A successful zero-dosage champagne relies on a number of factors, including the liberal use of reserve wines and the right picking dates to ‘domesticate’ its strong natural acidity, according to Maison Bruno Paillard.
The champagne house has just launched its first zero-dosage champagne in more than three decades, with Dosage : Zéro (D:Z) the result of lessons learnet in the early years of the house.
D:Z includes 50% reserve wines – some dating back as far as 1985 – and roughly 50% Pinot Meunier in the blend, with the remainder equally split between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Alice Paillard said her father Bruno had originally launched a zero dosage cuvée in 1985, taking a premier cru base and ageing it for longer.
‘He thought that would bring sufficient elements to domesticate the acidity of the wine,’ she explained. ‘It was not the case … the harmony was missing, so he discontinued it immediately, but the idea was always there. The lesson he took from that was that I’m not rich enough in reserve wines to do a dosage zéro now.’
Some of the reserve wines underwent their first fermentation in barrel, some were kept in barrel and tank, some were aged for more than 10 years in bottle, sur lie, to maximise autolysis.
‘They civilise the wine’s natural, vibrant acidity and have a real softening effect, bringing enormous depth and breadth, and great potential for ageing,’ Alice said.
Other important factors include more mature grapes – the result, many believe, of climate change – and the fact that the house now owns 70% of its vineyard base, giving it greater control over picking dates. The high proportion of Pinot Meunier, with its naturally lower acidity, also helps, sourced from the north and west slopes of the Montagne de Reims and the Marne Valley close to Epernay, where chalk soils dominate.
‘We want to show that the origin of the grapes is at least as important as the grape itself,’ Alice said.
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