Montgueux, about 100 km's south of Epernay, not far from the Burgundy border, is a region of the Aube that has more in common with the mid-west than what we think of Champagne. Mile follows mile of eye numbing non-viticulture agriculture. The treat after the crepe-like flatness is the charming medieval town of Troyes which springs forth from the wheat and Bricomats. And, of in the distance is the hill. It is a BIG hill. There are vines on the south eastern slope. This miracle is the hill of Montgueux. Who knew? Though the people up north barely consider the Cote de Bar a contender for terroir, this remarkable carbuncle-like hill has a different reputation. The late Daniel Thibaut who had been the winemaker at Charles Heidsieck described Montgueux, with 446 acres of vines planted to 85% Chardonnay, as the”Montrachet of Champagne.” The reason, is that this hill is one big pile of chalk. As usual, the weather in Champagne was a stormy, freezing mess. My cute red Citroen climbed the hill trying to see how there were 446 acres planted. It seemed half as much. I arrived at the top and saw that most of the town was made up of the Lassaigne clan. The Lassaigne I was looking for was right near the cemetery. I was grateful for the clue because this was the first day in three that I didn’t get lost. I made the turn at the headstones and stepped on the brakes. I had to because splayed out before me were text book illustrations of three different kinds of farming. Perfect. Even though my shoes were not mud worthy, I got out to walk the vines. The first one was a version of lutte raisone which means 'rational farming.' It seems as if you can rationally spray as many chemicals and synthetic fertilizers as you want and say proudly you use lutte raisone. Funny to think that these people often think biodynamic is a marketing tool as these lutte folk often say they are almost organic. Mr. Rational's vineyard was bordered by a few red pumpkins. This farmer had some patches of green in his vines. He hadn't killed off everything. Right past the pumpkins was classic ‘traditional’ farming. This was scorched earth tortured by chemicals. The scorching was in a straight line through the vines up to the grass. Not only was the grass dead as well as the soil, but the vines were practically totally defoliated. The two flanking vineyards were a little damaged on the edges because of the proximity to the major offender. I was told later that Nicolas Feuillate buys all of this farmers grapes. (you might want to click on the picture for the full effect) Wow! This was common place not too long ago. I didn’t know anyone had the nerve to farm this way anymore. What a throw back. It was so Chernobylized. There was nothing in that soil and most of the vines were defoliated. The day before the CIVC proudly told me that they reduced chemicals in the region by 45%. Of course, when this was the norm, they were the worst offenders in France, they had the furtherst to go in reformation. Now, look at the photo again, just past the disaster.... see the bright Ireland lush green? Emmanuel Lassaigne's. A few minutes later I interrupted Emmanuel’s parents lunch in their enclosed patio and traipsed manure-like mud all over their white tile.