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Emotional wines, the singular focus of Cédric Bouchard…

I first encountered the wines of Bouchard while interning in la cave du Rhys during the 2011 harvest. In late September of 2011, the enologist, Eric Prahl, brought in the 2006 Roses de Jeanne Champagne Blanc de Blancs La Haute-Lemblé.

It was the freshness, the clean mineral heft, the fine and soft bubble texture, and the light creamy but firm autolytic character that had me spellbound, and the vinousness…

That Bouchard sparked an interest in all things bubbly for me and very soon was followed similarly entrancing wines (bottles of Agrapart, Egly-Ouriet, Selosse , Mouncuit, Chiquet, Krug NV and Bollinger ’99 are the more recent standouts).

But, then another bottle of Bouchard.

Almost as soon as the cork was gently kissed out and the light snap-crackle-fizzle of bubbles in the ballon subsided, it clicked for me. Something was making more sense.

I wondered if this is the emotion that Cédric was talking about, expressing itself in the wine…

2008 Cédric Bouchard Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs

Disgorged, April 2010. 100% Pinot Noir

Light straw. So bright with chalky, mineral, crushed stone aromas, hints of hazelnut, vanilla pod, cucumber and honeydew. More cherry and raspberry begin to emerge on nose towards the final glasses. The minerality is screaming.

The mineral density and a spiny and laser beam acid cut lifts the wine through it’s light mousse. Vinous but delicate flavors of wet stone, lemon pith, cherry skin are present with subtle hints of graham cracker, cranberry and sweet almond. Driven by its bright acidity and mineral austerity there is nice elegance and autolytic texture dancing around. Great persistence.

Simply stellar now. Will improve with time.

Transparency and Emotion

Inflorescence is 100% Pinot Noir which comes from vineyards his father owns a 1.5 hectare lieu-dit, Val Vilaine,in the village of Celles-sur-Ource in the Côte des Bar. The Côte des Bar lies some 70 miles south of the three main regions of Champagne, Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs.

Map of Champagne

The Côte des Bar is quite removed from the Cretaceous chalk of the main regions of Champagne and is closer to Dijon than it is to Reims. The soils are Kimmeridgian marl capped by Portlandian limestone. Is it any wonder that Bouchard’s wines are more Chablis-esque?

Most importantly, there is a clarity in character which makes these wines exceptional and it is a result of Cédric’s staunch quest to transmit a sense of place in his wines. Unlike most Champagne, which are very often blends of vintage, varietal and vineyards, the wines from Bouchard are single varietal, vintage and vineyard wines.

Bouchard’s philosophy is uncompromising. Because his holdings are so small, he plows by hand. He harvests by hand. His yields are quite low, more similar to Village level Burgundy (45 hectoliters/hectare) than to Champagne. As a result, his wines are distinct. They have a presence, they are bright, focused and rather tightly coiled.

Cédric takes care of all the viticulture and practices organic farming. In the winery there is little intervention. The fruit is foot tread and fermented with wild yeast (primary and malolactic) in stainless steel. He only uses first pressing and there is no chaptalization, no fining, no filtering, no cold-stabilization and no dosage. The wines are aged 16 months on lees and only racked just before bottling. Bouchard is supporter of extended and cold second fermentation in order to create smaller, finer bubbles and he bottles at light pressure at bottles of 4.5 bars (as opposed to 6).

His bubbles walk the line between gentle, delicate and austere, mineral-to-the-core. They are flinty, chalky, sinuous, lithe, more similar to a rich but steely Chablis than to most Champagne. The stainless steel is a terroir magnifier, a terroir amplifier. I really appreciate how Cédric Bouchard’s wines state the disgorgement date on the bottle; what transparency! When so much of Champagne is more or less the antithesis of terroir, Cédric’s singular focus in on emotional Champagne of a single vineyard, varietal and vintage is refreshing, both intellectually and viscerally.

His Pinot Blanc, La Boloree, is in my sightglass and once I find it, I will report back. This is REAL champagne…I think that the emotion behind the wines shines through. Do you?