Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Franck Pascal Biodynamic Champagne Dinner at Daniel Boulud's DBGB Kitchen and Bar in Washington DC, USA/ France
Overall, there is a move to "green winemaking", i.e. winemaking with an ecological mindset, around the world. There are different concepts of green winemaking, ranging from organic to biodynamic and sustainable winemaking. I provided a primer of green winemaking concepts here: Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, Natural Wines … A Primer for “Green” Wines
Frank Pascal is a pioneer of green winemaking in the Champagne. He moved from traditional to organic winemaking and is now certified biodynamic. He came to Washington DC to present his sparklers during a winemaker dinner at Daniel Boulud's DBGB Kitchen and Bar. It was a most enjoyable evening, reflecting the extraordinary wines of Frank Pascal, the world class food of DBGB Kitchen and Bar and the many interesting Champagne lovers at the dinner.
Biodynamic Champagne with Franck Pascal - In the Vallée de la Marne of western Champagne, winemaker Franck Pascal crafts intense, textured wines with unique depth and minerality. As a pioneed of biodynamic winemaking--a rarity in Champagne-- his commitment to natural, chemical-free practices has created wines that are incredibly pure and compelling.
Join us for an extraordinary four-course pairing dinner hosted by winemaker Frank Pascal. $95 per person plus tax and tip.
Biodynamic farming is similar to organic farming in that both take place without chemicals, but biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an ecosystem, and also accounting for things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. Biodynamic is an approach following the rules and ideas of Austrian philosopher-scientist Rudolph Steiner. In his 1924 lectures, he viewed the farm as a closed circuit. Thus, farm animals are an integral part of biodynamic winemaking; they should consume the cover crops left between vines and their waste should be then replaced between those vines to rebuild the soil. See: Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, Natural Wines … A Primer for “Green” Wines
Champagne Franck Pascal
You can find a number of very good write-ups on Franck Pascal in the internet. In what follows, I combine the write up of Frank and Isabelle Pascal for Raw Wine with the write ups of Jean-Paul Prunetti – Pierre Stock (France-soir wine selections), an earlier write-up of Tim Hall (2011) and a more recent write-up of wineterroirs (2016).
Franck and Isabelle Pascal (Raw Wine): Terroir, pleasure, energy, wellness is what we want to offer you with our bioenergetic & biodynamic gastronomic champagnes. Why? Because life is too short to drink something else :-)) We made the choice to produce high quality champagnes for people wanting to taste only good wines and live a beautiful life!
We created new ways to work in the vineyard, bringing new benefits for the environment. Furthermore, we created new vinification to get the best natural wines from our grapes. You'll feel the gastronomic pleasure resulting of this knowledge. But, what you're about to taste is just the beginning... we just opened a new door on a different way of understanding life.
Certified organic and biodynamic by Ecocert, Biodyvin.
Jean-Paul Prunetti – Pierre Stock (France-soir wine selections): Franck began his estate in 1994 when he left his job as an industrial engineer in Clermont-Ferrand and returned home Baslieux-sur-Chatillon. Within a few days he realized that he needed his own estate rather than work with his father, Claude Pascal. When Franck started his estate he was already convinced that that the viticulture had to be biodynamic because as a scientist while in the army performing his national service he studied the effects of chemical warfare on soldiers and he recognized that many of the compounds causing horrendous human suffering were related to the chemicals routinely applied to vineyards. He fully converted his vines to biodynamics in 2000 and is currently certified as such.
With the introduction of biodynamics he saw his soils rejuvenated with a greater diversity of microrganic life, healthier grapes with riper tannins, fruit with balanced sugars and acids and wines with a salty minerality that were less prone to oxidation. His vineyards are composed mainly of Pinot Meunier (73%) with Pinot Noir (20%) and Chardonnay (7%) playing a minor role in the vines and a slightly more important role in the cellar. The soils have a lot of sticky clay and after a trip to one of the vineyards where we were all mired in it we could all appreciate this description. There are occlusions of flint, limestone and conglomerates in the soil but the roots of the vines tend to be on the shallow side, especially if they're farmed conventionally so his farming practices have encouraged his vines to dig deeper into the calcareous sub-soil. Pascal makes his own biodynamic compost of 1/3 to 1/6 animal manure (horse and cow) with the remainder vegetable matter. He hope to convert entirely to vegetable matter in the coming years feeling that it boosts the mineral uptake in his vines.
