Showing posts with label Raymond Boulard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Raymond Boulard. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great Champagnes, Under $50

It's the time of year for lists of Champagne's greatest hits. Today alone, Eric Asimov of the NY Times published an article reviewing his tasting panel's thoughts on sparkling wines not from Champagne, and also a blog post listing some of his favorite Champagnes.

Well, I want to add my .02 cents. Here are some of my favorite Champagnes that cost $50 or less before sales tax:

Blanc de Blancs.

Pierre Gimonnet Selection Belles Annees Brut Premier Cru, $34, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports. Bright fruit, a graceful style.
Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux Brut Blanc de Blancs, $47, Jenny & François Selections. Richer and more robust, from the Aube.

Pinot Noir-heavy wines.

René Geoffroy Empreinte Brut Premier Cru, $48, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports. This is always based on a single vintage, and is usually about 90% Pinot Noir. Fragrant and vivid, well balanced.

Benoît Lahaye Brut Essentiel Grand Cru, $40, Jeffrey Alpert Selections. About 90% Pinot from the village of Bouzy. Simply excellent.

Pinot Meunier-heavy wines.

Françoise Bedel Cuvée Origin’elle Brut, $45, JD Headrick Selections. About 80% Meunier, slow to unwind, quite rich, made in a slightly oxidative style, lots of soil.

Blended Wine.

Chartogne-Taillet Brut Cuvée St Anne, $38, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports. For me, a classic Champagne.

Rosé Wines (Tough, because there are few choices at $50 and under).

Margaine Brut Rosé Premier Cru, $50, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports.

Brut Nature/Non-Dosé Wines.

Raymond Boulard Mailly-Champagne Grand Cru Brut Nature, $43, Imported by Selected Estates of Europe. Complex wine that is more about soil than about fruit, but still feels ripe and delicious.

Tarlant Brut Zero, $45, JD Headrick used to handle Tarlant, and I'm not sure who does now. Spicy and vibrant.


So...what do you think? Suggestions welcome. There is still time for us all to blow some dough on Champagne before the big eves and days arrive.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Blind Tasting 15 Champagnes

Alex Halberstadt, a Brooklyn-based writer who covers wine for The Faster Times, an online newspaper, recently invited me to his house to participate in a blind tasting of Champagne. There were 9 of us in total, and 15 wines. Not bad for a random Monday night.

The point of tasting blind is to remove information that can bias the taster during the experience of tasting. But how much information should be removed? Obviously, tasters do not know the identity of the wines they taste. But there are varying degrees of "blind." Imagine, for example, that you wanted to do a tasting of Pinot Noir with friends, and your idea is to compare new world wines to old world wines. Do you tell people the theme and ask them to categorize the wines as they taste? Do you instead tell them only that it is a Pinot tasting, and see where the discussion goes? Do you tell people that they are drinking two types of Pinot, but not tell them what types? There are many ways to do this, and each has its merits.

We knew nothing whatsoever about the Champagnes we tasted - Alex decided to share the theme of the tasting only after we discussed the wines. We went through all 15 wines and then discussed each one. As you would expect with a group of 9 people tasting of 15 wines, there were many different opinions. But there were a few things that everyone seemed to agree on: no one loved the wines as a group. Everyone found a few wines to like, but as a group, no one was overly excited. When asked what we thought of the overall quality of the wines, Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery, said "They were fine, but I drank some great Champagnes last week, and none of these stands up to any of those."

I felt the same way - there were several wines I liked, but as a group I was not terribly impressed. I felt that the wines lacked any kind of soil character. None of them were chalky. And none of them showed any real individuality. They actually resembled each other a lot in terms of character and flavor profile. Maybe this was a symptom of drinking 15 Champagnes in a row, maybe not. What had Alex done, here? What were we tasting?

I had an idea about halfway through, but I wasn't sure. At the end of the discussion, Alex said "Bloggers and wine writers all seem to be writing about grower Champagne now, and you never read anything about the other wines. I thought it would be interesting to do a tasting of the Grand Marque Champagnes, the wines you are most likely to encounter in any given store." I understood immediately why Alex kept the theme a secret. If I knew that I were tasting these 15 wines, I would have been biased. Not that I would dislike them automatically - I'm a more honest taster than that, but I would have approached them differently, with low expectations. Alex wisely allowed us to approach these with whatever expectations we as individuals bring to a tasting. I, for one, want to like the wines at a blind tasting. And I found some things to like in this tasting.

