Jean Vesselle, Coteaux Champenois Grand Cru "Bouzy Rouge"
Jean Vesselle, Coteaux Champenois Grand Cru "Bouzy Rouge"

Jean Vesselle, Coteaux Champenois Grand Cru "Bouzy Rouge"

Champagne, France 2012 (750mL)
Regular price$58.00

Jean Vesselle, Coteaux Champenois Grand Cru "Bouzy Rouge"

The mere mention of “Bouzy Rouge” sends some wine lovers into a tizzy, but you’re not to be faulted if your reaction is instead to ask, “What’s Bouzy Rouge?” For those in the second camp, today’s benchmark expression from Jean Vesselle is the perfect explainer: It’s a “still” Pinot Noir grown in the Grand Cru village of Bouzy, the heart of Champagne’s Montagne de Reims subzone. Bouzy Rouge is one of very few red wines from Champagne, representing a minuscule fraction of production in a region justly famous for its Pinot Noir-driven sparklers—which makes today’s 2012 that much more special. It may go without saying, but there is no Pinot Noir experience like this, and not because of its novelty: Many vignerons in Burgundy would be thrilled to produce such an ethereal, long-lived expression. Vesselle is a Pinot Noir master in sparkling and still forms alike, so don’t hesitate—what little we have is likely to disappear in an instant.

Along with the neighboring commune of Ambonnay, Bouzy is considered the best terroir in Champagne for the Pinot Noir grape, as its vineyards are predominantly south-facing and thus uniquely capable of ripening the variety in Champagne’s cold, “marginal” climate. Anyone who loves great Champagne recognizes Bouzy as ground zero for the region’s most profound expressions of Pinot Noir, with a constellation of blue-chip producers that includes Pierre Paillard, Benoît Lahaye, and Paul Bara. The Vesselle surname is attached to several different properties within Bouzy, which can get confusing, but proprietors Delphine and David Vesselle have distinguished themselves by, among other things, reviving the saignée style of rosé, producing a distinctively dark sparkler that is about as close to ‘Burgundy with bubbles’ as one could hope to get. The family’s 15 hectares of vineyards are planted to 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay—a typical ratio in Bouzy—and Pinot Noir is the driving force in the family’s entire range of sparklers.

And then there’s the Bouzy Rouge, which, like all Bouzy Rouge, is bottled under the “Côteaux Champenois” designation. Like their fellow red wine enthusiasts in the village, Vesselle sets aside a minuscule portion of its harvest to make a wine which, to be honest, makes one wish they’d make more! (And in a warming climate, they just might). Now with a decade of age, the wine is still taut and lively but also profoundly flavorful and quite long—one of those lighter reds that nevertheless makes a big impact.

The Pinot Noir for this wine was sourced from vines ranging in age from 15-30 years. It was fermented and aged on its lees in stainless steel. In the glass, it’s a light ruby with hints of magenta, pink, and a hint of brick, with perfumed aromas of red cherries, wild strawberries and raspberries, purple flowers, rose petals, baking spices, black pepper, and black tea. What was likely an austere wine on release has evolved into a medium-bodied, silken textured seductress with still more to reveal over the next five years or so. Decant it about 30-45 minutes before serving at 60 degrees (a little cooler, to point up the fruit) in Burgundy stems. Pair it with the same types of dishes you’d pair with some of the lighter styles of red Burgundy: roast chicken, pork, or maybe leaner cuts of beef or duck. Unless you’re an old hand at Bouzy Rouge, prepare yourself for a Pinot Noir experience like you’ve never had before. You’ll be on the hunt for another one before long. Cheers!

Jean Vesselle, Coteaux Champenois Grand Cru "Bouzy Rouge"

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