. On holidays, they often visit relatives in Bretagne.
Jean-Marc is a happy family-loving man who always breathes optimism and opportunities in a very subtle yet generous and enthusiastic way. He has been drinking champagne with many greats all over the world, but he still dreams of having a glass of Amour de Deutz with Madonna and getting to hear her tell him why it is her favourite.
Finally, I manage to squeeze out the answer to the most difficult question. Which champagnes are your favourites, besides your own? It turns out he is a pure “terroirist” and loves pure grand cru champagnes from skilled growers like Ledru in Ambonnay, Franck Bonville in Avize, and Pierre Peters in Le Mesnil.
I think it’s the first time I have been to Deutz without drinking a single drop, and I have to admit my mouth waters when I meet CEO Fabrice Rosset with a bottle of Cuvée William Deutz under his arm just as I am getting in the car to head to the other side of the Marne River, to the heart of Épernay.