Franck Pascal’s journey to becoming a maker of Champagne is a simple but interesting one. Having set off on a career path as a chemical engineer, a job that included training members of the military to deal with chemical warfare, he was shocked to discover that many similar chemicals were used in viticulture. He returned to Champagne in 1994 and set about converting the practices of his tiny four-hectare family estate to biodynamic principles. The decision came as a result of observing that the wines were best expressed through biodynamic methods, not simply following an ideology or as a reaction to what he already knew about industrial chemistry. Pascal’s superb wines are the product of an intelligent and deeply committed grower and further evidence of the Marne Valley’ ability to stand tall as a source of some of the most interesting grower Champagnes.
Tim Hall (2011): Franck Pascal is one of the domaine champagnes (our preferred term to ‘grower’ for those estates making wine only from their own grapes) poised between stardom and a niche for specialist enthusiasts mad about new wave champagne. Egly-Ouriet, Selosse, Larmandier-Bernier, Diebolt-Vallois and Vilmart sit on the domaine champagne summit of reputation. A host of others are trying to be there too and Franck Pascal is one of them. Maybe part of the relative silence about this producer is the tiny 3.5 ha estate in the relatively obscure Marne Valley village of Basilieux-sur-Châtillon, nestling just up from the north bank of the river and a little too far west from Epernay for the average champagne tourist to venture. In 2005, the French guide GaultMillau named Pascal ‘Revelation of the Year’ and in the same year he was named by L’Amateur de Bordeaux in the ’8 jeunes talents’ for Champagne, alongside Jérome Prévost, Fabrice Pouillon, David Léclapart, Bertrand Gautherot, Cycil Janisson, Olivier Colin and Bernoit Lahaye...
The parcelles of the small estate are spread over seven communes, so there are multiple exposures and variations within a generally clayey soil, a far cry from the chalk-dominated vineyards of the Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs. Pascal’s methods in the vineyard have been learnt by trial and error with a constant evaluation of the health of his own vineyards compared with those of neighbours. The green alleys and clear signs of cultivation rather than the normal brown compacted earth with weeds knocked down by chemicals make his parcelles stand out like islands in a sea of conventionasl viticulture. But as he presses on with these techniques the more convinced he is that his vines are more disease resistant and the grapes riper than normal. He has now completely adopted biodynamic sprays. His vineyards are 60% planted to Pinot Meunier with about equal proportions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The winemaking here has one surprise: very few barrels are used for fermentation or storage, something you would expect amongst progressive producers. Pascal is convinced that with such relatively rich clay soils wood influence makes the wines too heavy and earthy. The vast majority of fermentation is in tank. Only indiginous yeasts are used, and the wines stay in contact with the first fine lees for an extended period, often until bottling in August, very late indeed. There is no fining or filtration. SO2 levels are very low. It’s hard to find more natural winemaking in Champagne.
wineterroirs.com (2016): Speaking of varietal and adaptation, Franck says that in this area the Pinot Meunier is the dominant variety because it has its débourrage (budding) later than Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, as much as one week or 10 days later, which can save the buds when frost threatens precisely at the time they're coming out, which is frequent in this area. Franck saw this happened in 2003 [also known as the heat-wave year], the other varietals suffered heavy frost damage while the Pinot Meunier went through pretty well...
Franck explains how the transition from organic to biodynamie took place, they kept using the sulfur and copper sprays, adding plant decoctions as well as biodynamic preparations. He compares the move with a man who would in a first stage eat organic food and eschew industrial ones, the second stage aiming at another level, the one focusing as well on the energy fields of the body, which the basic organic sphere doesn't deal with. On the human body level there are other techniques and skills that deal with the energy sphere, like acupunture or radiestesia, and that's something he's bringing onto his vineyard and soils too. Biodynamic preparations like Maria Thun preparations send a signal to the living organisms that are the vine and the soil and this signal give the plant the force to act in the right direction...
The sales : They export around 80 % of their production, to Italy, the U.K. (Dynamic Vines - and they take part to Raw for the 3rd year), Sweden, Austria (Gut Oggau's Eduard Tscheppe and Stephanie Tscheppe who also import wines for their restaurant), Germany, Japan (Vin X - a new importer selling to restaurants), South Korea, the United States (Weygandt wines), Australia (France-Soir Wine Selections)
Asked about their sales in France (20 % of the total), Franck says they decided to try to increase this share because as France is known for its gastronomy he'd prefer that some wine still finds itw way to the restaurants. They sell mostly to high-end restaurants and a few selected cavistes (Caves du Panthéon, La Dernière Goutte, Lavinia, Julhès). They'll also soon develop a webpage to sell directly the cuvées to the public.
