Friday, March 28, 2008

Wine of the Week: Franck Pascal Extra Brut Cuvée de Réserve

Since I am in the fortunate position of being able to drink lots of champagne (by virtue of proximity and profession, definitely not because of financial abundance), I thought I’d start sharing some comments on specific wines.

I’ll start with Franck Pascal’s Cuvée de Réserve. Franck Pascal is one of my favorite up-and-coming stars in Champagne, and has recently been developing something of a cult following amongst champagne cognoscenti. The problem is that he only has 3.5 hectares of vines and there’s not much wine to go around! Located in the village of Baslieux-sur-Châtillon, which is on the northern side of the Vallée de la Marne, Pascal grows mostly meunier, which is suited to these clay-dominated soils. The viticulture is entirely biodynamic and the vinification is all in tank, as he doesn’t like using wood for wines from clay soils. Pascal’s wines are always extremely vinous and tightly wound, needing some time in the glass to emerge. If you’re a fan of decanting champagne, these are good candidates.

The Cuvée de Réserve comes in two incarnations: the Brut Nature, which is of course non-dosé; and the Extra Brut, which is dosed at six grams per liter. I love them both, and I think that both are balanced in their respective ways (which is not always the case with a wine that sees different dosage levels). This photo is of a bottle of the Brut Nature that I drank recently, but since the Extra Brut is the one available in the States, that’s what you get to hear about. Made of 90 percent meunier, with the rest split between chardonnay and pinot noir, this shows a deeply vinous intensity and harmonious balance, its sweet apple and exotic citrus notes backed by aromas of ginger and clove. There’s a sappy depth on the mid-palate and a rich texture that grows even richer with air, while the finish is firm and lively, with a lingering sense of soil. It’s a champagne for those who like their champagnes to taste grown rather than made, and who believe that champagne is as driven by terroir as any other wine. Franck Pascal’s wines are imported into the United States by Jon-David Headrick Selections in Chapel Hill, NC, and the suggested retail price for the Extra Brut is $50.

I’ll post another wine next Friday. My friend Barbara thinks anything called “of the Week” ought to come out on a Monday. But I think nobody drinks on Mondays. I mean, I drink on Mondays. Barbara drinks on Mondays. Do you? Anyway, it’ll be on Friday.

3 comments:

Henri Vasnier said...

Peter, would be interested in your thoughts about how these wines compare and contrast to Jose Michel's.

Brooklynguy said...

i would drink Champagne every night, if possible. i like the Friday post too, though, as you might have guessed.

Peter Liem said...

Franck Pascal and José Michel both grow a lot of meunier, but their wines are quite different in style. Part of this has to do with terroir, as Baslieux-sur-Châtillon is very clay-dominated, while the area around Moussy, south of Epernay, has a little more chalk. But I think their winegrowing/winemaking has a lot to do with it as well. Michel's wines tend to be full and ample, while Pascal's wines are more taut and reserved, with the liveliness peculiar to biodynamically-grown wines. Pascal's wines are also much drier, so that creates a totally different character as well. I like them both, obviously.