This month we have selected two wines with similar traits in terms of style. They are both brut nature and zero dosage, which means no sugar is added to the wine, and they are also both blanc de noirs. Blanc de Noirs champagnes are made by using only red grapes, which in Champagne means Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the grapes are either blended together or vinified on their own. In this case, we have one that is 100% Pinot Noir, while the other is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Both producers have small maisons, and both work with strictly organic and biodynamic methods.
La famille PlumpJack
Champagne Olivier Horiot, Sève, Blanc de Noirs “En Barmont”, Brut Nature 2012
About the Winery: In the southern-most part of the Champagne region, the Côte des Bar in the Aube department, there is the town of Les Riceys, whose slopes are blessed with the same Portlandian-era soil formations of Kimmeridgian chalk that provide the foundation for the finest Chablis and Sancerre. Except here the approach is to plant Pinot Noir on these chalky slopes, do a long maceration, often using whole bunches, and then age it a few years (at least 3) before release.
Côte des Bar is also the only village in Champagne to boast three appellations. One of these is Champagne, of course, but there are also two still wine appellations: Coteaux Champenois (red and white) and Rosé des Riceys.
Olivier Horiot has been a revelation in the Champagne region his recent years. His family has lived in Riceys, in the heart of the, Côte des Bar, for a long time; he took over the estate from his father Serge in 1999, and with his wife Marguerite’s help in the cellar and running the day to day operations, the first bottled vintage was released in 2000. They immediately started using organic and some biodynamic practices and, possibly inspired by nearby Burgundy, began highlighting specific parcels by separating out the different terroirs into distinct cuvées. The result is superb champagnes with a strong personality that stand out from the often more anonymous blended champagnes. They own 7 hectares but vinify only 2, selling the remaining fruit to the local cave cooperative and to negociants.
Vinification: Following a manual harvest, about 10% of the grapes that are at the bottom of the cuve are foot trodden, and then whole bunches are added. Macerations usually last 5-6 days with pumping over twice a day.
Aging: The wine is racked into used oak barrels and remains there for one year before being bottled without fining or filtration. It is then aged five years in the bottle on the lees before disgorgement and release. Residual sugar: 0 g/l
Tasting notes: Yellow pale gold, almost shy to revel itself with superfine perlage. Chalky seabed minerality is the first olfactive impression. After the wine gets a little warmer in the flute it reveals an unusual creaminess reminiscent of white chocolate covered strawberries and honeydew melon. The taste shows an impressive depth while keeping a nervous elegance that makes this champagne suitable for different food preparations, from appetizers to more elaborate dishes.
Champagne Francis Boulard et Fille, Les Murgiers, Blanc de Noirs, Brut Nature 2016
About the Winery: Francis Boulard comes from generations of vignerons that date back to the French Revolution. He started working in his family’s maison, Raymond Boulard et Fils, since the 70’s. By the mid 90’s, Francis was convinced that working the soil without the use of chemical products and pesticides was the best way to respect the soil itself and obtain better and healthier wine. He tried this approach for three vintages, comparing the results with conventional methods and found out his approach produced better wines. After trying unsuccessfully to convert his brother and sister to biodynamic farming, he left Raymond Boulard et Fills. In 2001 Francis decided to go his own way following his farming credo. In 2009, his daughter Delphine joined him and his maison became Francis Boulard et Fille.
In 2016 Francis retired as the main player and passed the helm of the estate to Delphine.
Historically, Boulard has made the wine as a Pinot-Noir/Pinot Meunier blend, from a base vintage with about 30% reserve wines. Starting with the 2015-base vintage, Boulard converted it to 100% Meunier; however, a cellar fire in 2016 changed the calculus for the 2016-base Mugiers, which ended up being a 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Meunier, made up of 50% 2016 vintage and 50% reserve wines (the 2017-base Murgiers will go back to being a pure Meunier), technically not a vintage champagne even if the label says 2016.
Vinification: Only "la cuvée" (the first juice from the first pressing) is used to make this champagne. Vinification takes place in old small oak barrels, large casks and half hogsheads. The wine ferments spontaneously via indigenous yeasts and undergoes Malo-lactic fermentation as well. "Batonnage" (beating in) of fine lees takes place every 10 to 12 days. It is bottled unfined on “fruit days” of the lunar calendar.
Aging: 3 years in old oak barrels and large oak cask before the wine was manually disgorged in March 2019 Residual sugar: 0 g/l
Tasting notes: Light gold with a greenish undertone in the glass. Fine and persistent tiny bubbles. The nose offers a whiff of mushrooms (shiitake, porcini), acacia flowers, and red plums. The lingering acidity recalls the freshness of crispy plums and peachs, wrapped in an ethereal earthiness.