Franck Pascal, "Quinte Essence" Extra Brut Champagne 2005

Pinot Meunier-Chardonnay|Champagne, France

A wonderfully rare, super-natural “bioenergetic” Champagne from one of the most talented boutique grower-producers in Champagne today, Franck Pascal. Along with his wife and partner Isabelle, they’re based in the village of Baslieux-Sous-Châtillon, part of the Vallée de la Marne, one of the most prestigious subregions of Champagne.

A blend of 66% Pinot Meunier and 33% Chardonnay, this “Quinte Essence” is one of their top-end cuvées, aged a mind-boggling eleven years on its lees, with its November 16 disgorgement date listed on the back label. That’s nearly four times the required minimum for vintage Champagne. Discover profoundly rich, nutty notes of marzipan, mineral oil, toasted croissant, yellow apples, lemon rind, and a bouquet of fresh and dried flowers. And being an Extra Brut, there’s virtually zero sugar added to the dosage, resulting in a bracing, refreshing encore to the deep, developed flavors. This is a Champagne with lots of "vinous" character, which is to say it drinks like a complex fine Burgundy as much as a Champagne. It's a completely idiosyncratic, profound experience that's not to be missed.

Franck came to biodynamics after witnessing biological warfare during a stint in the French army. He says, “I saw the effects that chemicals could have on the human body, and when I looked at our vines, I thought, ‘Why are we putting so many chemicals in our vineyards?’” He began converting to biodynamics in 1996 and, today, his estate is Ecocert-certifed organic and biodynamic.

It’s downright heroic to farm organically at such northerly latitudes in Champagne, where it’s quite often cold, overcast, and damp; conventional farming with its fungicides and chemical treatments is much less labor-intensive, despite the negative environmental consequences. But there’s more with Pascal: no artificial chemicals are used, not even sulphur, and they subscribe to the concept of homeopathic “bioenergy” in the vineyard, taking biodynamics many steps further. They employ a multitude of disciplines in this approach, ranging from feng-shui, sound treatment, geobiology, bio-energetic oenology, and reflexology. There is zero doubt that they’re one of the most profound, forward-thinking natural growers anywhere. That they also happen to make mind-blowing Champagne is proof-positive of their painstaking work.

This is a reflection of terroir at its most raw, as much a work of art as a tremendous bottle of Champagne. 

I’m not one for (too much) hyperbole in wine, but if you choose one bottle to ring in the new year this December, let it be this. And if you’re the lucky recipient of more than one, lay it down for another 2-3 years and the wine will continue its savory, umami march, becoming even more complex and layered with time.

We pried but a few limited bottles of this rare creation from the importer’s hands. I wouldn’t sleep on this if I were you!

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