Les Rachais Extra Brut
100% Chardonnay. Francis has made this vintage-dated, zero-dosage Blanc de Blancs since 2002 (first under the family Raymond Boulard label, now under his own), from a single 1-hectare parcel of older Chardonnay vines. It is the pinnacle of the Boulard range. The vines are 100% massale selection, average 42 years old and are planted in two meters of sand over a hard limestone mother rock; it was the first plot to be certified biodynamic. This parcel is in the Boulard family's traditional home area of the Massif de Saint-Thierry, northwest of Reims, and is actually legally called L'Heurtebise. Because this surname is not unique in Champagne, for what Francis has always felt to be the most special of the Boulard vineyards, Francis decided to call the wine "Rachet", which is a pruning term; however, the government did not allow it because of the existence of a same-named lieu-dit in the southerly Aube region of Champagne. Francis's compromise was to change it to the phonetically identical "Rachais".
As with Boulard's other wines, the fruit is hand-picked and gently pressed; only the first-press juice (la cuvée) is fermented spontaneously in oak, in this case only small, old Burgundy and Champagne barrels. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and remains on its lees with regular stirring (bâtonnage) but only on fruit and flower days per the lunar calendar. From here, the Rachais gets treated differently from the other Boulard wines. It is held in barrel on its lees until the following vintage; it is then bottled with freshly harvested, natural-yeast-rich must, rather than the traditional liqueur de tirage, with no filtration of any kind and with minimal sulfur. Rachais also spends the longest time in bottle: the 2011 was hand-disgorged in 2017.
Rachais production is necessarily small: when Francis split from the Raymond Boulard domaine, he lost a third of the Rachais vineyard to his brother and sister and only holds 70 ares (100 ares in a hectare), from which he continues to bottle this, the most powerful, complex and richly saline of the Boulard wines.