“A different interpretation of Zero Dosage” is the marketing line for Maison Bruno Paillard’s new Dosage Zéro (or D:Z) première cuvée Champagne.
D:Z is a multi-vintage blend, meaning a proportion (half, in this case) of its content is made up of wines that have been held in reserve over the years, including vintages dating back to 1985. In all, there are over 30 reserve wines in its secret blend, where Meunier is the dominant grape, with equal proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir also in the mix. But what you might really be wondering here is…
What Is Dosage In Champagne?
For the uninitiated, the Champagne region’s northerly climate and shorter summers means the grapes don’t generally have as long to ripen as they do in warmer areas, resulting in lower sweetness. Therefore, a “dosage” is often added to sweeten up the wines and balance out the acidity. Sparkling wines are categorised by their sweetness: those labelled “doux” have the most sugar added, while demi-sec is medium dry and extra brut is very dry, with little additional sugar.
So… as you might have gathered, Dosage Zero is the brutest of the brute. Given cooler climates’ tendency to produce steely, “austere” wines (see also Chablis), refusing to sweeten them can be a brave move. So why do winemakers do it? Well, it’s a sign that they’re particularly confident in their premium product, and keen to show off their blend’s natural characteristics — naked, and unmasked by the veneer of sweetness.
Bruno Paillard’s website puts it nicely when it says: “The vineyards, grapes, composition and use of reserve wines and ageing were all critical in producing a Champagne which expresses the purity of the northern climate and chalk soils, whilst giving great complexity and balance. ”
A minimum of three years resting on the lees (dead yeast cells) has given the Dosage Zéro an intensely savoury, bready flavour, alongside the anticipated white fruits and citrus acidity. As you’d expect, it’s bone dry, but there’s also a lovely buttery, creamy side to it (presumably due to malolactic fermentation) which does a fine job of balancing out the steely sharpness.
I’d recommend pairing it with shellfish or a cheese board — it certainly went down well with the friends we shared it with. “You can come again,” was their verdict.
4.5 NINJA STARS
“D : Z” is available from Hedonism Wines, for £49.80, as well as selected fine-dining restaurants.