Thursday, July 03, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

Friday Night Bubbles is proud to wish you a happy Independence Day, and will appear this week on Thursday in order to afford the proper respect for the holiday. But mostly because I was afraid that you'd be mad if I were to review a French wine on July 4th.

NV Raymond Boulard Grand Cru Mailly Brut Nature, $32, Imported by Selected Estates of Europe. I had this wine several months ago and found that the wine got interesting when there was almost none left, so this time I decided to decant. My first time decanting Champagne. BrooklynLady thought this quite strange. "Why would you decant a Champagne," she asked. Same reason you decant any other wine, to expose it to oxygen, and to stimulate the release of interesting aromas.

Seems like decanting had an impact - this wine showed incredibly well. The nose is mature and regal, with great depth and class. There are aromas of biscuits, roast nuts, and a honeyed mineral edge. It is a nicely focused nose, really just fantastic, and it invites contemplation. The palate is so elegant and refined, with strong but mellow acidity and a smooth and silky texture. This is not at all a fruit-driven wine, the flavors more about chalk, nuts, biscuits, and wet salty rocks. There is wonderful balance - the wine feels muscular and graceful at once, and it really spreads out in the mouth and tingles the insides of the cheeks. This is fantastic and memorable Champagne and I must taste more from Raymond Boulard.

Boulard is one of those growers who ensures that the soil is alive - farming is organic and they are exploring biodynamics. This healthy philosophy is maintained in the cellar, where natural yeasts are used for fermentation, very little new wood is used, and dosage is quite low. Not that there is an absolute quality implied by the level of dosage, but Boulard's wines are balanced with very little dosage, and in the case of this wine, a Brut Nature, no dosage.

This wine struck me as a blend containing mostly Chardonnay. In fact, it is 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. So that's how much I know. It just felt like Chardonnay - elegant but powerful, finely focused nuts and steel. No red fruits that I could perceive. Reading more about the wine on the website I learned that up to 15% of this blend is reserve wine, which must account for the mature aromas and flavors. Is that why the wine is not a fruit-driven wine? Is it simply because it is a non-dosed wine? I am guessing that it has more to do with the Mailly Terroir, but that is not something I can speak intelligently about. I'm hoping that Peter Liem reads this and has something to say.

I liked this so much that I decided to immediately buy a bottle of Boulard Champagne Petraea, a Solera wine comprised of 75% reserve wines! That fine bottle will be coming soon to Friday Night Bubbles.

10 comments:

bill l said...

neil- did you "softly" decant? i mean, let it kinda trickle down the side of the decanter.
decanting champagne seems counter intuitive, but i have heard of this practice from some very knowlegable people. i believe one of the major houses suggest this with on eof it's cuvee's on it's website.
did someone advise this or did you come up with the idea on your own? just wondering.

Brooklynguy said...

i did softly decant, as softly as i could, anyway. i got the idea from Peter Liem who suggested decanting at least once that I can remember. makes sense though, doesn't it? In retrospect, possibly not for this Champs, but for a recently disgorged wine that is also quite young, makes sense. the D-date was not printed on the label, and I', still trying to decipher the mystery numbers at the bottom for a clue: NM126-001. possibly dec 6th, 2001?

J David Harden said...

Lovely post. I like the thought of a nose that invites contemplation. Tempts me to have an order from Astor shipped West.

Could that NM# be Boulard's negociant manipulants ID? You'd think Boulard would be an RM, but sometimes even the smaller/grower producers register as NM so they can buy grapes from friends. Just a guess. Not like I'm Peter Liem or anything. He will know.

Brooklynguy said...

hey jd - you're right, it is the ID. Boulard is technically an NM because they purchase grapes (5%) each year. there are several amazing growers who are classified as NM in this way. there are no other hints on the label as to the vintages or disgorgement date of this wine.

Gabriella Opaz said...

It's interesting how I would never consider decanting a cava before now. We had conducted a large tasting last december of a wide range of cavas (www.catavino.net/cava), and not once did it occur to us that some of them may very well need time to open.I think it seems counter intuitive, as you're experiencing so much activity in the bottle, but you may have a point. I'll have to give it a whirl and let you know if I see any difference.

Peter Liem said...

I see that I'm slowly infecting others with my perverse and insidious ideas. Great post, Neil, and a fantastic description of this wine. I agree with you that it's much more about minerality than fruit, especially in the non-dosé version. The Mailly terroir shows, I think, in its breadth on the palate and its fineness of texture. (Boulard says that in his parcel there are only 5-10cm of topsoil, then the roots go directly into the chalk.) And yes, this is a good candidate for decanting!

