Sunday, July 18, 2010

Meet Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz

Jérome Bourgeois, winemaker

Anyone who reads this blog knows I like Champagne. Heck, let's be honest, I LOVE Champagne. I do like other bubblies (especially Cremants and Perlants, some Cavas and Proseccos too), but the French stuff is where it's at for me. Maybe it's genetic, who knows? So as someone who represents small, high-quality growers, it's killed me that I couldn't find a good Champagne at the right price point. Until now.

Harvesting grapes

I was turned on to Champagne Bourgeois-Diaz in, of all places, Montpellier, which is in the South, nowhere near the Champagne region. A friend in the business in France proferred a glass and said "Tais-toi et bois" ("Shut up and drink"). Lo and behold, here was a gorgeous bubbly, tart with bright acidity and minerality, with lovely, lively fruit aspects. What is this, I inquired, and he showed me the bottle. A few quick calls and emails, and poof, here we are.

Stainless steel fermenting tanks

This tiny family-owned estate farms their own 7 hectares (17.29 acres), scattered around the town of Crouttes-sur-Marne, south-west of Reims. The vineyards are planted on clay and chalk soils, and composed of 55% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay and have a south-west exposition. All the wines are made using a traditional basket press, with a minimal dosage (9g/l for the Brut), and while the basic cuvée is aged in stainless steel, the higher end bottlings see some light oak ageing.

Oak ageing some of the wines

Jérome Bourgeois, the young winemaker, believes in showcasing his terroirs, and this is evident in the final product, which is both reflective of the high quality fruit he gets and a platform for the land’s characteristics.

To achieve this purity of expression of the land's character, Jérome has gone biodynamic. What does this mean? No man-made chemicals are ever used, a careful ecological balance is maintained in the vineyard by allowing cover crops to grow between the rows (check out the wild-looking vineyard in the picture above), and the biodynamic calendar is scrupulously followed, among other things. Whether you believe in biodynamie or not, maintaining a healthy vineyard and not polluting the earth can't be half bad. And the end product reflects this: the wines are alive with an energy one doesn't find in the mass-market bubblies out there.

Filling the old-time basket press with Pinot Noir

Jérome currently makes four different cuvées:
-the Brut Distinguée (40% Pinot Meunier, 40% Chardonnay - of which 20% is vin de réserve - and 20% Pinot Noir);
-the Rosé Distinguée (an assemblage 40% Pinot Meunier, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, of which 18% is AOC Champagne still red wine);
-the Cuvée du Fils is a wine that sees some oak-ageing and is composed of 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay (half of which sees wood);
-Lastly, the 2004 Le Millesime is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, aged in oak barrels until Jérome feels it’s ready.

Look for this label soon!

Best of all, Jérome is not afraid to experiment: his next projects will be a Zero Brut (no dosage added) and a Rosé de Saignée (meaning extended skin contact to extract the necessary color and flavor profiles).

I will be showing these wines around to various distributors in the next few weeks, so hopefully one of them will see the light and pick him up. How cool would it be to serve these wines sometime this Fall? Wish me luck!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Happy Birthday America!

Ribs, New York City style

Well, it's summer in the city, so the wine business is slow and sleepy. What's a budding entrepreneur with a growing business to do? I suppose it means I should be travelling, but I'm trying to watch expenses and set up sales networks for the Fall. I am also cooking at home much more, and this July 4th was no exception.

Living in Manhattan means no outdoor space unless one is extremely lucky or rich or both. I am none of those. So I make do with what I can. This July 4th, I couldn't BBQ (the neighbors, building management and the FDNY complained last time when I tried doing something with an open flame inside my apartment...), so I resorted instead to slow-cooked Asian-spiced baby-back ribs (see pic above).

Ribs, sauteed bok choy and pea shoots with mushrooms, fluffy rice

Cooking the ribs slowly for 3 hours at 300 degrees and finishing them in the broiler results in meltingly tender meat. But what wine to serve with this rich meat and sauce combination? This being July 4th, I opted for American red wines, with one Frenchie just to celebrate my background. Zinfandel has worked in the past, and this year was no exception, a 2002 Turley Juvenile Zinfandel holding up to the strongly flavored marinade. A 2006 Bella Zinfandel was too sweet and oaky, and surprisingly a 2005 Domaine la Milliere Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes held its own.

Of course, once the reds were finished, we went straight to the bubbly. I mean, this is a celebration, right? Three bottles of NV Ganevat Cremant du Jura and one NV Champagne Pol Gardere ensured we were in a sprightly mood for the fireworks.

Watching the fireworks the civilized way

Watching fireworks in NYC means one of several things: crowding with your fellow sweaty, loud and obnoxious New Yorkers along the shores of the rivers to watch them live, getting invited to someone's place with a view, or staying at home in the air conditioning and turning on the TV. With temperatures in the mid-90s and high humidity, we opted for the latter. I think we chose well.