The Champagne Bureau had an interesting trade tasting of a few dozen Champagnes in New York last week, with one table devoted entirely to the vintages, mostly recent ones. Participating producers each chose one vintage to present at that table, although they showed other vintages and non-vintages at their stands which ringed the room.
Walk-around tastings are not the best way to get information from producers and their representatives nor to take detailed tasting notes amid the noisy hub-bubbly while waiting to get your shots at the spit bucket.
Nevertheless, the vintages were quite enjoyable, and here are a few less-than-perfect impressions of some of the vintage bubblies I most enjoyed.
2009. Drappier Grande Sendrée had interesting candy/floral aromas and flavors of a younger vintage plus good intensity with a finishing tanginess.
2007. The Deutz Blanc de Blancs was round, rich, ripe, long on the finish with some mild tannins, while the Ariston Fils-Asparie was also rich with lots of lees flavors and a good finish – but it needs more bottle time.
2005. Three interesting ones here – the Lallier was a good study in the savory side of Champagnes, with its dry-herbal, yeasty/lactic/tangy notes and good intensity, while the Philipponnat Grand Blanc dove to the metallic, minerally side with good intensity as well. But I saved some room for the Ayala Blanc de Blancs – ethereal, floral, intense and riding the line between rich and lean.
2004. I began my tasting with this vintage Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque, a beautiful wine that was soft, fragrant, floral. The Piper Heidsieck was rich, intense and creamy, as expected, and the Nicholas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs was very floral with a fine finish.
2002. Nine examples of the vintage, so lots from which to choose. The Delamotte Blanc de Blancs was intense and rich with a very long finish, Laurent-Perrier Brut had a good combination of creaminess and gaminess and the Pol Roger Brut was rich, complex and “satisfying” – a not-very-scientific word I use when I want a second glass right now. My two favorites of the vintage, though, were the Pierre Paillard Bouzy Grand Cru, with its candied fruit and floral flavors providing something a little out of the ordinary, and the Bollinger Le Grande Année with its toasty, rounded flavors and its impressions that I’m tasting a fine Champagne and a cru white Burgundy at the same time. The other wines seemed either be too sweet or lacking in acidity or both.
2001. The Henriot Brut tasted a little grapey on the finish, but I did enjoy its ripeness on the mid-palate.
2000. I actually started smiling when I sipped the Charles Heidsieck Brut – a dangerous thing to do with a mouthful of wine – because I love this Champagne’s rich intensity and delicious, long, dark-toasty finish. It was the leading candidate for best wine of the tasting. I also enjoyed the Gossett Brut, with lots of lees flavors, gaminess, richness and minerality.
1998. The Charles de Casanove Stradivarius was a great example of an older vintage – still quite fresh, good intensity, a rich, gamey finish and hints of tannins. The second of its two vintages I tasted, the Gosset Celebris was nutty and very lean with crisp intensity.
1985. The only over-25 vintage on the table, the Colin Roger Adnot Blanc de Blancs Brut 1er Cru was more interesting than enjoyable, having become maderized, woody and metallic.
Finally, don’t forget that Champagne Day 2012 is this Friday, October 26. Wherever you are in the United States, raise a flute of the good stuff and look east toward Mother France and give a little toast.