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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Domaine Jacques Selosse V.O. “Version Originale” Extra Brut

France (Champagne)


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Today marks the 100th Brilliant Bottle! A milestone indeed, and one needing an exceptionally blog-worthy wine. Champagne, by all means.

When I discovered champagne from the hand of Anselme Selosse last spring on the shelves of Aux Saveurs de la Tonnelle, a favourite wine shop in Saumur, I knew I couldn’t return from France without a bottle. Rare is the stock of Selosse wines in North America, and considerable time would likely pass before I would be within arm’s length of any more.

This from wine writer Andrew Jefford: “It is hard to think of a single individual in Champagne today whose work… is more influential than Anselme Selosse. … a profound and original thinker whose vocation happens to be that of vigneron.”

Selosse’s work in that most glittering and ingrained of wine regions has more than once been referred to as revolutionary and uncompromisingly brilliant. He has changed the course of Champagne winemaking, and, in the view of many wine critics, decidedly for the better. Although, as in any revolution, there are those far from willing to embrace the new ideas. Why would they? Their long-standing approach — blending wines from a multitude of growers in various areas where the ultimate aim is uniformity of style — has paid off very handsomely.

Enter Anselme Selosse in the 1980s with the idea of artisanal, ‘grower’ champagne, using grapes owned by a single winery and year by year reflecting the ‘terroir’ of its vineyards. Low yields of perfectly ripe fruit. Fermentation in small oak barrels rather than stainless steel. The use of indigenous yeast only and minimal use of sulphur. Extended period on the lees. Riddling (the process of consolidating the sediment in the bottle prior to its removal) by hand. And in overall approach, biodynamic.

It is winemaking seen as very much akin to that of white Burgundy. Selosse, in fact, studied at the Lycée Viticole de Beaune before taking over the estate from his father, Jacques, in 1980. The estate remains relatively small (15 hectares only), but is blessed with several very fine grand cru holdings in the Côte des Blancs.

His prices, given the work that goes into the wines and the intense demand for them, remain consistently fair, an indication of Selosse’s integrity in all aspects of winemaking. He calculates the prices based on his costs, prices that he terms “healthy” and “true.” Rather like his work in the vineyards.

Selosse seems to have consistently stood Champagne viticulture on its head, with the notion that the health of the vineyard soils, and in turn the root system, is paramount.

Whoa. The sky is falling.

In the spirit of making this 100th bottle a true “version originale” of the blog, I am holding off on the tasting notes. That’s because I need my family (the ones who encouraged me to take up my wine glass and write) to join me in order to make this a true celebration!

The wine will be unboxed, the cork will be popped in a few days… as a prelude to some fine food. So stay tuned, and watch for an update with the tasting notes. In the meantime, an expectant ‘Santé! À la votre!’

Domaine Jacques Selosse V.O. “Version Originale” Extra Brut

The day has arrived. And whoa again — an incredible champagne. Words are hardly sufficient to describe it. Some that flow around the table regarding the nose: yeast, chocolate, overripe pear, marmite! Regarding the palate: so much more full of body than most champagnes, so much more sense of place, yes terroir, with a citrus, indeed white Burgundy feel, slight salty aftertaste, a full mouth experience. First and foremost, a wine, with life and history and a story to tell. Wonderful.  $$$


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