Champagnes I – major houses
The following includes previews of Champagnes that will not be released for one, two or even three years. Having tasted “unready” Champagnes for 25 years, I can recognise some of those that will definitely succeed, but the permutation of variables involved in the early development of a Champagne ensures an infinite number of possible unattractive phases through which it can transcend and yet emerge as a very attractive wine, thus I refuse to condemn any preview sample (hence NS for Not Scored). Once it is commercially released, it is fair game for the most negative criticism, but it took me many years to understand the beautiful potential of various ugly estery aromas, so I have learned to give all NS Champagnes the benefit of the doubt.
I have added notes on Champagnes tasted at a number of houses visited, and the Annual Champagne Tasting in London, plus the latest release of Dom Pérignon and Dom Pérignon Oenothèque.
Vielles Vignes Françaises 1996 Bollinger (€325)
The dense weight of extract saturating this wine one year ago is slowly transforming itself into fabulously rich, yeast-complexed fruit. This is one of the greatest Champagnes I’ve ever tasted. A young lady attending my Christie’s Masterclass was overheard telling her friends after the tasting that it was “like liquid E”!
See all 1996 Bollinger Vielles Vignes stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Vintage 1990 Krug (€150)
The best Krug I’ve ever tasted, and that includes the legendary 1928.
See all 1990 Krug stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Cristal Rosé 1996 Louis Roederer (€300)
Seductively soft mousse, beautiful fruit – summer fruits and white peach – stunning acidity and long, long finish. The best Cristal Rosé since the inaugural 1974 vintage. Disgorged August 2003.
See all 1996 Cristal Rosé stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Dom Pérignon 1996 Moët & Chandon (€95)
Exquisitely rich, sumptuous, yeast-complexed fruit, dusted with vanilla aromas. This will age for decades to come, but it already has such fabulous finesse that you should not deny yourself the experience of enjoying at least one bottle in this, its first youthful flush of beauty. A hedonist’s dream-feast!
See all 1996 Dom Perignon stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Vintage 1988 Krug (€150)
So complete, so satisfying, with a beautiful, soft, silky mousse, and amazing freshness on the finish.
See all 1988 Krug stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Pol Roger 1996 Brut Vintage (€44)
A stunning combination of sumptuousness and complexity.
See all 1996 Pol Roger stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Cristal 1996 Louis Roederer (€150)
Relatively forward for a 1996, with mellow biscuity aromas already building in the fruit, but that just makes it all the more wonderful now, rather than later. Disgorged November 2002.
See all 1996 Cristal stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Cristal 1997 Louis Roederer (€150)
Very rich and quite forward, with fine, toasty aromas beginning to build in the beguiling, yeast-complexed fruit. Lovely, seductively soft mousse, and the most amazing finesse for a 1997.
See all 1997 Cristal stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Grande Année 1996 Bollinger (€60)
Extremely rich, very classy, yeast-complexed, oaky fruit. Great length. Has a huge lifetime ahead.
See all 1996 Bollinger stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Cuvée William Deutz Rosé 1996 Deutz (€130)
Such delightful, fresh fruit. Elegance and finesse personified.
See all 1996 Deutz Rosé stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Dom Pérignon Oenotheque 1990 Moët & Chandon (€190)
This wine has at long last achieved the potential it showed the very first time I tasted it in 1997. As soon as it was launched, however, it took on green undertones, which took three years of post-disgorgement ageing to dissipate. As a recently disgorged new addition to the Oenothèque range it has acquired deeper, more complex notes on the bouquet, and less overt toastiness, with intense, very serious fruit on the palate, and a pleasingly soft mousse.
See all 1990 Oenotheque stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Brut 1996 Lanson (€27.50)
Like gargling with razor blades at the moment, this is the most definitive and the best-value 1996 on the market.
See all 1996 Lanson stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 1996 Lanson (€80)
Startling acidity. A rapier of a wine. For those only with great cellars and enough potential lifetime to see this great Champagne start to achieve its potential. Drink 5-25 years.
