The still wines of Champagnes, vins clairs, very seldom leaves the cellars of Reims. and equally seldom outsiders from the Champagne industry have the opportunity to taste them. Under the guidens of Chef de caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon I had the opportunity to go through rhe parts that ends up in the final blend of Brut Premier.
The bus took us to Reims again. Some free time at the hotel was nice and som ewanted to be guided around the Cathedral and wine shops by Richard. For the evening we met up Hôtel du Marc for a Winemakers dinner at the wonderful private house of Madame Clicquot especially for our little group.
RJ on VEUVE CLIQUOT In Sweden, no Champagne is as well known as the “Gula Änkan,” the Yellow Widow. The house was founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot. His son, François, married Nicole-Barbe Ponsardin, who took over the company at the age of twenty-seven when she found herself a widow. By her side was Comte Edouard Werlé and the firm’s chef de caves, Antoine Müller. Together with Müller she developed “remuage” using “pupitres.” One Heinrich Bohne then helped to take the Russian market by storm. Throughout the nineteenth century and right up to the 1970s, Clicquot was reckoned as one of the top four or five Champagne companies, a position they still are very close to obtain. At first the company merged with Canard-Duchêne, but today it is a part of the powerful Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) group. The 284 hectares owned by Clicquot in twenty-two villages are enough for around three of the almost 18 million bottles produced each year. The most important crus for La Grande Dame and the vintage wine are Ambonnay, Bouzy, Avize, Cramant, Le Mesnil, Oger, and Verzenay. Since 1962 modern vinification techniques and stainless-steel tanks have been used. If you find old, well-kept vintages they’ll be very like Bollinger and Krug. Despite the factory scale, the house has managed to keep its Pinot-based classic style, where dough, bread, and pepper are clear elements. Jacques Peters, who is brother to François Peters in Le Mesnil and an equally gifted winemaker, should get the credit for Clicquot’s quality today. The talented new winemaker Dominique Demarville follows smothly in the same tracks. The rich and honeyed La Grande Dame is a wonderful champagne, but the powerfull and nutty vintage wine often gives best value for money. Cave Privée is probably the best bargain on the market. A classic house that is one of the greatest!
The theme for the dinner was 2004. | RJ ON 2004 *** | A mild spring followed by a summer with unstable weather. Fortunately, the first weeks of September were hot and sunny and created good prospects for the harvest. In my opinion, the wines have a good structure with a rather floral bouquet but with a bit rough, stony mineral profile. The charm is missing, and it needs a fairly long storage before the cavities are filled in. Promising favorites that have reached the market include prestige champagnes from Thierry Perrion, Diebolt- Vallois, David Léclapart, and of course Jacques Selosse. Among the big elephants that are launched, I choose Mumm de Cramant, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, Dom Pérignon, and Louis Roederer Cristal.
But we started out on the beautiful terrace with a wonederful glass of rosé | nv VEUVE CLICQUOT ‘ROSÉ’ | Reims | Champagne | France | Veuve Clicquot | 50PN 20PM 30CH | RJpoints 84(88)
TASTING NOTE A new rose wine from the old lady made in a modern, somewhat lighter style. A tribute to the added red wine is really feels well integrated and all blue notes are conspicuous by their absence. However, I lack Clicquot customary bready richness in this fairly light creation. Cyril Brun’s latest mint toffee scented titbit is astoundingly great!
2004 VEUVE CLICQUOT ‘RICH RÉSERVE’ | Reims | Champagne | France | Veuve Clicquot | 59PN 8PM 33CH | RJpoints 82(85)
TASTING NOTE Nice together with foie gras, but the sugar is otherwise mostly in the way in this issue where the wine’s body is a little too round to completely fit in a sweet costume.
2004 VEUVE CLICQUOT ‘MILLÉSIME’ | Reims | Champagne | France | Veuve Clicquot | 62PN 8PM 30CH | RJpoints 88(91)
TASTING NOTE Embarking very promising but gets ‘dark’ to quickly in the glass, indicating that it should be enjoyed sooner than many of the greatest wines from the house. Bright and toasty in magnum.
