Grapes: 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay
Vineyard: Mareuil sur Äy
AOC: Vallée de la Marne
Dosage: 5 g/l
Disgorgement: Winter 2014
Glass: Zalto Burgundy
Time really does pass quickly in Hong Kong. It seems like it was only months ago that we first began selling wine, although Cork Culture has actually almost been around now for two years. We've always been kind of a team that drinks too much of our own stock, often forgetting to record down and share our thoughts. I remember in a very recent blog post I promised to update more, even though I guess it's pretty clear by now I failed. Our Instagram and Facebook page are updated a bit more frequently though, so please be sure to add us.
When I do end up writing about something, it's either out of an irrestible urge—rather like an itch—to share something good.
As we update our Champagne stocks in the months before Christmas, let me tell you about a new producer we've tasted recently called Domaine Roger Pouillon, a family winery (of course) that is situated in the village of Mareuil sur Aÿ—just a little north of Epernay, and south of the Montagne de Reims.
At the moment Fabrice Pouillon, the third generation in the family of winemakers, makes the wines here after having trained in Sauternes and Chassagne-Montrachet. He's been organic for years, and in 2003 began his conversion to biodynamics.
He makes several other Champagnes, which I'll talk about another time. Tonight I popped open Fabrice's mysterious Brut Soléra NV. It's a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir from 1997 all the way to 2009. It was disgorged only in the winter of 2014, and is one of the most thought-provoking wines I've had in a while.
Perhaps it was the nature of the Soléra system, which is the technique of blending that winemakers in Jerez use to make sherry. Fabrice takes a small amount of reserve wine aged from 1997-2009, resulting in a Champagne that reminds of Fino, or even more specifically—Manzanilla.
Because once you open a glass of the Brut Soléra NV, the first thing that comes to mind is the ocean breeze. The warm saltiness of the air is encapsulated inside a glass of this Champagne, and much like a beautiful sherry, there's an incredible richness of nuts and oxidative notes. Don't confuse oxidative notes with flawed wine though—this is entirely intentional, as many Champagne makers were influenced by Selosse to make wines with some oak aging. When these characteristics are coupled with a bit of fruit from the green apples of Chardonnay, the end result is dreamy.
This isn't a refreshing Champagne made for an aperitif; this is complex and mature wine with a delicately soft sparkle that suits a meal. The small beads don't distract from food, and the flavours are balanced out enough by the clean acidity to pair well with anything.
My only complaint was that even though the dosage is already extremely low at 5 g/l, I think it could have done with even less, perhaps 2 g/l or even 0 g/l while still remaining balanced.
But enough of tasting notes. I understand that when most people look for Champagne, they want something with freshness, bubbles, and accessibility. But what Fabrice has done here with his Brut Soléra is a little beyond that. Like Cedric Bouchard, who believes bubbles only detract from the majesty of good Champagne, Fabrice is making us something that offers more—a delicious treat that teases us out of our comfort zone.