The NM number is indeed exactly that, his NM ID. He's NM because his father registered as NM in the '50s when they were expanding the estate, but for the past ten years Boulard hasn't bought any grapes, except for maybe an extra marc of Mailly every so often from his neighbor there. He puts the disgorgement date on the French back label (the Mailly non-dosé I drank last month was disgorged 29 Aug 07), but perhaps the US label is the importer's own one instead. That's too bad. Gotta crack the whip on these American importers....

By the way, if anyone reads French, Francis Boulard has a great blog, one of the best in Champagne.

francis b said...

[b] Peter Liem wrote:
By the way, if anyone reads French, Francis Boulard has a great blog, one of the best in Champagne.[/b]

Peter,
Many Thanks for your compliments about my blog.
It's a great honour, I am very pleased.
Even if it's not my regular job,
I am not writer, just small grower in Champagne area, trying to produce bubbly beverages for 35 years.
;o)

More Serious, Now,

You are right, Peter,
about the US back label,
because the government warning, and the adress of the US importer ...
I have not enough space on the back label to print all the *french informations* :
grape varieties, soil and terroirs,
the age of the vinyeard, indigenous yeasts, MCR dosage or not g./L., ... fermentations in barrels ...

But probably in near futur we will have the same problem in France regarding all the warning informations it would be necessary to print by the law.
It's good informations for the consumer, but start to be a busy place for printing something more about the growing and wine-making,
which are great informations for the wine-enthusiast and the connoisseur.

About the NM,
again Peter is right,
yes, we produce 120% of our own grapes ...
every year we well few thousands kilos to a Maison.
We produce around 120.000 kilos of grapes from our own vineyards,
in addition we buy 4.000 kilos from land-lady (landowner).

And then, again,
Many thanks for your comments about this Grand Cru Mailly,
without dosage.

I am just preparing a new order from NY State ... which will leave our cellars on september...

in near futur you could try the 2005 version, and other cuvées from other terroirs and crus as : Rachais 2002, Petraea MMV, ...
more complex. In My Humble Opinion.

Best sparkling wishes,
Bien amicalement,

Francis

saltpepperlime said...

I agree with J David Harden, this is indeed a post that leads to contemplation. Thanks, Brooklynguy, for your post!

I have noticed more and more sommeliers decanting champagne and thought that this was linked to the fact that I have also noticed more and more champagnes that are reduced. The reduction seems to be coming from excess SO2 which I guess is being used to make up for uncertain (if not poor) storage and shipping conditions in some of the new global markets for Champagne.

My view is that decantation in general is for wines that have a defect (like excessive SO2 that is badly integrated) that can be remedied with exposure to air.

Sometimes for educational fun, I like to decant half of the bottle and taste the other straight from the bottle (this goes for both still and sparkling). It is usually very interesting to compare the two and often leads to big debates amongst those present.

Personally, I prefer to see the wine evolve in the glass – may even serve in a larger glass- rather than decanting the whole thing right off the bat.

Brooklynguy said...

Francis Boulard!! What an honor to have you visit this site and to leave your comments. Thank you. a question - although there is clearly no room o the back label for all of that information, couldn't there be a code to identify the vintages and the disgorgemeent, a code that we could then look up on your website to learn more about the specific bottle?

thanks again for your comments.

hey saltpepperlime - i do the same thing when i decant, half stays in the bottle if its the first time i'm drinking the wine. interesting to hear that decanting Champs is maybe becoming a fad in France.

francis b said...

[b]Brooklynguy said...
Francis Boulard!! What an honor to have you visit this site and to leave your comments. Thank you. a question - although there is clearly no room o the back label for all of that information, couldn't there be a code to identify the vintages and the disgorgemeent, a code that we could then look up on your website to learn more about the specific bottle? [/b]

It's a great honor for me to read some comments about our Boulard's terroirs in USA.
There are just few hundreds of our bottles in USA,
so I am very pleased to read and comments the vine-growing and wine-making of each cuvée or vintage.

About the back label,
and the technical information,
Because the government warning and the informations about the importer ...
we have not enough space on the back label to print all our regular informations ( grape variety, age of the vine, the area - terroir, harvest and + % of old reserve wines, date of bottling - of degorgement, natural indigenous yeasts, dosage g./L., ...
as there :

[http://www.vigneron-champagne.com/images/aa%20mai%202008/Rachais%202002%20b%20back%20label.jpg]

all the informations which are very important for the wine-lover-enthusiast) that we have for the european market.
A larger back label will be necessary for some countries, regarding their law.
As, the perfect back label Tarlant Champagne.

When I planned a back-label,
we had no importer in USA,
so, I can not imagine the size and the space necessary to print all our regular technical informations + the government warning + the Name , adress and more of the importer ...

I was not very clever ...
:o)

In near futur, will do that,
on a larger size,
even if the bottle is not very elegant with a large poster.

Hope to see you in France,
in Champagne,
to receive you on Boulard terroirs as my guest.
I will be very pleased.

Best sparkling wishes,
Bien amicalement,

Francis