Here are the wines we tasted, all non-vintage wines, presumably disgorged and released recently:

1) Piper-Heidsieck
2) Henriot
3) Deutz
4) Pol Roger Pure (this was a mistake - Alex meant for this to be Bollinger)
5) Gosset
6) Taittinger
7) Pol Roger
8) Delamotte
9) Lanson
10) Veuve-Clicquot
11) Laurent-Perrier
12) Charles Heidsieck
13) Louis Roederer
14) Moet Brut Imperial
15) Alfred Gratien

I liked the first wine I tasted better than anything else, the Piper-Heidsieck. It felt like it had been bottled at low pressure, it had lovely dark fruit, it had finesse, and it was very expressive. I loved it. I remember thinking, "Could this be a Cedric Bouchard wine?" I wonder if this wine been the 8th wine in the lineup, whether or not I would have liked it as much. By wine #8, I understood that I wasn't crazy about whatever it was we were tasting - the "I'm about to taste 15 Champagnes, and I love Champagne" magic had worn off. But I liked it enough during this tasting so that I will make a point of drinking it again.

My other favorites included Roederer, Henriot, Pol Roger, Taittinger, and Lanson. I would gladly drink a glass of any of those wines, should they be offered to me. But I don't think that I'm ready to start using any of my already meager Champagne budget to buy these wines. Before doing that, I'd like to do a blind tasting that includes these wines and an equal number of wines from producers like Boulard, Billiot, Diebolt-Vallois, and Brigandat. That would be most interesting, especially if I didn't know the theme while tasting.

I will also confidently tell you that the worst wine of the tasting, and almost everyone agreed on this, was the Moet White Star. It was just very bad.

I'm so glad to have participated in this - it was a great idea, Alex. It's silly to dismiss wines because they're not popular (an odd thing to say about Grand Marque Champagne, but I mean popular among the wine circles I hang out in), but I think we all do it. I tend to be dismissive of exactly these Champagnes, and perhaps I shouldn't be. I really liked that Piper-Heidsieck. Maybe I'll buy one and drink it next to a comparable grower Champagne, both served blind.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Two Weeks of Incredible Champagne

I used to write about sparkling wine every Friday in a sets of posts that I called Friday Night Bubbles. Every week for over a year, typically alternating between Champagne and other sparkling wines. It got expensive, but what made me stop this series was the fact that I wasn't satisfied with the quality of most sparkling wines at the $20-$25 price point. I decided that I'd rather spend my $25 on whatever wine I think is best, not necessarily a sparkling wine.

And so my sparkling wine consumption has gone way down, Champagne obviously included. In the past two weeks, though, I've had more top notch Champagne than in all of the past year, I would say. These things come in waves, I guess. I know it's boring to read lists of "The Great Wines I Just Drank," but please - allow me to share about some of these. These are rare and expensive wines that I may never have another chance to drink, and they are worth talking about.

I was in Seattle last week for work (thanks for having me back here, by the way). I know no one in Seattle, and I had business all day but nothing at night. I did take myself out to dinner one night at this place, and it was quite nice. But a million times more fun was dinner at my new friend Brian's house, a guy I met through another friend I met because of this blog. And they say that sitting in front of your computer is anti-social! Brian works for Triage Wines, one of the better importer/distributors on the west coast. He invited a few other Seattle wine-types, made a beautiful dinner of schnitzel and other goodies, and we opened what might in some circles be called an excessive amount of wine. I could tell you about the three 1998 Rieslings we had with dinner, including the FX Pichler Unendlich, but this is supposed to be about Champagne. So instead I'll tell you about Sugot-Feneuil, a producer I had never heard of. Brian served the 1998 Brut Blanc de Blancs as an aperitif, and it was just lovely, so full flavored, and also so elegant. But this was a fleeting experience, as apparently the grower is deceased and the vines have been sold to a big house.

