Friday, October 17, 2008

Wine of the Week: Pierre Brigandat Brut NV

I’ve been down in the Aube for the past couple of days, finishing up some research for a new champagne project that I will soon be unleashing on you. Overall, it was a very enjoyable trip: I drank a bottle of the new 2006 Les Ursules with Cédric Bouchard, talked with Jean-Pierre Fleury about biodynamic viticulture and saw how François Moutard makes organic compost. And of course I did a bunch of other things.

This morning I tasted with Bertrand Brigandat of Pierre Brigandat, a small, family-run estate in the village of Channes. Brigandat has 7.5 hectares of vines in the area, but makes only about 55,000 bottles of wine a year, as a portion of his grapes are sold to the négoce. I’ll admit that I’ve been disappointed with some bottles of Brigandat’s non-vintage brut that I’ve bought in the past, but his sensibilities are in the right place and he works well in the vineyard and the cellar, enough so that it makes me want to keep returning to his wines. Today I tasted the new release, composed largely of 2005, which is a year that I’ve found outstanding as a base for non-vintage cuvées. (We got too busy tasting and I forgot to take a photo of the bottle, so you get a photo of Bertrand instead.) This is 100-percent pinot noir as always, with about 25 percent reserve wine, and made entirely in enameled steel tanks. Packed with round, rich fruit, it’s wonderfully expressive of the Bar-sur-Seine, showing a ripe depth and earthy undertone. It’s not a wine to contemplate or deeply analyze, although it would stand up to whatever scrutiny it was subjected to — I enjoy the fact that it speaks of place and that it has a character that holds my interest intellectually, but I enjoy even more the fact that it’s simply delicious to drink. As Rudi Pichler, Jr. would say, it’s “a wine for living.”

Pierre Brigandat is imported into the United States by Bonhomie Wine Imports, South Orange, NJ.

3 comments:

Alice said...

Hi Peter, Thanks so much for this post on Brigandat. I've adored this champagne for years (mostly because a quality/price point thing). Not the kind of NV that blew me away but it did at the under $25 a bottle price. Champers to get excited about for every day? Sure.

And then it disappeared when he left Bowler. Glad to learn more about the producer.

Peter Liem said...

Brigandat is indeed a good value in NYC, as it's been a direct import, keeping prices down. His new importer is Charles Woods of Bonhomie Imports, who used to work with David Bowler. Look for the wines to return this holiday season.

Charles said...

Thanks for the plug Peter, and thank you to Alice for all of your past enthusiasm for this small independent producer in print and otherwise. I have worked with Bertrand for over 6 years now which incidentally predates David Bowler Wine. The estate was originally imported to the U.S. by Mark Whitmore's Vineyard Expressions for whom I worked prior to getting together with David 5 years ago. It still will be a direct import this season in NYC and bought at an excellent USD/euro conversion relative to the past few years which will be passed on to the retailer, yet the days of $25 retail are a thing of nostalgia for this little gem as well as anything at all decent from Champagne. As Peter mentioned much of the produce from this estate is bought by negociants for the Grand Marques and the grapes that are here reserved for the estate wines after the entire 2+ year process of producing finished Champagne do not in the end fetch a price that far exceeds what Bertrand would receive from selling them on the open market. The wines of Pierre Brigandat are a labor of love for the winemaking craft and pride of family name and a dedication to Bertrand's father Pierre. As a testament to the esthetic of the small recoltant-manipulant, the wines of Pierre Brigandat are indeed still a bargain and most importantly provide great drinking pleasure. I would love to be able to put the cavist in a position to charge even $30 for a bottle of Brigandat NV brut but I expect the price to be closer to $35 on the shelf. That said, it will be hard to find anything comparable this season that comes from a small production artisanal estate. Such is the state of supply and demand in the Champagne economy. Will the wines sell at that price? Will the stock market tank? Will the dollar strengthen or weaken against the euro? Will Obama win the presidency? (PLEASE dear god reward my faith in the essential goodnees of humanity!) Will the banks all fail? All I know is that I will have some really good champagne to drink on December 31st. It's on the water now they tell me. Hallelujah. What with the election, the economy, this inexplicable drawn out war that should never have been, my thirst for wines made with soul and love and care is stronger than ever.