Brut 1976 Lanson (en magnum)
Deep-coloured, with complex aromas of molasses and dried fruits, followed by very rich, intensely concentrated Pinot fruit on the palate. Beautifully long and lingering (also reviewed at the end of this feature, as part of a vertical tasting on a different date).
Amour de Deutz 1997 Deutz (€95)
Very elegant, fresh, delightfully fruity Champagne of some finesse. Amour has a greater emphasis (60%) on Le Mesnil-sur-Orger than found in the standard Deutz Blanc de Blancs, but remains true to the house style with its smidgen of Montagne Chardonnay (5% Villers-Marmery).
See all 1997 Deutz stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1996 Taittinger (€80.00)
Deliciously fresh, succulent fruit. Great Chardonnay, but even greater Champagne. Not yet released.
See all 1996 Taittinger Comtes stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Cuvée William Deutz 1996 Deutz (€65)
Very fresh, light, fresh. So young! Should take at least another four or five years to go biscuity.
See all 1996 Deutz stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Blanc de Blancs 1996 Deutz (€40)
The malo aromas on both the nose and palate were not right. If there is one reason why blind tasting (my normal modus operandi) is not the be-all and end-all of critical assessment, it is in cases like this, when the taster knows a wine is not true to form. Some Champagnes are made in a distinctly malo style (rather than the malolactic contributing unobtrusively to its complexity), but this vintage of Deutz Blanc de Blancs has never been malo dominated. The second sample was completely different, with creamy-walnutty aromas, followed by creamy-biscuity fruit on the palate. A defining element in the Deutz blanc de blancs style is the minority contribution made by Chardonnay grown on the Montagne de Reims: Avize 50%, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger 40%, Villers-Marmery 10%.
See all 1996 Deutz BdB stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Cristal Rosé 1995 Louis Roederer (€300)
The most recent disgorgement of this vintage (April 2003) is still very tight, with high acids, and needs another two or three years, but it will be worth waiting for.
See all 1995 Cristal Rose stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Vintage Brut 1996 Louis Roederer (€55)
The UK shipment is excellent (90 points), but doesn’t seem as exciting as the cuvée in French distribution, which is massive, with show-off huge acids. I had imagined that this would be because Roederer would disgorge bottles for the French market much earlier, yet this was disgorged in September 2002.
See all 1996 Roederer stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Celebris 1995 Gosset (€70)
Classy, classic, complex Champagne. Currently I am enjoying the French market version (presumably a difference of disgorgement only), which is a wine to murder for!
See alll 1995 Celebris stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Millésime 1996 Alfred Gratien
A very silky mousse enhances the creaminess of the fruit. Great acidity. A truly wonderful wine.
See all 1996 Gratien stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Clos des Goisses 1991 Philipponnat
Lovely toasty-creamy-peachy fruit!
Clos des Goisses 2000 Philipponnat
Has a violety finesse. Possibly deserves higher than 90 points, but only time will tell. Not yet released.
Comtes de Champagne Rosé 1996 Taittinger (€120.00)
Delicious red-fruit richness. Only just starting to drink well.
See all 1996 Taittinger Comtes Rosé stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Blanc de Blancs 1970 De Castellane (magnum)
this brought back happy memories. It was exactly 10 years that I mentioned this wine briefly amongst others in the annual Champagne supplement I used to write for WINE Magazine. It was sweet and toasty then, but is not so toasty now, thanks to a more recent disgorgement, and the magnum effect. It really is quite remarkable for its age, and surprising to find it still available (I specifically requested mature vintages that are still commercially available, so don’t be shy in asking De Castellane for a price). At that vertical tasting a decade ago, the best De Castellane Blanc de Blancs was the 1961, but the 1966 had the most impressive structure. If they are also still available, it would make a great three-pack!
Clos du Moulin 1er Cru NV Cattier
A creamy-rich delight that will add biscuity finesse to its already complex and elegant fruit.
See all Cattier Moulin stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Blanc des Millénaires 1990 Charles Heidsieck (€64.50)
Not just toast, but burnt toast, with alternating layers of sweet Chardonnay fruit. Absolutely delicious for those who can like burnt toast!
