2011 Domaine Barmes-Buecher Cremant d'Alsace
 
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Domaine Barmes-Buecher 2005 Vinexpo Brut Zero

It's the most complex under-$20 sparkling wine in the world, a Champagne look-alike that many of France's Michelin-starred sommeliers claim trumps the real thing.

As a teenager, Francois Barmes was a daredevil, cornering his moped at 20mph on noisy midnight runs. When Barmes took control of his and his wife's family domains, his approach was much the same. Barmes quickly gained a reputation for working on the edge, experimenting relentlessly in the vines and the cellar. Arguably the most passionate torchbearer of the biodynamic farming movement in France, Barmes is known all over Europe for his homeopathic concoctions and treatments, and the astonishing health of his vines.

But of all of his winemaking gambles, none was more brazen than Francois Barmes's exquisite Cremant d'Alsace Brut Zero, a bottle whose origins can be traced back to Vinexpo 2005.

The signature brilliance of Champagne lies in its bracing limestone vibrancy. But, the vines of Bouzy and Cramant often struggle to bring Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to physiological maturity. As a result, prior to bottling, Champagne houses generally 'dose' bottles with a mix of base wine and cane sugar, adding sweetness to counterbalance the stinging acidity of the region. Nineteen out of twenty bottles of Champagne that make it to the US market are labeled "Brut" -- but measure 6-12 grams per liter of residual sugar.

In the summer of 2005, Francois was in attendance when president Herve Augustin unveiled the storied Ayala Brut Zero Champagne at Vinexpo. Augustin contended that truly superb Champagne, made from ripe Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, could do without the sugary addition. Many considered Herve's experiment little more than a marketing gimmick. But Francois Barmes was enthralled.

Years later, Barmes would tell us that when he returned to Wettolsheim after the wine fair in Bordeaux, he could no longer drink his own Cremant. "I never chaptalize (add sugar) to my still wines. Why, then was I adding it to the Methode Champenoise?" He asked. "My Cremant was just too fat. I needed to rein it in." It wouldn't be long before Francois Barmes's sparkling wine was taking a page out the Ayala Brut Zero script.

The 2011 Barmes-Buecher Methode Champenoise is one of the estate's most stunning to date. Pale golden-green in color, the size of the bubbles speaks of Cramant or Bouzy. Refined and beautifully restrained on the nose, infused with green apple, pear and anise. Rich and juicy on the attack -- absent any suggestion of the sugary additive -- a wound-up mix of apricot, citrus and apple compote. The finish is crisp, zesty and limestone pure.



Tasting Notes

2011 Domaine Barmes-Buecher Cremant d'Alsace
"Pale golden-green in color, the size of the bubbles speaks of Cramant or Bouzy. Refined and beautifully restrained on the nose, infused with green apple, pear and anise. Rich and juicy on the attack -- absent any suggestion of the sugary additive -- a wound-up mix of apricot, citrus and apple compote. The finish is limestone crisp and pure with great persistence and tension."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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