Exquisite New 10-Year-Old, Small-Batch Grower Champagne

A master winemaker is in fine form with this new release.

After several years away, we finally managed to catch Pascal Bardoux in his house in Champagne this spring. Pascal is a talker – thoughtful and articulate, somewhere between absentminded professor and soft spoken sage. It only took 20 minutes for his giant French-English dictionary to emerge from the back room for a precise tasting note translation he wasn’t sure we’d fully grasped. (The word was “whortleberry,” and he was right, we hadn’t.)

The most interesting moment of the visit was his demonstration of dosage. Pascal grabbed a bottle of his new “Reserve 2012” cuvée, disgorged it by hand removing the lees, and let us taste. The wine was quietly delicious, with notes of almonds and dry apple. But then he took the same bottle, added a few drops of simple syrup from his kitchen cupboard, and poured us two new glasses.

The difference between the two was astonishing – the dosage woke the wine up, adding not a hint of sweetness but accentuating an array of flavors hidden in the bottle. Suddenly the same wine showed ripe pears, toasty brioche, candied orange and more. Many writers compare adding dosage to salting food properly – done correctly, you don’t taste salt, just more of what’s already there.

Pascal’s newest cuvée, called “Reserve 2012,” (and the one he used to demonstrate dosage), has at last arrived in our warehouse. This is essentially the Brut Traditionnel cuvée, but left on the lees for an extra half-decade; the base cuvée comes from the 2012 vintage. Champagne, you’ll remember, undergoes two fermentations – a first in tanks (like any other wine), and then a second in bottle under bottlecap. After the second fermentation is complete, the winemaker may choose to disgorge (remove yeast and insert a cork) promptly, or hold for longer “on the lees.”

The extra time on the lees has transformed the wine into something extraordinary, far closer to his vintage champagne than the more humble Traditionnel. The wine shows an exquisite array of chalk, fruit, earth and toast. The mouth is subtle and long, with a delicious, vinous finish. Brunch Christmas morning, New Year’s Eve, or just a weeknight that calls for something special – we’re sure you’ll find a worthy excuse for this delicious wine.


Bardoux Champagne “Reserve 2012” NV
bottle price: $75

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