Celebris Rosé 1998 Gosset (€75)
Rich, cranberry fruits. Needs another year to settle in, but has a big potential. Drink 1-7 years.
See all 1998 Celebris Rosé stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Brut millésimé 1990 Henriot (Jeroboam)
Put most of this producer’s mature vintage up against the same years of its peers, and the Henriot wines will show their age, but this is an exception. At a time when a number of 1990s are unexpectedly falling by the wayside, this has remained beautifully fresh, with lovely crisp acidity on finish, and not all of this success can be due to the large Jeroboam format. It has to be an exceptional Champagne in the first place.
See all 1990 Henriot stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Dizy 1er Cru Corne Bautray 2000 Jacquesson
Delightful, delicate, fruit. So fine and elegant. Amazing for the vintage. Not yet released.
Grand Vin Signature 1996 Jacquesson
Still very young, with full-throttle fruit and high acids in command.
Krug Grande Cuvée Krug (€110)
Rich, luxuriant oaky fruit with truly excellent acidity.
See all Krug Grande Cuvée stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Noble Cuvée 1996 Lanson A classy 1996
that will improve under ideal cellarage conditions, but is ready to drink now.
Grand Siècle Alexandra Brut Rosé 1997 Laurent Perrier (€160)
Aristocratic rosé, with nice fruit and a refreshingly crisp finish. This cuvée has the most elegance of all the Alexandra blends since the inaugural 1982 vintage.
Grand Millésime 1990 Brut Napoléon
A beautiful wine. This vintage is expressive of the quality and style that so attracted me to this small producer (the Prieur brothers) a quarter of a century ago. These Champagnes deserve to be better known.
Grand Millésime 1987 Brut Napoléon
Not a grand millésime for Champagne, but certainly for Napoleon. Beautifully fresh and vital.
Cuvée Louise 1995 Pommery
Elegant, citrus fruit. Wonderfully fresh. Amazing how such a light wine can be so slow to age.
Joyau de France Chardonnay Brut 1989 Boizel (€49)
Simply amazing combination of richness and freshness for the year, with true aged-complexity without being overly toasty. So long and satisfying. Rare to find such mature blanc de blancs, albeit in limited quantities. It’s a steal at the price.
Cuvée Louise 1989 Pommery
The UK shipped version is wonderfully coconutty (from post-disgorgement ageing, not American oak!), with supremely rich fruit. Really quite delicious, but for the dinner table only.
See all 1989 Pommery Louise stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Millésimé Grand Cru 1995 Pommery (€25)
At least as good as the excellent Louise Pommery 1995. Great elegance, finesse and class. Sweet ripe fruit, although a true Brut style.
See all 1995 Pommery stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Blanc de Blancs Millésime 1995 Salon
Unless you get a high from free sulphur, you should leave this vintage in the cellar for at least 8-10 years. See all 1995 Salon stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Cuvée Rare NV Piper-Heidsieck (€35)
I don’t think I am being unduly influenced by the name, but this cuvée does show rare finesse for a non-vintage Champagne. When Rare replaced Cuvée Florens-Louis as Piper’s deluxe cuvée, it was vintaged (1988 was the last year), but going non-vintage is a risky strategy for a deluxe cuvée. With a vintage, the consumer is at the very least willing to give the Champagne time to show its true potential, whereas a non-vintage cuvée has to hit the spot as soon as it is released, and when it is put on the pedestal of being a deluxe cuvée, the expectations are of the highest order. Hopefully Piper-Heidsieck can maintain the current level of excellence.
Mis en Cave 1998 Charles Heidsieck (€25)
Vintage quality at a non-vintage price, the Mis en Cave 1997 (i.e., 1996-based) and 1996 (1995-based) rate even higher, at 91 points.
