Pure Dead Cramant

I recently attended a lunch event with Hervé Jestin of Champagne Leclerc Briant.

We tasted four of their wines, and he spoke at length about how they are made, and about biodynamic viticulture, and about Champagne. One of the ideas raised, which I didn't really understand, was the notion that the dosage for a champagne should speak to the wine, otherwise it won't benefit the finished product. He demonstrated this by sitting a glass of champagne on its side on a metal plinth which was connected by a wire to a pair of antennae which he then held over some sugar - there was no reaction or reading on the scale attached to the antennae, because the sugar had nothing to say to the wine. I didn't understand, but it surely was interesting.

The point of this was, I believe, to explain why Leclerc Briant is moving towards zero dosage wine making, and indeed to zero sulphur winemaking. On of the things that M. Jestin said was, "I want to train the wine to discuss with oxygen". And of course, until the relatively recent past, all wine making was done without the "benefit" of sulphur, so in a sense, M. Jestin merely wants to go back to the old ways. As I say, I don't really get biodynamic viticulture, but I do know that pretty much without exception I enjoy the end product, so I'm very happy to see more such wines.

The wines we tasted were the Brut Réserve, Extra Brut Premier Cru, Abyss, and Pure Cramant. They were all of very high quality, albeit very pricey. The Abyss didn't speak to me, but I thought the other three wines were complex, and I particularly enjoyed the fine mousse they all exhibited.

I want to single out the Pure Cramant in particular, as being a wine at the very edge of champagne-making: 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay from Cramant, fermented in used oak, unfined, unfiltered, five years sur lattes and then bottled with zero dosage and zero sulphur. And the result? A big, rounded, lush, ripe wine, as pure an expression of white and yellow stone fruit as you could wish for. My tasting notes also mention cranberries and 'something balsamic'. Wonderful wine. But, paradoxically, my enduring taste memory of it is of a warm, pink, lively, ripeness. Pink fruit, not white or yellow. It has somehow evolved in my memory into something approaching the Platonic ideal of rosé champagne.

Can one attribute that complexity, that evolving taste memory, to the biodynamic viticulture? I've no idea, but it surely was lovely.

More on Pure Cramant here.