That was only the beginning. One of Brian's friends brought a bottle of 1997 Larmandier-Bernier Special Club, I think the last Special Club vintage that Larmandier-Bernier did. This wine took a while to open up, but when it did it was a well balanced wine with rich nutty fruit and a mouth-coating texture. I think that it was starting to truly shine after we had moved on to other wines. And how about this - Brian went downstairs to his cellar (normal people can afford to live in houses in Seattle, apparently) and returned with not one, but two bottles by Vouette et Sorbée. We drank the Saignée de Sorbée (photo courtesy of Peter Liem) and the Blanc d'Argile, both 2006's, although they are not labeled as vintage wines. Both of these wines were entirely remarkable, impossible to overstate the level of quality here. The fruit in the rosé was utterly beautiful, almost impossibly fresh and alive, sweet and perfumed with subtle spices. Like all Vouette et Sorbée wines, this has no dosage - imagine how perfectly ripe these grapes must be! The other thing that I found striking about the rosé was its texture - full and rich, but exquisitely detailed and fine. Such a joy to drink. Peter and I drank the 2005 Saignée de Sorbée merely days before this Seattle dinner, and it was also a great, but an entirely different wine. The 2005 was not as much about fruit, it was completely saline and pungently rocky and earthy, and it was great with our roast bonito. The 2006 was a far more hedonistic wine that offered immediate and intense pleasure, but I wonder which wine will be better in 10 years...The Blanc d'Argile was also great, with that same brilliant fruit and texture, but I was so smitten with the rosé that I could barely pay attention to anything else. Thank you again Brian, and your welcoming and generous friends too.

The funny part is, you probably think that's all the great Champagne I've had recently. Not at all true, friends. I went to Alice Feiring's house the other night for her Champagne tasting, a semi-blind (we saw the list of wines, but drank them blind) look at a handful of wines with the idea of discussing whether or not they represent good value. I'll leave the results of the value discussion for Alice to print in her upcoming Wall Street Journal article, but I'll tell you that the wines in general showed tremendously well. I learned that Drappier makes very good wines - the nose on the 2002 Grande Sendrée was fantastic, rich and nutty with a focused depth of clean fruit, intriguingly orange-y in character. And I confirmed for myself that I am a huge fan of both Billiot's and Lallement's basic NV cuvées. That Larmandier-Bernier's Terre de Vertus smells and tastes of seashells, and that the 2004 Raymond Boulard Les Rachais Extra Brut will be excellent in about 8 years. Boulard's wines, in my humble opinion, might be the best value in the NYC Champagne market.

The three "S"s - a part of any balanced diet.

Alice somehow stocked her Blanc de Blancs lineup with 1997 Salon, and two different Selosse wines, Substance and VO. Yes, I drank Substance twice in two weeks - very extravagant. When I drank the VO I thought it was Substance, as the nose was immediately reminiscent of the wine I drank with Peter the week before. Wine maker's stamp, I guess. The '97 Salon took a while to unwind, but when it did it was just gorgeous, so expansive and richly satisfying in the mouth, and so perfectly balanced.

Alright, that's enough, I'm running out of gas - just excited to be back, I guess.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Champagne Raymond Boulard Mailly Grand Cru Brut Nature, $42, Imported by Selected Estates of Europe. This wine is an outstanding example of a Brut Nature, a Champagne with no sugar or other sweetener added to the dosage. If you aren't familiar with this sort of thing, it is extremely fashionable among the wine hipsters of the world to drink Brut Nature or Extra Brut Champagne right now. Perhaps because some of these wine hipsters claim that the expression of terroir in Champagne is possible only in non-dosé wines. Perhaps because the people with the coolest haircuts and iPhone apps drink non-dosé Champagne, and others simply follow along. Whatever the reason, non-dosé Champagne is very popular now, and many producers now offer a non-dosé Champagne amidst their portfolio of wines.

