In the late 1990’s, ex-sommelier and visionary Cédric Bouchard took over his father’s vines in an outlying village of Champagne called Celles-sur-Ource, in the Côtes des Bar.
Each wine comes from very tiny parcels around Celles-Sur-Ource, including a very rare parcel of old pinot blanc vines called La Bolorée. From this very uncommon chalky soil he makes an outstanding Cuvée released in less than 1000 bottles a year. La Presle was released in 2014, an extremely rare Champagne. An experiment including 10 different Pinot Noir rootstocks in a small parcel of 10 rows of vines (1 row = 1 rootstock). The smallest plot being the Creux d’Enfer Rosé with only 4 little rows of vines making only 500 bottles a year.
Bouchard farms organically, using no herbicides or pesticides, which dramatically restricts yields (among the lowest in Champagne), and places extra emphasis on picking at the optimum moment. This is the same approach used by many quality-minded growers today.
He aims to harvest around 11.5-12% natural potential alcohol, gaining another half-degree in the prise de mousse, which allows him to avoid chaptalization entirely. For the sake of comparison, 11-12% is in the upper range for Champagne. Most larger houses will pick at lower levels of ripeness and then chaptalize, a decision that is partly taken to avoid the risk of bad weather later in the growing season.
Bouchard doesn’t use any wood for his champagnes, preferring to ferment all of his wines in stainless or enameled steel since as a purist he thinks that the wood would ultimately add something that was not supposed to be there. The wines are made from hand-harvested fruit, crushed by foot and only the finest juice is retained (the rest of the less qualitative production being sold to the negoce).
Both primary and secondary fermentations are native, with indigenous yeasts. The wines see full malolactic fermentation. Coaxing the essence of each site through the lens of the vintage is what these Champagnes are all about. In fact, the concept of Champagne here is more akin to wine. Bouchard bottles with lower pressure than is typical, which results in a very gentle mousse, what he calls a “slow, fine bubble that really lets you taste the wine.” All of the wines are neither fined nor filtered and disgorged with no dosage.
Taken in its entirety, this approach, driven by Bouchard’s extraordinary vision and outsize passion, yields Champagnes of exquisite, and at times profoundly moving beauty. With his very personal and unprecedented aesthetic Bouchard has created a unique line of Champagne and given a real dimension to the term terroir in Champagne.