First published in The Champagne Guide Online - 15 June 2023
One of champagne’s most respected winemakers Cyril Brun has announced today that he will move to Italy to become Chef de Cave at Ferrari Trento, making him Champagne’s first Chef de Cave to move to an Italian winery as full-time oenologist.
I first met Cyril Brun during his tenure at Veuve Clicquot, where he worked for 15 years from 2000, demonstrating his talent and intuitive winemaking ability in overseeing the pinot noir program and leading the Innovation and Development department. In 2015 he was named Chef de Cave at Charles Heidsieck. During his eight year tenure he trebled production, while famously recreating the fabled flagship of the house, Champagne Charlie.
Brun’s deeply intuitive approach gave him the confidence to craft his cuvées with sensitivity, responding instinctively to the vagaries of the seasons with creativity and dexterity. He introduced selective blocking of malolactic fermentation, gently ushered in partial oak maturation and initiated countless exciting and dynamic developments, not least small parcels of coteaux champenois.
Born in 1969 in the grand cru village of Aÿ, Cyril Brun worked for many years at his family’s estate in Champagne. His move to Ferrari Trento in the foothills of the Italian Alps is a dramatic and emphatic declaration of his belief in the quality and potential of Trentodoc.
Brun succeeds Oenologist and Technical Director Ruben Larentis, who joined Ferrari Trento in 1986. The company has long held a respected reputation for its extensive portfolio of cuvées, all of which undergo secondary bottle fermentation in accordance with the rigorous regulations of Trentodoc.
There are historical links between Ferrari Trento and the Champagne region. At the end of the 19th century, Giulio Ferrari learned to make sparkling wine in the Champagne region. It was he who first brought the chardonnay grape from Champagne and encouraged its cultivation in Italy. He made the first chardonnay harvest in Trentino in 1902, the year in which he founded Ferrari Trento.
The Trentodoc experience promises to be different for Cyril Brun from that of Champagne. Trentodoc vineyards grow at higher altitudes than those of Champagne, offering qualities unique to mountain viticulture.
‘I am convinced of the quality of Ferrari Trento and of the potential of Trentodoc,’ he says. 'The opportunity to create traditional method sparkling wines from the unique, mountainous terroirs of Trentino is a privilege and an exciting opportunity to apply my knowledge and experience to a new context. This is a very interesting and unique terroir of soil and climate, which are of course fundamental to sparkling winemaking. There is much more sun here than in Champagne, but cooler nights and a colder overall temperature, so in the context of global warming there is opportunity to preserve freshness even more than in Champagne.'
In considering opportunities to apply his Champagne experience at Ferrari Trento, Cyril Brun notes that the estate currently uses 99% chardonnay in its blends, so he might consider using 'a little bit more pinot noir'. His tenures at Veuve Clicquot and Charles Heidsieck gave him the opportunity to work with two of Champagne's most significant reserve wine programs. 'By comparison, Ferrari uses a much smaller scale of reserves, so I want to better understand this and explore the opportunities for evolution here,' he suggests.
'First, there will be a phase of understanding the terroir before considering any changes. For the moment, I will be observing and listening to my colleagues. Winemaking is all about details. We will elevate, step by step, by focusing on the small details of what has been done here for many years. We are talking about investment for the next five years, but I will not commit to any decisions until after I have developed a vision after living a full harvest at Ferrari this year.’
Cyril Brun commences his role with Ferrari Trento full-time from next week. He will commute weekly from his home north of Reims for now, with the hope of enticing his family to make the move with him next year. In the meantime, he is intensively studying Italian, with the goal of being fully fluent in working Italian by the end of the year.
Having been on the lookout for a role abroad for some time, he considers the opportunity to be a very exciting challenge with great potential. 'It ticks all the boxes of great terroir potential, a great technical opportunity and a great family!'
His appointment marks an historic milestone not only for Ferrari Trento but for sparkling winemaking in Italy, and I for one shall be watching this space with keen anticipation!
The Ferrari Trento family of Marcello, Matteo, Camilla and Alessandro Lunelli welcome their newest member, Cyril Brun