Friday, July 4, 2008

Wine of the Week: Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Noirs Les Ursules

I’m back home in Champagne, after a whirlwind tour of Portugal’s Vinho Verde region. It was a blast, as you can imagine, but there’s also something to be said for being back in Champagne.

One of the hottest young champagne producers today is Cédric Bouchard, in the village of Celles-sur-Ource in the Aube’s Côte des Bar. Although he’s only been making wine since 2000, he’s been attracting a great deal of attention for his richly flavored, intensely soil-expressive champagnes, and in fact, he was just named Champagne Vigneron of the Year in the 2008 Gault-Millau.

Bouchard has a strict “single variety, single parcel, single vintage” policy: each of the parcels in his 1.37 hectares of vines is planted with only one variety, and each is used to make a single-vineyard wine every year. Obviously the quantities of each cuvée are very small, but it’s a tremendously intriguing idea: this is as Burgundian as it gets in Champagne.

The estate wines, of which there are now four, are bottled under the label Roses de Jeanne; there is another label, called Inflorescence, which comes from an additional 1.49 hectares of vines owned by his father, but which Bouchard works himself and bottles separately. Les Ursules is his original parcel of vines, located on a relatively flat piece of land close to the estate itself. The majority of the vines here were planted in 1974, and they are worked organically, although without certification.

The current release of Les Ursules is the 2004, which is rich and vinous, redolent of blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Like all of Bouchard’s wines it’s non-dosé, yet thanks to the impeccable work in both the vineyard and winery this feels entirely harmonious and complete, with a finely silky texture, an insistently chalky undertone and a staining, saturating sense of length on the finish. It needs quite a bit of time to open up, and while I didn’t decant this bottle, I would definitely consider decanting my next one, as it has plenty of depth, vinosity and richness to be able to do so. Yet what impresses me about this wine is not its concentration, but its finesse, its balance and above all, its expression of terroir.

Cédric Bouchard’s wines are imported into the United States by Polaner Selections, Mt. Kisco, NY, and Triage Wines, Seattle, WA, although beware: the quantities are miniscule.

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