See all 1998 Heidsieck stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Cuvée sous Bois Brut 1990 Boizel (€40)
I wondered why one sample of Cuvée Sous Bois was so different a couple of years ago that the wine I once describes as ‘Boizel meets Bollinger’, had oxidative/aldehydic character, and the fruit was beautifully fresh with finesse. Now I know. Evelyn and Christophe Roques-Boizel, two of the nicest, most genuine people I know in Champagne, served three versions of this cuvée blind at dinner last November, and the differences were startling. The notes and score above apply to the odd one out, which had a was pale in colour, whereas the other two were golden. It not only looked younger, but tasted fresher, with more focused fruit and greater finesse. The reason? It was sealed with a cork for the first fermentation and time on lees, whereas the other two were sealed with crown-caps. See all 1990 Boizel stockists on wine-searcher.com.
Vintage Blanc de Blancs 1998 Louis Roederer (€55)
Very fresh, and crisp, with an intensity of fruit that is a step above most 1998s, and promises to go creamy-lemony. Really quite special. Roughly 50/50 Mesnil/Avize, with a splash of Cramant, thus 100% grand cru, and 15% fermented in barriques.
Chardonnay Brut Blanc de Blancs NV Boizel
I sincerely doubt you will be able to get hold of this, but I just had to include the 1992-based blend of this cuvée, which was disgorged in June 2001, and is still extraordinarily fresh and impressive. Boizel has always had a reputation for longlived Chardonnay amongst the cognoscente. The last time I tasted the 1928 direct from its cellars I was blown away. However, that was 10 years ago, so it would have been only 64 years old …
Brut Rosé 1997 Deutz (€40)
Deliciously delicate fruit, so pure and elegant. A joy to drink.
Dom Ruinart Rosé 1990
Ruinart Vanilla-sweet red fruits.
Prélude Grands Crus Taittinger (€32.00)
A delight to drink now, with elegantly rich, ripe, sweet fruit, but promises to develop some serious complexity over the next 5 years or so.
Vintage Réserve 1996 Veuve Clicquot
I’ve enjoyed many a bottle of this vintage, all consistently refreshing and delicious. In blind tasting mode the malolactic aromas might stand out, but consumed in isolation for pleasure, they never intrude.
Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 1993 Ruinart
Very rich and toasty, with vanilla-toasted fruit on the finish.
Blanc de Blancs 1995 Bruno Paillard
A new product. Soft, creamy fruit. Although the palate is very amenable, the nose needs a little post-disgorgement development. Drink 1-3 years.
Brut 1996 Joseph Perrier
A baby! Very crisp and tight with loads of fresh fruit. Should gain biscuity richness in 5 years or so.
Vintage Rosé Brut 1998 Louis Roederer (€55)
Luscious red fruits. Quite full and delicious. Disgorged September 2003.
Vintage Rosé Brut 1997 Louis Roederer (€55)
Lighter than Roederer’s 1998 rosé in both weight and mousse, but this makes it finer, with more elegance, although the same quality overall.
Millésimé Grand Cru 1996 Pommery (€25)
Very toasty, maturing fast, but plenty of acidity and still has a long life. Great length.
Mis en Cave 2000 Charles Heidsieck (€25)
There was no 1999 (i.e., 1998-based) Mis en Cave, as that was the year the late Daniel Thibault used to balance production with sales, as the former had been in excess of the latter. I am constantly in awe of the precision at which the style of Mis en Cave is replicated each year. Some will outlive the others, but for the first five or six years they all evolve in a remarkably similar, and utterly beguiling fashion. The 2000 (i.e., 1999-based) Mis en Cave is deliciously fresh and ready to drink, with a touch of vanilla beginning to build.
Joyau de France Brut 1991 Boizel (€40)
Tasting this side-by-side with the 1995 Joyau, the 1991 is by far the better wine, which is a great compliment considering the lacklustre reputation of that vintage. This is bigger, richer and longer, yet far more elegant, with very satisfying toasty fruit. Still available in limited quantities.
Tsarine Rosé 1999 Chanoine (€29.95)
The best 1999 I’ve tasted. Elegant, fresh, delicate fruit. I purchased a case for my niece, who was married in 1999, but you are not likely to find this wine outside of a few selected restaurant accounts. You could try banging on Chanoine’s door, but no promises!
Rosé Sauvage NV Piper-Heidsieck (€20)
A riot of fruit with a luminous pink colour! Sauvage used to be synonymous for non-dosage at Piper-Heidsieck, but with the advent of transparency, this house is happy to admit that minimal dosage might be a more accurate definition.
