Cédric Bouchard: In the Cellar
NV (2000) Roses de Jeanne Blanc de
Noirs Les Ursules 94
NV (2001) Roses de Jeanne Blanc de
Noirs Les Ursules 94
NV (2004) Roses de Jeanne Blanc de
Noirs Les Ursules 93
Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Blancs La Haute-Lemblée 97
Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Blancs La Bolorée 97
Roses de Jeanne Rosé de Saignée Le Creux d’Enfer 88
Roses de Jeanne Rosé de Saignée Le Creux d’Enfer 94
2002 Roses de Jeanne Rosé de Saignée
Le Creux d’Enfer 93
The gate opens to reveal a dilapidated villa worthy of a Romantic opera. It is easy to imagine what the building must have looked like in its prime. We are in Landreville, a few kilometers from Celles-sur-Ource, in the Aube. In the middle of nowhere. Literally. An abandoned residence is off to the left, but it is the cellar in the center of the small property that brought Cédric Bouchard to this spot. We descend into the cave
through a wobbly freight elevator and it is clear why Bouchard is attracted to
his new winery. The cellar is cold. Frigid, actually. Just the way Bouchard
likes it. In front of me is Bouchard’s entire library, all the way back to
2000. Just a few bottles of most of his wines. “You choose what you want to
taste,” Bouchard says, and he starts preparing the bottles. Every year it is
pretty much the same. Given the tiny
production of these wines, I usually focus on those I haven’t tasted in a while.
I am curious to see how long I can handle the Siberia-like conditions. But,
then again, these wines have a way of channeling my focus.
Over the last dozen years, Bouchard
has essentially deconstructed Champagne. His wines are single-variety,
single-parcel and single-vintage, essentially everything Champagne on a broader
scale is not. But it goes beyond that. Bouchard is an atypical winemaker in that
he never tastes his Champagnes before they are disgorged and only rarely once
they are released. Bouchard idolizes Anselme Selosse, but makes no effort to
meet him because he wants to maintain the spirit and emotion of anticipation.
Over the last few years, Bouchard has begun spending time in California. I
wonder how many Champenois have
visited Saxum and Abreu, and can talk about the wines? Not too many, I think.
Bouchard’s latest project is a sparkling wine he is making with Bill Wenzlau
and Justin Willet from Wenzlau’s vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills, one of the
most promising sites in Santa Barbara. This is Cédric Bouchard.
From a technical perspective, it
all starts in the vineyard, where yields are ridiculously low. Farming is as
hands-off as is practical. The wines are all made in stainless steel, using
indigenous yeasts. The Rosé de Saignée Le Creux d’Enfer, one of Bouchard’s signature
wines, is crushed by foot and fermented entirely with stems. The wines are
bottled with less pressure than most Champagnes, around 4.5 atmospheres versus
the more common 6 or so, which is part of what gives the Bouchard Champagnes
their nearly imperceptible bubbles. Some of the early wines were dosed, but
today all of the wines are bottled with zero dosage. Although they weren’t a
part of this tasting, Bouchard also makes a set of Champagnes under the
Inflorescence label that emerge from vineyard sites Bouchard does not control.
All of the Roses de Jeanne Champagnes are made from vineyards Bouchard owns and
farms himself. Having seen all of those sites, I can say they are truly a
wonder to behold.
Cédric Bouchard’s Champagnes remain
some of the most unique, personal wines being made anywhere in the world.
Readers might also enjoy taking a look at this video covering current releases.
An exotic mélange of honey, sage,
tobacco, white truffles, licorice and dried pears meld together in the NV (2000) Blanc de Noirs Les Ursules. A
wine of striking elegance and purity, the 2000 is drop-dead gorgeous, although
I don’t see any additional upside from further cellaring. Still, this is a magnificent
first effort from Cédric Bouchard. Readers will want to note that this bottle
was disgorged à la volée (with no dosage), but the commercial release was
dosed at 6 grams per liter. I include this note only for general reference. Drinking
window: 2013-2018. The NV (2001) Blanc
de Noirs Les Ursules, from a year with significant rain, is quite a bit
leaner than the 2000, but also fresher and brighter in its aromas and flavors.
Vibrant, precise and layered, the 2001 is laced with white flowers, almonds and
hazelnuts, all supported by lip-smacking acidity. The tension and focus here
are simply stunning. Over several hours, the 2001 just kept getting better and
better. Dosage was 6 grams per liter. Drinking window: 2013-2019. The NV (2004) Blanc de Noirs Les Ursules is
frankly a bit hard to taste after the 2000 and 2001, as it is neither young nor
mature, but somewhere in between. Readers are best off giving the 2004 another
2-3 years to fully unwind. Stylistically, the 2004 is closer to the 2001 than
the 2000. There is a lot to look forward to for those who can be patient. I am
not sure that includes me, however. Drinking window: 2015-2022.
The 2004 Blanc de Blancs La Haute-Lemblée was the first great wine I
tasted from Cédric Bouchard. Today, it is just as impressive as it has always
been, which is to say drop-dead gorgeous. Still vibrant and viscerally
thrilling, the 2004 flows across the palate with seemingly endless layers of
tantalizing fruit. Readers still lucky enough to own it (I am down to one
bottle) can look forward to another handful of exceptional drinking, maybe
more. What a wine! Drinking window: 2013-2020. I have had the 2006 Roses de Jeanne Blanc de Blancs La
Bolorée a number of times recently, and it has never failed to deliver the
goods. The more time passes, the more I think the Bolorée is Bouchard’s most
important wine because of its ability to develop in bottle. Graphite, pencil
shavings, anise and white stone fruits all explode from the glass in this
powerful Champagne. Each time I taste the 2006, it shows better. How high will
it soar? Drinking window: 2013-2026.
I thought the 2007 Rosé de Saignée Le Creux d’Enfer would soften with a few years
in bottle, but the opposite happened. The fruit has begun to dry out, leaving a
sensation of increasing dryness. In retrospect, the hail of 2007 was simply too
much to overcome, even for the meticulous Cédric Bouchard. This is a rare wine
from Bouchard that has not lived up to my expectations. Frankly, the 2007 was
better upon release. Drinking window: 2013. Pomegranate, sweet tobacco,
licorice, red berries and crushed flowers all make an appearance in the 2004 Rosé de Saignée Le Creux d’Enfer.
This is one of the more laid-back versions of the Creux d’Enfer. Focus,
vibrancy and delineation dominate over volume in this beautifully articulated
rosé. Here, too, I don’t think there is any upside in cellaring bottles
further. Drinking window: 2013-2014. The 2002
Rosé de Saignée Le Creux d’Enfer remains one of the most haunting,
beautiful wines Bouchard has ever made. Still, over the last few years the
fruit has begun to fade, robbing the wine of some of its depth. High-tones
notes of Mirabelle plums, hard candy, white flowers and passion fruit are
layered into the finish. Readers still holding the 2002 will want to finish any
remaining bottles sooner rather than later. Drinking window: 2013.
-- Antonio Galloni