On our third trip to Champagne we unearthed Champagne Bouche Pere et Fils. Champagne Bouche is based in Pierry, a Premier Cru Village located in the Vallée de la Marne which is also one of 9 villages they source grapes from. All told 75% of the fruit used by Nicholas Bouché is of Premier or Grand Cru status, which allows them to produce wines of exquisite quality and fruit definition. These Bouché cuvees then spend between 4 and 10 years on lees, (Moet is 18-24 months, Dom Perignon generally 8 years).
Unusually Matt didn’t have a price list already in hand before meeting with winemaker Nicolas Bouché. So uninformed as to the pricing, Matt settled into tasting these exquisite wines and listening to the story of Bouché Champagne: four generations making Champagne, wines which are generally aged for 4 to 10 years on lees, produced from vines which are up to 60 years of age and are 75% Grand and Premier Cru. Matt groaned, thinking these will retail between $100 and I dunno what? a bottle… there was no way we were ready yet to import a house without at least a couple of products retailing for substantially less than $100 a bottle. The upshot is we don’t really know how they do it but these Champagnes are much more affordable than Matt anticipated and we are delighted to be their Australian Importer.
Time on lees – what does it mean and is longer better? The process of transforming Champagne from a still wine to sparkling occurs via the addition of yeast and sugar (sometimes blended with reserve wines) to the Champagne. After this is done the bottle is sealed and the yeast converts the sugar into a small amount of alcohol and the all important Carbon Dioxide which gives the Champagne its bubbles or mousse. Once all of the sugar has been consumed, the yeast dies. This dead yeast is then left in the bottle for a minimum 12 months before being removed from the bottle before sale. Over time the yeast decomposes in the bottle (autolysis) and sugars and mannoproteins are imparted into the wine which becomes more complex and interesting as a result; aromas and flavours develop such as – yeasty notes, brioche, florals, nuttiness, a creamier mouthfeel and much finer bead. The impact of autolysis is much more profound after the wine has been on lees for 18 months. The more time on lees, the greater the development of flavour and complexity.
That said, there’s no point taking average wine and leaving it on lees for a long time, that would be as pointless as polishing a… only properly intense and flavoursome still wine is worth salting away on lees… and this is what we love about Champagne Bouché; exceptional fruit given extended time on lees in bottle before release…