Divin Blanc de Blancs NV Piper-Heidsieck (€25)
The first release of this cuvée is one of those rare pure Chardonnay Champagnes that are fruity guzzlers from the moment they hit the shelf.
Blanc de Blancs 1996 Ayala (€27.47)
Rich fruit and excellent acidity. Leave for at least two years. Will go quite toasty, but not at all blowsy.
Blanc de Blancs Millésime 1997 Delamotte (€22.00)
Toasty, elegantly rich, ripe-sweet finish, vanilla-cream aftertaste.
Grand Vin Signature Rosé 1995 Jacquesson
This has the richness and potential to achieve a similar creamy-walnut complexity to the 90-point Brut version of Grand Vin Signature 1995.
Grand Vintage 1996 Boizel (€25)
Easily accessible, creamy-biscuity richness. This applies to the first release (35% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier), which was disgorged in June 2002, not the second release, which was not only disgorged one year later, but is also an entirely different blend (30% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Meunier).
Avize Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 1995 Jacquesson
The latest disgorgement of this wine is extraordinarily young, fresh and fruity, and should in time evolve into a much richer, more serious, vanilla-dusted mode.
Brut Classic NV Deutz
Fresh and elegant fruit, going biscuity
Cuvée Victoire Fût de Chêne 1996 Martel
The Martel range has never had much standing. Not that it’s actually bad, just not special, but there again, the price is not special either. Despite this, I have consistently recommended Cuvée Victoire as an exceptional buy for the past 20 years. Produced through strict selection, this Champagne has all the richness, quality and style that is so glaringly absent in the rest of the range, but because the other Champagnes are so inexpensive, Martel is restricted in the premium it can place on its best cuvée. The 1996 Fût de Chêne is definitely oaky, but not too oaky, and the oak is rich and clean, not raw or estery, with lovely creamy-rich fruit, and a crisp, refreshing finish.
Ay Moet & Chandon
Although very much in the Moet style of light and elegant, this wine is also hunkering down for development into its next stage of development.
Mumm de Cramant NV Mumm
Very fresh, with nice acidity. One of the more exceptional Mumm de Cramant cuvées.
Le Clos Saint-Hilaire 1995 Billecart-Salmon
A disappointing score for a Champagne that has a potential score in the mid-90s, but it fails to achieve its potential because it has no dosage, and will therefore grow oxidative and coarse. Since it will never realise its true finesse without a dosage, it is best drunk on purchase. Hopefully future releases will not be marred in this way. This one-hectare, single vineyard, pure Pinot Noir Champagne from one of the region’s most gifted producers deserves better. The next vintage will be 1996, of course. After which the 1998 and 2000 were fermented in three- and four-year-old barriques (Jadot Montrachet).
Grand Blanc 2000 Philipponnat
More elegance than the Réserve Millésime. Not yet released.
Vintage Blanc de Blancs 1997 Louis Roederer (€55)
A nice blanc de blancs that is on par with the reputation of a lesser vintage of this cuvée, but not special like the 1998.
Chouilly Moet & Chandon
Light, elegant, creamy fruit
Brut 1996 Ayala (€21.06)
Very creamy-rich fruit, mellowing relatively quickly in bottle, but still has quite a way to go.
Brut 1998 Ayala (€21.06)
More evolved than Ayala’s older 1996 vintage, which is to be expected, given the contrasting character of the two years, but the mellowing yeast-complexed fruit here is just as enjoyable for the moment.
Blanc de Chardonnay 1998 Duval-Leroy (€35.00)
So toasty! High acids. For lovers of toasty Chardonnay.
Grand Millésime Brut 1991 Napoléon
Sweet and rich, with a succulence of fruit that will attain biscuity finesse after a little ageing.
Grand Vintage 1998 Boizel (€25)
Although much lighter than the 1996, this vintage has a creamy-biscuity richness
Wintertime Blanc de Noir NV Pommery
Rich Pinot fruit. Some strawberry. Quite solid. Will develop.
