Head Sommelier of Odette
Roses de Jeanne Champagne by Cédric Bouchard:
Based in Celles-sur-ource in the Côte des Bar region, Bouchard only started producing wines in 2000, yet has firmly established his reputation as one of the best in Champagne. He focuses on different varietals from single vineyards. Furthermore, he reduces his yields to a mere fourth of an average producer’s output—and if one considers that he started with only 1.37 hectares (he has since added 1.47 hectares from his father’s holdings), the quantities are extremely scarce. Interestingly, he bottles all his champagnes at a lower pressure as he believes that the bubbles only serve to obstruct the flavours. Of course, he recommends his champagnes served in a wine glass. I would recommend any of his cuvées, from the basic Val Vilaine to his Creux de l’enfer rosé, but if there’s one to seek out, it would be the Presle—a new cuvée planted in 2007 to 10 different rootstocks of pinot noir and from a mere 15 rows. It offers layers of red berries, apples and sweet spices. Barely 100 bottles of Presle are produced annually, so it’ll take a touch of luck to secure one.
This would be my pick for texture. Now managed by brothers Pascal and Fabrice, Agrapart has been producing grower champagnes since 1894. While they are very much blanc de blancs specialists, the wines are fresh and tart, yet never too sharp or aggressive. Agrapart manages to seamlessly meld freshness and roundness, perhaps due to its mastery in the use of oak. It leans towards old 600-litre barrels as opposed to the more common 205-litre barrels, as it eschews the influence of oak. The oxidative nature of barrel ageing does allow the wines to mellow out. Among the cuvées of Agrapart, the two standouts would be
L’avizoise and Venus—two different parcels of vines from Avize, where the winemaking is kept identical to showcase the terroir’s diversity. My preference would be Venus, named after the horse which continues to till the 0.3 hectare La Fosse vineyard today (it was first planted in 1959). The richer of the two cuvées, Venus displays riper notes and concentration of flavours while maintaining the salinity that is almost a signature of the house. A textbook blanc de blancs, it’s also textural and weighty on the palate to the point that it almost feels chewable.