When Etienne Calsac started his eponymous Champagne label in 2010, he knew from the start that he wanted to make a special cuvée from a small vineyard in Avize. This 0.10 hectare vineyard was planted by his grandparents in their backyard just outside of the center of the historic village, and because it was surrounded by the walls of their property, it was technically a clos (walled-vineyard). In Champagne, one has to apply for the right to use the word clos on a label, and in order to apply, Etienne needed a name for his particular holding.
The cadastral maps showed the official name of this plot as ‘Les Maladrières’ or ‘Les Maladries,’ in reference to the sick people (les malades) who were taken to this spot outside of the town during the plague. Rather than shy away from the rather gruesome history, Etienne decided to embrace the past and feature the famous plague doctor on the label, complete with the beaklike mask that was said to be stuffed with aromatic herbs and spices to protect the doctor. Of course this terroir has changed radically since the Middle Ages, and today, Etienne’s cherished vineyard site is farmed organically, plowed by horse, and crafted to be his tete de cuvée Champagne.