Cuvée Paradis NV Gratien
Rich fruit, good acidity. Leave a couple of years to go toasty.
Demi-Sec NV Taittinger (€26.07)
Fresh, clean, and almost too easy to drink!
N.P.U. Nec Plus Ultra 1990 Bruno Paillard
The oxidative nose is redeemed by sweet-rich yeast-complexed fruit on the palate but, as I have said before, this particular vintage of N.P.U. should have been disgorged no later than 1996. Whilst ageing increases the richness of fruit on the palate, it also accentuates the barrique aromas, clouding the focus and finesse.
Brut 1995 Alan Thienot
Two years ago this vintage needed some ageing, since when the fruit has become fatter and juicier.
Brut NV Théophile Roederer (€23)
The 2000-based cuvée (45% Chardonnay, 55% Pinot Noir) disgorged in January 2003 was the current shipment on the UK market in November 2003, and likely to be so until mid-2004, has lovely fruity aromas, fresh and crisp on the palate, with a smooth cushiony mousse and true brut dryness on the finish. I’m surprised that more consumers do not grab as much Théophile as they can. Owned by Louis Roederer, this second label is produced not from its own vineyards, but from cooperative purchased fruit. Wouldn’t you be interested if Louis Roederer was given the run of a cooperative to craft a Champagne to its own demanding standards? Well, it does, and this is the result.
Special Cuvée NV Bollinger Special Cuvée
devotees will enjoy the typically aldehydic oak, but the rest of us would much prefer the fresher, better focused version of the same cuvée in magnum.
Cuvée Henri Giraud Aÿ Grand Cru Fût de Chêne Millésime 1990 Henri Giraud
Very rich, but does not have succulence of fruit or the finesse of the 1993, despite it being from a superior year.
Sillery Moet & Chandon
Sweet, elegant fruit with some greenness to balance the richness on the finish.
1er Cru Millésime 1999 Cattier
Sweet, fresh, easy drinking. Some elegance – rather light and lacking. Low acidity. Not yet released.
Brut 1997 Théophile Roederer
I prefer the 2000-based non-vintage cuvée to this particular vintage, which is softer and fruitier on the palate, but more developed on the nose and a tad shorter on the finish.
Dizy Le Clos 2000 Jacquesson
Fresh, light and delicate, but nowhere near the finesse, length and beauty of the Bautray. Not yet released.
Mumm Grand Cru NV Mumm
Some malo-creaminess on nose, with disjointed fruit on the palate, this is reminiscent of the first release, and nowhere near as good as the second cuvée (87 points).
Clos du Mesnil 1990 Krug (€390)
I tasted this several times prior to its release, and was never impressed (whereas the Vintage Brut 1990 has always struck me as one of Krug’s greatest wines), but I reserved judgement, as I do with any preview sample that does not show well. However, now that it is a fully commercial product, it is open season for scoring, and I seriously wonder whether my 84 points may not be a bit too generous. I jest not. There is nothing about this wine that changes my earlier assessments. The most disturbing aspect of Clos du Mesnil 1990 is its straw-like character, which blurs the clarity of the fruit, robbing the wine of any finesse. I look forward to eating my words, but cannot alter my opinion or score just because it is Krug. Krug is not infallible. Errors have been made before. Errors with Clos du Mesnil, in fact. The 1980 and 1986 should never have been released (and the 1986 nearly was not), but they are understandable errors in so far as neither year was a true vintage, whereas 1990 is a great year, and that makes this wine all the more baffling.
Brut Rosé NV Théophile Roederer
The 2000-based cuvée is clean, and fresh, with fatter fruit than the non-vintage brut. It’s okay, but lacks crispness and length of its colourless stable mate.
Brut NV Ayala (€26.36)
Fresh, basic – what more can I say?
Castellane Brut Rosé NV De Castellane
Light, fresh, but lacking any real depth.
Ultra Brut NV Laurent Perrier
Peppery, basic. Alain Terrier’s favourite cuvée leaves me stone cold.
Belle Epoque Blanc 1996
Perrier-Jouet Precociously mature with an unclean aftertaste, indicating that the wine will soon break-up.
