NV Jean Vesselle, Oeil de Perdrix, $65
The name, Oeil de Perdrix, or “eye of the partridge,” refers to the slight pinkish color of this wine, which is said to resemble the color of a partridge’s eye.
The term dates back to the 19th century when most Champagnes produced from Pinot Noir retained a bit of amber color. The style was mostly abandoned though, as the large Champagne houses felt their wines should be white or rosé, not something in between, even though removing the color also took away some of the aromatics and flavor. In recent years, a number of Champagne producers have reintroduced Oeil de Perdrix wines, including Jean Vesselle. The Vesselle estate is based in the Grand Cru village of Bouzy in the Montagne de Reims and dates back over 300 years, passed down from father to son and now to daughter, Delphine, the current winemaker. As for their version of this wine, it seems that in the 1970s, Jean Vesselle found some old bottles from his grandfather’s time that were made in the Oeil de Perdrix style. He found the color charming but, more importantly, the aromas and flavors astounding. So they reintroduced the once abandoned style and continue to produce a version today. This one, 100% Pinot Noir of course, sees a minimum of two to three years aging before release and expresses the combination of power, elegance, and finesse that the Vesselle house aims for in all of their Champagnes. It gets about six grams dosage and is elegant and aromatic, with notes of flowers, brioche, and a touch of herbs and pepper. It is rich and medium bodied, balanced by fresh notes of citrus and stone fruit. The lingering flavors continue to evolve as it opens up. It would pair with a wide variety of foods, but it is also delightful on its own.