But it is not easy to make a good non-dosé Champagne. As Peter Liem of ChampagneGuide.net has said, "You cannot just take your regular Brut NV and decide that you will not add any sugar to it." Skilled and dedicated work in the vineyard is required in order to yield fruit that is ripe and flavorful enough to make good non-dosé wine. There are several in the group of young and hip Champagne vignerons who are making great non-dosé wines, and for more on that you should consult ChampagneGuide.net. I will say this - Francis Boulard's Mailly Grand Cru is a very fine non-dosé Champagne. And this bottling is particularly exceptional. It was disgorged in February of 2008, which leads me to assume that it is based on grapes from 2005, and bottled in 2006. '05 was warm in Champagne, as in most of France, and so Boulard had a cooperative climate to work with for this style of wine.

I last drank this wine about a year ago
, and I decanted it, to everyone's horror. That one was a great version of the wine, more soil and mineral driven. The new version is overtly fruity and joyous on the nose, with an intensely vinous character. It is, as it will always be, a wine that is defined by minerals. According to ChampagneGuide.net the grapes for this wine are grown on a plot that has "only about five to ten centimeters of topsoil, under which the roots descend immediately into the chalk and limestone bedrock." But in this iteration, the ripe and lovely fruit competes for your attention. It is vivid red fruit, and it is juicy, and it is relaxing in a warm bath of chalk. The wine is perfectly balanced with excellent acidity, and it has a beautiful fragrant length that lingers long after swallowing. Perhaps the most impressive thing to me, though, is that this wine, which is about 90% Pinot Noir, is wonderfully elegant. It really has grace and delicacy to compliment its vibrant fruit and minerality. It is just outstanding wine, and although the price has risen since I last drank it, it continues to be a great value in the world of Champagne.

By the way, when I opened this bottle the other night, I again decanted it. But this time I decanted only half the bottle, so my friend and I could compare the decanted wine to the wine out of the bottle. My friend perfectly described the difference after about 15 minutes of air time: "The decanted wine is more powerful, and the wine from the bottle is more elegant."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Champagne Raymond Boulard Petraea XCVII - MMIII, $38, Imported by Selected Estates of Europe. Thank goodness that wine is not priced strictly according to quality (or my sense of it, anyway). If it were, Boulard's Petraea would cost far more than $38. Think of all of the insipid Champagne out there that costs way more than $38. I prefer this to any other Champagne of equal price that I've tasted, and it's better than many vintage wines that cost twice as much money. And I'm not even crazy about this particular version of the wine! Raymond Boulard's wines (now made by Francis Boulard) are a truly fantastic value in Champagne.

The Boulard estate is located in
Cauroy-lès-Hermonville, even further north than Chartogne-Taillet in the Montagne de Reims. It would not be unfair to say that Boulard is in the middle of nowhere. Just goes to show that skill and dedication in the vineyards and winery are every bit as important as prime real estate when it comes to making great wine.

ChampagneGuide.net offers a complete description of Boulard's history, vineyard and cellar work, and you should subscribe if you haven't already done so, and check it out. I will, with Peter's permission, re-print his explanation of Petraea from the Boulard producer page:

Petraea is an unusual wine made in a “perpetual cuvée” (a term that Boulard prefers to “solera”), begun in 1997. The name Petraea refers to the type of oak that the barrels used for this wine are made from, and the final blend contains about 60 percent pinot noir, with the remainder equally divided between chardonnay and meunier. It’s neither filtered nor fined, and it’s bottled at a slightly lower pressure (five bars rather than six), “due to its vinous character,” says Boulard.
I drank Petraea XCVII - MMII last summer and loved it, as I have loved every Boulard wine I've tried so far. And so I decided not to be frightened by MMIII, even though it features grapes from the roasting-hot 2003 vintage. But as usual, only 25% of the current vintage's grapes are blended in Petraea, the balance being a blend of wines from 1997 through, in this case, 2002.