2004 VEUVE CLICQUOT ‘ROSÉ’ | Reims | Champagne | France | Veuve Clicquot | 71PN 9PM 20CH | RJpoints 87(92)
TASTING NOTE Extremely charming from start. Lots of beautiful berry tones however, also stylish animal touch from the start. Unprecedented charm and the balance from the start with stylish features of summer romance.
nv VEUVE CLICQUOT ‘DEMI-SEC’ | Reims | Champagne | France | Veuve Clicquot | 56PN 16PM 28CH | RJpoints 52(67)
TASTING NOTE Precisely as with Roederer, Clicquot has even more bottle maturity in its sweetest wine before sale. A trouser-opener, as the Germans say. Honey, strawberry and toffee, but sickly sweet after a while. A good way to introduce someone to champagne.
AFTER-DINNER BOTTLES SERVED BLIND IN THE BAR | 1952 VEUVE CLICQUOT ‘EXTRA RARE VINTAGE’ magnum | Reims | Champagne | France | Veuve Clicquot | 67PN 33CH | RJpoints 98(98)
TASTING NOTE Absolutely outstandingly good! One of all these carzy magnums that Cyril and Dominique serves me and my VIPgroups instead of coffee at the Hôtel du Marc. Now it was a long time ago I tried the incredible ’55, but we’re on the same level of quality. The scent is more animal and reminds of the truffle-oozing ’61, but the taste is ultra sleek, smooth, toffee and multilayered as a novel by Shakespeare! The best Champagne of the trip?!
1996 VEUVE CLICQUOT ‘LA GRANDE DAME’ | Reims | Champagne | France | Veuve Clicquot | 64PN 36CH | RJpoints 94(96)
TASTING NOTE A surprisingly tranquil, high-octane, elegant La Grande Dame that will probably develop into one of the greatest vintages of this wine ever made. The balance is extraordinary and the wine has a silky appearance, devoid of both sharp edges and an exaggeratedly chocolaty, muscular body. Hints of hazelnut and white chocolate are present, but for the moment handsome fruit and fine mineral notes from Oger and Le Mesnil dominate. A uniquely long aftertaste that should convince doubters that something big is happening here.
|15 champagne lovers | 8 champagnes | 3 vintages | 120 glasses | 4 dishes|
The day after we visited the cellars of Veuve Clicquot (the name Ponsardin has been retired). Cyril Brun set up a Vin Clairs tasting for us:
|Veuve Clicquot||Vins Clairs pinot meunier Villedomagne||2013||btl||100PM|
|Veuve Clicquot||Vins Clairs pinot noir Verzy||2013||btl||100PN|
|Veuve Clicquot||Vins Clairs chardonnay Vertus||2013||btl||100CH|
|Veuve Clicquot||Vins Clairs chardonnay Cramant||2012||btl||100CH|
|Veuve Clicquot||Vins Clairs pinot noir Verzy||2012||btl||100PN|
|Veuve Clicquot||Vins Clairs pinot noir Verzenay||2008||btl||100PN|
|Veuve Clicquot||Vins Clairs chardonnay Villiers-Marmery||2008||btl||100CH|
|Veuve Clicquot||Vins Clairs Bouzy Rouge||2013||btl||100PN|
|Veuve Clicquot||Vins Clairs Final Blend||2013||btl|
|Veuve Clicquot||La Grande Dame||2004||btl||64PN36CH||RJ 94(96)|
|15 champagne lovers | 1 champagne | 9 vins clairs | 4 vintages | 150 glasses|
Monday morning, the cold and the snow got back to Sthlm … Let’s cheer up. We need a reason to open a great bottle of champagne today … Let’s celebrate St Patrick’s Day!
2006 LOUIS ROEDERER ‘CRISTAL’ | Reims | Champagne | France | Louis Roederer | 60PN 40CH | RJpoints 95(97)
TASTING NOTE Just fantastic from the start. A colossal power and beautiful rumbling pinot maturity. It’s like chewing on the ripest grapes from Aÿ and Verzenay. At the same time ultra stylish down all the unmistakable cristal essence, peach and mango sweetness, pineapple coconut, vanilla and unreal sprightly acidity and citrus flowery. Many similarities with 2002, but with a clearer pinot touch.
