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 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 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 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."

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