Like all of Paul Bara’s releases, Pinot Noir is the back-bone of their Special Club. Production is strictly old-school, with only free run and first press juice used, fermentation in small cement tanks, and aging and riddling in cold, extremely deep cellars for several years. Nothing is released until ready.
Each year, the Special Club represents the pinnacle of the Bara process and style. Superlatives seem to be insufficient when describing the experience of savoring a glass of this Champagne. It simply has it all—refined hazel-nutty, toasty notes, bright acidity, some of the most delicate bubbles ever created, and a finish that lasts and lasts (sometimes longer than the bottle does).
The Montagne de Reims boasts some of the best Pinot Noir in the region—Bouzy is the capital. The key to its inherent greatness lies in its deep, chalky subsoil which imparts intense expression of fruit and great mineral complexity in its grand cru wines. The village of Bouzy and Champagne Paul Bara are practically synonymous. As the published village historian, Paul is indelibly linked to the lore of his hometown. Many call him their most renowned producer, one of the rare récoltants-manipulants in a region inundated with mass-produced wine. These R.M.s, as they are known, are of the few who still grow their own grapes and make their own wines. Champagne Paul Bara is the quintessential example, everything done with personal touch.
True Champagne must not only sparkle, but also must come from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and be made using méthode champenoise—a process that involves prolonged aging of the wine as well as a bottle fermentation used to add the sparkle to the finished product. Though wine has been made in this region since at least the 5th century, Champagne as we now know is a relatively new creation. It wasn’t until the 19th century that sparkling wine production took hold on a large scale in much part due to improvements in the strength of glass for bottles and the embrace of French nobility of the sparkling wines of the region.
Only three grape varieties may be used to make Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The chalk-heavy soils not only provide complexity and texture to the finished wine, but also act as a natural humidifier thus keeping the vine’s roots warm during colder months of the year. There are grand cru and premier cru designated vineyard areas but unlike Burgundy, there are few lieu-dit vineyards (though in recent years there has been a greater interest in producing vineyard specific Champagnes).
Kermit’s first foray into the region came in 1981 when he began importing the wines of J. Lassalle and Paul Bara—two producers whose wines we still import. In the mid 2000s, Kermit began importing the wines of Veuve Fourny et Fils.
Of Champagne, Kermit says, “You might be surprised to learn that I don’t like a goût de terroir to dominate the taste of Champagnes. If it dominates, you lose finesse. I want some, obviously—but only enough to keep things interesting.”
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
Inspiring Thirst, page 171
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