MMIII most definitely showed the hot muscle-car character of 2003, although it retained it's elegant side too. It is not as good as MMII, and I imagine that it is not as good as MMIV, which I have not tasted. But it is very good wine, with a broad and rich marzipan fragrance and a deliciously juicy palate that remains mostly in control, with ripe fruit, rhubarb, more marzipan, and decent acidity. This is not an elegant wine, but it has a mature and refined character on the nose, and although the palate feels overly exuberant at times, it is always tasty and a pleasure to drink. Perhaps not a wine to go deep on in the cellar, but without question a wine to buy if you see it, and one to enjoy in the next few years.
This is a wine that I think would pair well with the boldest of foods in unorthodox ways. I'm thinking...wait for it...herbed roast leg of lamb. Lamb and white bean soup with grilled buttered bread. Lamb, at a minimum.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

N.V. Champagne Raymond Boulard Champagne Rosé de Saignée, $39, SelectedEstates of Europe. I love drinking Francis Boulard's wines. I like writing about his wines too - he apparently lurks out there in the blogosphere, and read my posts on his Brut Nature and Petraea. His comments are edifying, funny, and I think, very humble and sweet.

In my understanding, there are essentially two ways to make rosé of Champagne: still red wine is added to the blend, or the juice of red grapes is allowed a short period of skin contact. With the latter method, some of the color (and also skin tannins, aroma, flavor, I would imagine) bleeds out into the juice. This is called the Saignée, or bleeding, method.


I have not been a big fan in general of rosés of Champagne thus far. My experiences have been hit or miss, and the hits have rarely moved me enough to get really excited. That changed with a bottle of Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée. So much more vibrant and alive than the others I had tasted, and my first Saignée (at home, where you can watch the wine unfold in the glass, etc.). Now I keep my eyes open for rosés made using this method,
so when I saw Boulard's non-vintage Saignée sitting there for less than $40, I pounced.

This wine has a spicy nose of pure and beautiful dark fruit and candied orange peel with lots of minerals and earth underneath. It is a nose of great clarity and vivid complexity. It kept my nose in the glass for literally minutes at a time between sips. The palate is richly fragrant with high toned currant and orchard fruit and a savory tea leaf component. There is a cleansing chalky finish with a resonant mineral depth that seems to be a Boulard calling card. We drank this with simple turkey burgers, but it seems as if it would support a variety of full flavored dishes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dinner with Peter Liem and Friends

Brooklynlady and I left the little daughter with her grandparents in San Diego and went to Portland for two days and one night. It was a real treat to spend adult time together visiting such an interesting city. And by coincidence or supernatural power (you decide), Peter Liem happened to be in Portland for his friend's wedding. Our visits overlapped, and so along with a few of his friends, we met for dinner at the excellent restaurant called Three Doors Down.

Peter's friends are also serious wine folk, so there were several amazing wines on the table. Three Doors Down has a great wine list, but they are friendly with Peter and his group and allow them to bring in their own wine.

When you dine with Peter Liem you can expect to drink good Champagne. We began with the 2002 Champagne Raymond Boulard Extra Brut Les Rachais. Peter brought this over from France, as it is not available yet in the US. This is Boulard's first wine made from biodynamically farmed grapes, and although it's a mere child, it is obviously an incredible wine. The nose is so very delicate with lovely floral and mineral aromas, and beyond that a tightly coiled core of energy that demands many a quiet year in the cellar before it will reveal its true nature. I hope I have the opportunity to revisit this wine one day, it is a sheer and elegant thing of beauty.

We then opened the 2002 Benoît Lahaye Champagne Millésime (another bottle checked in his suitcase). I won't try to summarize Lahaye as a grower and wine maker, as Peter did this so well a few months ago. After the Boulard wine, this one was powerful and intense, but in a good way. The aromas and flavors really spread out and fill the nostrils. This is red fruited juicy deliciousness with a great acidic and mineral spine, and I bet it would be beautiful with something like duck breast and confit. I left this one standing in the glass for a little while and it opened up quite nicely - another one to lay down for some years.

BrooklynLady and I brought along a bottle of 1998 Vilmart & Cie Cuvée Création. We opened this bottle just before our appetizers arrived and much to my dismay, the wine was a bit of a mess. It was positively funky - cheesy, really. Yes, this wine smelled like ripe cheese. We waited a few minutes and aerated, but still pretty funky. Is this normal? Apparently not. The wine was showing "far more evolved than previous bottles I've tasted," according to Peter. That's probably polite for "this is usually very good wine, but this bottle kind of sucks." It was only at the conclusion of our meal when people were chit-chatting over a shared Tiramisu (honestly - the finest that I have ever tasted) that the wine began to show well. Pete (not Peter) poured himself some and said it was terrific. And he was right. The nose was now a generous and clean basket of roasted hazlenuts, maybe some marzipan too. And it crept gently across the palate, elegant and noble. Delicious, and yet very confusing on the whole. Here is Peter's profile of Vilmart, by the way.

