Dominique Demarville has a track record as the man who put the fizz back into Champagne Mumm, but now he has taken over the mantle as Cellarmaster at Veuve-Clicquot from his legendary predecessor, Jacques Peters. As the winemaker with arguably the biggest job in Champagne, I was delighted to catch up with Dominique recently to taste the current batch of Veuve-Clicquot releases, just before we set off for a tasting of the new range of ‘Cave Privée’ vintage Champagnes, which Dominique launched at a tasting that afternoon. My tasting notes on the first release of wines from the Cave Privée collection follow, but first, sit back, relax, and enjoy this 10-minute video interview with Dominique.
The Cave Privée
Exactly 200 years since Madame Clicquot presided over the first ever vintage of Veuve Clicquot, 2010 sees the launch of the Cave Privée collection. This will be an ongoing project – as Dominique Demarville says, this first collection of vintages is “just a small drop in the ocean: our cellar has 800,000 bottles which are more than 10 years old.”
Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée 1990
56% Pinot Noir, 11% Pinot Meunier, 33% Chardonnay. Disgorged October 2008, 4g/l sugar. Lovely bronze/gold tinge to the colour. Lightly sherried, yeasty and oxidised old Champagne nose with some delicate floral nuances. Brioche and toffee notes too. Complex. The palate is full and quite voluptuous. There’s an underpinning sense of great ripeness here. A big cut of lemon and orange acidity comes through, cutting through a more toffee weight to give this terrific cut and zest into a long finish. 92/100. 16,388 bottle produced.
Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée 1990 magnum
56% Pinot Noir, 11% Pinot Meunier, 33% Chardonnay. Disgorged October 2008, 4g/l sugar. Very similar colour but younger on the nose, with a creamy, nutty brioche character and subtle lemon and candied fruit aromas. The palate too is a little tighter and more youthful, showing a toffee edge to pristine orchard fruit. Acidity is lemony, but somehow more mineral too. A much fresher and more tightly-wound wine, with terrific potential still. 93/100. 3,576 magnums produced.
Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée 1990 jeroboam
56% Pinot Noir, 11% Pinot Meunier, 33% Chardonnay. Disgorged October 2008, 3g/l sugar. Extraordinary difference. The nose much more mineral and toasty, massive herb and toasted brioche character. Arresting. The palate is riven with a steely lemon acidity. There’s lemon juice, lime zest and a big orangy background, that stays very tight again. The palate has breadth, but that fine, refined, steely mineral and citrus acidity scythes through the finish. Dominique later revealed that this was the only one of the three 1990 bottlings closed with a cork (others with crown caps) which may be a factor. 95/100. 298 jeroboams produced.
Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée 1980
53% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier, 37% Chardonnay. Disgorged May 1986, 9g/l sugar. The mousse has faded to just a gentle, enriching foam in this wine, which has a lovely nose of butter and vegetal notes – very Burgundian – with nutty, quite open characters beneath. The palate has lovely presence: it is steely and youthful, with tight minerality and hints of smokiness and flint. Terrific acidity here, and a long, balanced wine of lovely harmony and concentration in this wine, disgorged in 1986 which was a mistake according to Dominique. 94/100. 1,341 bottles produced.
Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée 1980 magnum
53% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier, 37% Chardonnay. Disgorged October 2008, 5g/l sugar. From magnum this is perhaps a touch more mineral and salty, with really tight, precise aromas focused around minerals and white fruit, a tiny herb and nettle touch, some candied lemon fruit and again quite Burgundian – like a Grand Cru Chablis. The palate has sweetness at its core, still tangible through the low dosage that allows plenty of zesty minerality to power through the finish. Tight and youthful. 93/100. 561 magnums produced.
Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée Rosé 1989
67% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay. 12.8% Bouzy rouge. Disgorged October 2008, 4g/l sugar. Beautiful peachy-pink colour. Very tight, lemon and mineral nose. Just the merest hint of a red fruit, raspberry character. Fresh, with a breezy herb and just gently toffee and coffee appeal. The palate has delicious savoury bite, the juicy, very fresh fruitiness is there, but this is one-dry in essence, with barely perceptible tannins, just a long, thrust of citrus and mineral acidity. Very youthful, with potential. 93/100. 2,555 magnums.
Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée Rosé 1989 magnum
67% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay. 12.8% Bouzy rouge. Disgorged October 2008, 4g/l sugar. Has an extra dimension of subtle minerality over the bottle format, the same dry raspberry and redcurrant fruit character, but a more complex layering of aromas. On the palate some real Pinot quality, with delicious fruit and fabulous purity. Purity and finesse on the palate, quite sweet and seeming less oxidised than the bottle format, tighter and ravishingly clean and long on the finish. 95/100. 2,555 magnums.
Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée Rosé 1978
63% Pinot Noir, 4% Pinot Meunier, 33% Chardonnay. 15% Bouzy rouge. Disgorged October 2008, 4g/l sugar. Beautiful peach, salmon-pink colour and quite deep. Wonderful glimpse – though fleeting – of strawberry jam before more oxidised, caramel and buttery, even mocha notes. An open, mature style compared to the 1989 certainly. The palate has lots of lemony acidity making it immediately focused, quite lean and food-friendly. The freshness of the red fruit adds to this lightness of touch, with a delightfully long finish too, a touch of orange peel. I was lucky enough to enjoy a glass of this with some charcuterie and smoked salmon for lunch too, where it partnered wonderfully. 93/100.
Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée Rosé 1975 magnum
64% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier, 31% Chardonnay. 19% Bouzy rouge. Disgorged October 2008, 5g/l sugar. Similar colour to the 1978, with a very luxuriant nose, with mocha and woodland, almost truffly sous-bois aromas, but only gently so, with that redcurranty fruit character there too. The palate has delightful crispness and clarity. It is perhaps a touch more concentrated than the 1978, with an expansive, mouth-filling red fruit character that is very assured. The acidity is delightful, streaking through the finish with minerals and a glassy precision. Beautiful wine this, just deliciously well-balanced and long for drinking now. 94/100. 354 magnums. Stocks of these wines are limited, including in UK retailer Jeroboams.