Bouzy: 18 winemakers who are seeing red

Sep 17, 2020 • 2 mins

Sipping a glass of red Bouzy is like diving into the history and origins of Champagne. Today, a few die-hards are maintaining and rediscovering this wine and its changing colours from pastel red through dark purple to deep brown.

Have no fear, sparkling champagne has not fallen out of favour! But drinking a red Bouzy from the slopes of Champagne is a singular experience. Champagne, or “saute bouchon” as it is called in the region, may date back to 1685 and the appearance of the cork, but red Bouzy is the worthy descendent of a wine from the coronations of the Kings of France. It sparkled shades of light red on the tables of Henry IV and Louis XIV who, apparently, went mad about it.

Bouzy is one of the Grand Cru villages in the hills of Champagne. Of its 380 hectares only 10% are dedicated to this rare and delicious still wine made from Pinot Noir grapes. Before its appellation was decreed in 1974, its generous yield produced a light, cheeky wine that quenched the thirsts of merrymaking Parisians with its liveliness and freshness. It is said that at the time, it rained Bouzy with some 400,000 bottles produced a year, ten times more than today.

In the 1980s under the influence of Georges Vesselles, the kingpin of the appellation, the wines turned an important corner towards quality: the choice of quality vines, root-stock selection, reduced yields, riper grapes... Higher demands which were supported by the Bouzy Wine Academy created in 1992 under the impetus of Paul Bara, Jean Paul Brice and Henri Beaufort. Today, of the forty winemakers, there are around twenty in the academy, recognisable with their bottles emblazoned with a cockerel on top of a sword.

The palette of styles is very broad but there are two main schools of thought. Maurice and Jean Vesselle, for example, represent the old school with pale coloured juices toying with freshness and digestibility. David, the son-in-law of the Domaine Jean Vesselle, likes “the traditional style with cherry pit and fruitiness and the acidity which is the wine’s backbone.” The Academy’s president, Georges Remy, creates softer wines, full of velvety flexibility. A focus on the fleshiness of the fruit with darker tones and shades.

A third, minority line is slowly emerging: dynamic wines marked with a hint of salinity, a style skilfully defended by Benoît Lahaye, who is pushing the boundaries a little further by creating wines without sulphur from a biodynamic vineyard worked by horses. What should you drink it with? Coq au vin, of course, or plain grilled poultry, veal or pork or sea bass à la Provençale.