RJ ON CRISTAL
Cristal, just the name makes most of us burst into an enjoyable smile. Either we feel a historic reverence before the Russian tsar witch we have gratitude for the magical wine or that we associate the proudest of all champagne bottles and everything in its glittering wake. Think about all the classic film scenes which have been glorified by the clear bottle with its golden wrapping. Cristal is now the foremost choice in Hollywood when illustrating a luxurious situation, even thou Hip-Hop stars recently got pissed off that they did not get recognition from Louis Roederer despite their Cristal worship. However the symbol has already become so strong that it is impossible for the stars to get their fans to change to another brand.
That a music movement has appreciation for this world famous wine is well in order. What’s worst is when I was in Saint Tropez and saw young jetsetters squirting Cristal from magnum bottles in known racing drivers fashion just to show of their economic muscles, and unwittingly exposing their minimal brain capacity.
The history behind the mythical wine derives from the time when Russia was the largest export market for many of the famous champagne houses in Reims. Foremost reputation among the most powerful Russians had Louis Roederer. But the Russian tsar Alexander II was not satisfied with serving the same champagne as his subjects, so he called Louis Roederer to a meeting where it was decided that he would get his very own remarkable and fantastic bottle to show his guests. In 1876 he placed a special purchase order for the first transparent Cristal bottles with a flat bottom, which at that time were made of genuine crystal.
The wine was incomparably sweet and caused Roederer certain sales problems after the Russian revolution as they had unpaid invoices and a stock of sweet champagne that no one wanted. Rumors flourish frequently that there may still be bottles left from the days of the tsar in Russia, or on the bottom of the sea in sunken ships. How ever nothing suggests that any such bottles exist. After World War II Roederers management felt that it was time to renew the Russian connection when they wanted to find an equivalent to Moet & Chandons successful prestige champagne Dom Pérignon. It was an easy decision to reintroduce the tsar’s old bottle in a modern shape filled with a bubbly dry wine.
The wine is made since 1970 solely in stainless steel tanks with grapes from their own vineyards in Aÿ, Verenay,Verzy and and Cumiéres, mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Avize and Le Mesnil. It´s style is ultra sophisticated with a wild silky softness in combination with a nutty fireworks backed by exotic fruitiness in a caramel filled body. When Cristal is at it´s best I discover tones of everything that makes life worth living. In short one of the most perfect classic champagnes the world has to offer. Cristal Rosé is an even more expensive and uncommon product which has been cast in a similar form, but in it´s lovely figures it moves slightly more to strawberries with cream. It gets it´s color from contact with peelings from Pinot grapes which have grown on old grape vines in Aÿ. Composition of grapes is most often 70% Pinot Noire and 30 % Chardonnay. To me this rosé wine is without a doubt the worlds foremost rosé all categories.
How is the quality today seen from a historical perspective? In august 2007 I updated my already voluminous testing register of this fantastic wine at an extremely extensive Cristal testing at the great and now starred Solleröd Kro north of Copenhagen. A private Danish real enthusiast that performed the same type of testing last year of Dom Pérignon had collected the wines during thirteen years. The whole event was superbly conducted. The Scandinavian testing group enjoyed a wonderful day with colossal quantities of first class food and Cristal in equal amounts.
Winner this time was found among the middle aged wines. Most impressive where vintage 1979 and 1982, taken into account that older vintages cost a fortune purchase should be made among the younger vintages. It should how ever be mentioned that vintages 40-, 50-, and 60- when in perfect condition, are worth every penny. Below you can see what I consider be the quality of almost all vintages that has been produced during the beginning years of 2000. The left column reflects today’s status and the right its potential top ranking.
What then is the greatest Cristal ever made? If you want to learn it so I would suggest a dinner preceded by the 1988 Cristal Rosé and Cristal Rosé 1979 followed by a generous serving of duckliver with the 1949 and 1955. I hardly think that the old tsar would turn in his grave.