Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Les Papilles Insolites Extra Brut

Stopping briefly in Paris on my way to the States for a friend’s wedding, I brought along a bottle of Jacques Lassaigne’s Les Papilles Insolites to drink last night (you know, for fortification en route). This is a tiny cuvée that seems to be slightly misunderstood by most people, at least those who write about it on the internet. (I’ve even seen it referred to as Les Papilles Insolentes on a French wine forum, which I think is even better!) In truth, most people have never heard of it at all, as it’s really only available at the two places in Paris for which it’s named: Les Papilles and La Cave de l’Insolite.

What’s unusual about this cuvée is that while it comes from Montgueux, which is basically known exclusively as a chardonnay terroir, this is 75 percent pinot noir. It’s all from the 2005 vintage, disgorged in January of 2008 and released without dosage, and it’s definitely a hipster champagne (it made me think of you, Sharon). Showing an unusually pronounced color, it’s intense and vinous in aroma, feeling almost like a poulsard or other light red wine rather than champagne, and it takes well over an hour after being opened to fully reveal its depth of flavor. The earthy, taut aromas of dried cranberry, redcurrant and plum skins are lively and refreshing, and continue to expand in depth and length as this gains air — in fact, I would consider decanting this the next time I open it. I also think that it could have a better balance with a gram or two of dosage, as the finish feels quite stern and compressed, but of course that’s not in the spirit of this cuvée. Regardless, it’s delicious and intriguing, and I love its unique personality.


Sharon said...

Look at that color! Sounds like an interesting drink. (Though I am not a hipster... I swear.)

So Lassaigne makes this cuvée specifically for those two wine stores? Interesting.

Robert said...

No one would mistake me for hip either, ever on the lookout for a cheaper haircut; but I have been looking at a bottle of Lassaigne Bl de Bl in my fridge for a while, and I am getting curious.
What is your take on Lassaigne, Peter?

Peter Liem said...

Sharon: I know. But you always drink hipster champagnes. Lassaigne does indeed make this exclusively for those two places. Emmanuel gave me this particular bottle in Montgueux, but I'm not sure if he even sells it at the estate. Come to think of it, I'm not entirely sure that he sells anything at his estate anymore.

Robert: I love Lassaigne's wines. They're very Montgueux, meaning that it's south-facing chardonnay (as opposed to the generally east-facing Côte des Blancs), so be prepared for riper flavors than one might expect in "classic" champagne. Add to that the fact that Lassaigne is all-natural viticulture, and achieves high ripeness without chaptalization. But there's nothing overblown about them at all. They're superbly-made wines.

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

I had the pleasure to drink this cuvée at the domaine in February this year. It is actually unique, in the sense that it will (probably) never be produced again as this was a sort of 'accident'.
Peter, I thought you would reveal the story behind the pronounced color of this wine...
Well, the berries were left for one night in the press because they were simply forgotten! The next morning Emmanuel decided to give them a chance and finally he is happy about the result. So am I.
It is a must-try because of its atypical nature.

The quantities were so small that the domaine decided to sell the bottles only to two cavistes in Paris.

Peter, in my book I noted that this wine was made only from pinot noir. Could you please check?

And I confirm the domaine does normally not welcome private customers for tastings, and there is no possibility to buy the wines directly (normally...).
But the wines are well represented by many cavistes and the prices are reasonnable.

As you know I do love the production of this domaine. There is something special in the wines from Montgueux. The chalky grounds are in the same line as the Côte des blancs, but the soils are even older. As it is more to the south, the flavours are richer and the minerality is highly concentrated. The wines are therefore less fine than the ones from Mesnil but have a great personality. And the other important point is that the soils were always preserved here.

Best regards.