Récolte Noire – Blanc De Noirs N.V., Dosnon & Lepage

26 Apr

I’m at the 2012 Champagne Bureau Tasting, and after a well staged and prolonged campaign I am in the throws of palate fatigue. It would takes something special to rally the troops now, and moving to the Dosnon & Lepage stand, this is exactly what I find.

On this vinous voyage so far, I have scaled the heights of La Montagne de Reims and spanned the breadth of La Vallée de la Marne, but with Dosnon and Lepage’s Récolte Noire, I now find myself in the uncharted district of the Aube, and more specifically La Côtes des Bar.

Sixty miles from Epernay and boasting no Premier or Grand Crus, the Aube is very much the black sheep of champagne that has strayed from the flock, and this is mirrored in the ethos of Dosnon & Lepage; a small boutique house very much penning their own script, and to understand the Récolte Noire, it is a story we must hear.

This far south we are on our way to Burgundy, and the soils are shifting from belemnitic limestone to kimmeridgian clay, the wines responding with greater structure, weight and minerality in abundance. But it’s not just terroir, there is craftsmanship afoot here too.

In the vineyard, Grand and Premier Cru short pruning techniques, hand harvesting and purposeful devigoring keep yields in check and optimise fruit, whilst in the cellar the onus is on sculpting a stunning base wine before the second ferment and lees ageing kicks in. A solid fruit and mineral foundation is layed upon which the yeasty decor can then be added. Fermentation in five-year-old ex Puligny Montrachet barrels adds complexity, and intervention is kept to the minimum; unfined and unfiltered the wine is given the chance to show its inner self.

And this it does seamlessly in the glass. Not for the faint of heart, it is a powerful, structured wine, yet it’s no brute, showing finesse and complexity as it pirouettes over the palate. On the nose, toasty brioche meets mineraltiy and purity of fruit with neither seeming to mask the other as they all sing in unison. There is ripeness too in the fruit, which shifts effortlessly from subtle hints of strawberry through to peaches and apricots via a red apple or two, gilded with hints of sweet spice. On the palate, clean, zesty citrus at the tip of the tongue gives way to expansive yeasty goodness which fills the mouth, guided by unobtrusive waves of creamy mousse that gently stroke the taste buds as if coaxing them to glean more. The acid is high, but the beautifully poised dosage is its perfect foil, backed by the abundance of fruit and leesy complexity.

The structure and weight of this 100% Pinot Noir makes me start to ponder food matching, and hitting the Dosnon & Lepage website I see a suitable recommendation has already been made – Braised Castillion Lamb, anchovy crumble and pot au feu vegetables. I trust my palate, but am not so confident in my culinary skills – I think I’ll be drinking this as an aperitif in future, but hopefully often.

– John Shearlock

Computer animator by day, wine amateur by night, John is currently studying on the WSET level 4 Diploma, and tasting, drinking and writing about wine whenever possible. Visit his musings at the drinking well which will be holding more tasting events in the near future.

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