And now, red wine. We started with an old wine from northern Piedmont, the 1961 Vallana Spanna Podere Tre Torre di Traversagna. Not a typo - that's 1961. This wine was born 47 years ago. I have no idea how to decipher Italian wine names, so I'll share what I learned about this wine: Vallana is the producer, Spanna is another name for Nebbiolo, and Traversagna is one of the crus in which this producer grows grapes. Thinking about it afterwards, I realized that this might be the oldest wine that I've ever tasted. But in the glass it felt vibrant and young. It had such a lovely perfume, so clean and well defined. Elegant chamomile aromas mingled with well-worn road tar, and beyond that there was something on the nose that the next wine also shared, something that for lack of a better word I will call poignancy. By this I mean that the essence of the wine burst forth from the glass as if it had something incredibly important to say, and it must have your attention. It was just delicious and thought provoking, and I remember what it smells like right now as I type this.

We ended our meal with a Grand Cru Burgundy from my birth year, the 1971 Prince de Merode Corton Clos de Roi. I got lost in this wine - I forgot to eat. BrooklynLady too. She tasted and spat all night like a cautious pregnant lady, but with this wine she drank. And how could she not? It had that same sense of poignancy to the aromas with penetrating animal, caramel, spice, and surprisingly fresh and youthful fruit. So graceful on the palate, such a textural joy. An entire story in the mouth with a strong plot, good character development, and a gentle and profound denouement. This is the whole point of cellaring good red wine from Burgundy, I suppose. A reminder not to touch my 2005's for a long time.

It got late in a hurry and we all had important appointments in the morning, so we agreed to shelve the 1985 Diebolt-Vallois that had been patiently waiting for its cue. We thanked each other for the company and the wine, and careened off to our beds with cherries and earth still tickling our nostrils.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Champagne Raymond Boulard Cuvée Petraea XCVII - MMII, $38, Imported by Selected Estates of Europe. Yes, more Raymond Boulard. And why not? The last bottle was so great, the prices are so reasonable, and I actually know where to find the wines - they seem to be quite rare in the States, but Astor Wines has them.

Petraea, the name for one type of oak used in wine making, is a wine made using the Solera system. Solera refers to the practice of reserving wine and blending in young wine with each new vintage, over time creating a blend of many vintages. Solera wines can achieve a mature and complex character that might not be found in the same producer's younger wines. And if you happen to like a particular solera wine, you can feel confident buying it over and over again, as the blending of so many vintages effectively ensures consistency in the wine.

The Champagne I drank includes wines from 1997-2002, as indicated by the Roman numerals on the label. The website also claims that there are 50 year old wines in this cuvée, something I don't understand, if the solera started in 1997. There is no disgorgement date on the bottle, so I can't tell you anything about that. This wine is mostly red grapes - 60% Pinot Noir, 20% Meunier, and then 20% Chardonnay.

I loved this wine - this is one of the prettiest noses I've experienced so far in Champagne. There are chalk and biscuits upon opening, and with a little time, there is an incredibly clear aroma of white flowers, like an elegant lady's perfume. Really compelling, and quite heady. I won't lie to you - the nose had me feeling rather amorous. When's the last time a wine did that to you?

The palate is quiet and very graceful, with good acidity and great length. As with the last Boulard wine I drank, this is not a fruit driven wine, but a complex and very mineral wine - there is a floral and mineral fragrance in the mouth long after swallowing.

This wine is well worth seeking out, in my opinion. There are no special effects, this is not a summer blockbuster. It is more thoughtful than that, it requires and rewards your attention. And please allow me to remind you that it is currently available for $38 at Astor Wines in Manhattan - an incredibly reasonable price for Champagne of this caliber. I will most certainly be buying more.

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.