Daniel Boulud is a French chef and restaurateur with restaurants in New York City, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, Palm Beach, Miami, Montreal, Toronto, London, Singapore, and Boston. He is best known for Daniel, his eponymous, Michelin 2-star restaurant in New York City.
While raised on a farm outside of Lyon and trained by renowned French chefs, Boulud made his reputation in New York, first as a chef and most recently a restaurateur. His restaurants include Daniel, DB Brasserie, Café Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud, DBGB Kitchen & Bar, and Boulud Sud in New York City.
Andrew Wooldridge, Head Sommelier
Raised in Colorado and educated in Texas, Andrew Wooldridge initially studied entrepreneurship and international business before pursuing a culinary education at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. Upon his return to the United States, he began working as a chef at a winery.
For a time, Andrew Wooldridge shifted to the world of advertising and even earned a Masters in Humanities from the University of Chicago. Throughout that time, his exposure to wine was simmering under the surface, so he headed west to pursue wine classes at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus. By the time he moved to D.C. in 2014, he had keenly honed his taste buds. Before joining DBGB DC as Head Sommelier, Andrew Wooldridge opened the buzzy French bistro Chez Billy Sud in Georgetown and worked at The Inn at Little Washington.
Dinner at Chef Daniel Boulud's DBGB DC with the Wines of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles and Château de Beaucastel in the Rhone Valley, USA/ France
NV Franck Pascal Fluence Brut Nature (US$52)
callmewine: Fluence is a pas dosé champagne d'assemblage with an hight percentage of Pinot Meunier, aged on the lees for at least 24 months: lively, well-balacned, with a vibrant freshness and an elegant dinamism. Color: Straw yellow, with fine perlage. Aroma: Fresh and mineral, with rich scents of yellow fruits and croissant. Taste: Smooth and balanced, characterized by vibrant freshness and elegant dynamism
Sorrento Lemon Marinated Hamachi
sea urchin, almond bavaroise, asian pear and chayote vinaigrette
NV Franck Pascal Reliance Brut Nature (US$60)
wineterroir: This is a simple cuvée for friends, Isabelle says, it's made just with [organic of course] grapes fermented on its indigenous yeast, no dosage or liqueur d'expédition (sugar) at disgorgement. Here you get all what Champagne can offer by itself, expressing its minerality and its terroir, she adds. It's mostly 2011 with a bit of 2010, 70 % Pinot Meunier, 5 % Chardonnay and the rest Pinot Noir. Remained 3,5 years in cellar after bottling.
Butter Poached Maine Lobster
crispy claw, crushed peas, riso venere, sauce nantua
2005 Franck Pascal Quintessence Extra Brut (US$90)
Jean-Paul Prunetti – Pierre Stock (France-soir wine selections): 65% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier, 10% Chardonnay. The 2005 Franck Pascal Quintessence Brut shows plenty of flesh and fruit in a very grounded, earthy and savoury style. There’s grilled nuts and nougat, strawberryand cherry, deep spices and a hint of cedar. The palate has a core of rich and ripe fruits, and red berries. It is juicy, lithe, smooth, airy, and very supple with a sorbet-like texture. The finish is fresh and upbeat.
Roasted Guinea Hen
porcini, early spring root vegetables, foie gras, perigod truffle jus
2014 Frank Pascal Coteaux-champenois Rouge (US$50)
Coteaux Champenois covers the same area as sparkling Champagne production, but covers only still wines. The grapes are the same as those allowed for sparkling Champagne: Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for red wines, and Chardonnay for whites. Like sparkling Champagne, most wines are NV. Production is small, especially in vintages where yields are low, given the high demand for Champagne and the higher profit of producing sparkling wine.
Kunick goat, redcurrant, walnut bread, peacans
NV Frank Pascal Tolérance Rosé Brut (US$72)
wineterroirist: Franck Pascal Tolérance Rosé is mostly Pinot Meunier (74 %), 16 % Pinot Noir & 10 % Chardonnay. No barrels here or 5 to 10 % maximum. Nose : flowery aromas, peony, fruit too. Nice length. My stomach makes a noise, that's usually an excellent sign, like if it could say by itself : this thing speaks to me, it's real ! Isabelle says this rosé got 4 grams of sugar added at the disgorgement, which is minimal compared to the norm (which is 12 to 15 grams), it's just to bring an imperceptible sugar feel on the tongue. The wine is a bit more sparkling than the first one we tasted but overall still very discreet.
Thanks Frank and Isabelle Pascal for a most entertaining and educating evening.
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