Joséphine 1990 Joseph Perrier Both first and second samples spoiled by pongy, mercaptan-like smells.
Belle Epoque Rosé 1997 Perrier-Jouet
This was corked, and there was no back-up bottle, which was a pity because on past experience, this vintage of Belle Epoque Rosé is better than the 1995.
Petit Meslier 2000 Duval-Leroy (€33.00)
Resinously reminiscent of James Irvine’s Eden Crest Petit Meslier (Australia) from the 1980s. Not yet released.
Blanc de Chardonnay 1er Cru “La Bouverie” 2002 Duval-Leroy (€35.00)
Full of ferment odours, as expected for a Champagne that has been in bottle just six months and barely completed its first fermentation. Good structure, promises well, but difficult to ascertain much more. A new single-vineyard Champagne due to be commercialised in 2005.
Réserve Millésimée 2000 Philipponnat
Sulphur (understandably since it was disgorged the day of the tasting),with an interesting green fruit and fig richness. Not yet released.
Lady Rosé NV Duval-Leroy (€17.00)
Special dessert cuvée in half-bottles. The higher the dosage, the longer the post-disgorgement ageing required, and this was simply too young, as the residual sugar masked everything. Not yet released.
Non UMC houses
Grande Sendrée 1999 Drappier (€27.50)
Excellent acidity for the year, with clean, crisp, youthful fruit that will repay cellaring 2-3 years, when it will become creamy-biscuity, attaining much more gravitas in the process.
Eclipse 1993 Drappier
There was no total eclipse of the sun in 1993, but there was one in 1999, when this very rich, creamy-biscuity cuvée was launched. The second fermentation took place at 9°C and low sulphur was a feature of this wine’s making (lower than the already low sulphur regime Drappier regularly employs).
Cuvée Victor Mandois 1998 Henri Mandois (€19)
The sample I tasted had been disgorged only the day before, yet showed fine autolytic finesse and a richness of fruit that promises to go creamy-biscuity.
Blanc de Blancs, Brut Premier Cru 1993 Henri Mandois
Very crisp, needs time. Will go creamy-biscuity.
Grande Sendrée 1999 Drappier (€27.50)
Excellent acidity for the year, with clean, crisp, youthful fruit that will repay cellaring 2-3 years, when it will become creamy-biscuity, attaining much more gravitas in the process.
Réserve NV Henri Mandois
The 1999/2000/2001 blend is lovely and fresh, with crisp fruit, and all the accessibility expected from Mandois, despite being blended from the dismal 2001 and backed up by grapes from harvest with some of the worst acidity and pH levels on record. This wine is a test of Claude Mandois’ skill and he came through it with colours flying.
Millésime Brut Premier Cru 1999 Henri Mandois
Very fresh, light, easy-drinking fruit.
Les Clos 2000/2001 Henri Mandois
To put this tasting note in context, I must first reproduce a note written in June 2002:
“I have to confess that I was disappointed by an experimental cuvée I tasted in March 2003. It was a single vineyard (Les Clos), pure varietal (Meunier) Champagne, and I have been waiting for producers to craft a premium Champagne out of this allegedly lesser grape. I therefore had high hopes for Mandois’ effort make the best Meunier possible, but it was nothing special, just an agreeably fresh and fruity fizz. However, its lacklustre performance could well be due to its vintage, 2000, which was not the most awe-inspiring year for Champagne, or the fact that it has had barely one year on yeast and will need at least another two before it can be released as a vintage Champagne.”
I can now confirm that the quality and character of the 2000 has just started to emerge, with the mousse beginning to soften, and surprisingly good acidity to support the fruit. The jump is so impressive that I was almost inclined to score it 87 points, but this is a completely new wine that has already demonstrated its ability to give off the wrong signal, so it is only prudent that I reserve judgement. The 2001 is already promising to be an early-drinking 85 pointer, with light balance, accessible fruit and surprisingly good acidity. However, not only should I reserve my judgement for the reasons expressed above, but I should bear in mind that 2001 was the most abysmal vintage since 1984! Prudence be!”