Ayala 2002 close to delicious peak

Yesterday my eldest son finished his IB exams and I had a look for something suitable to open in celebration. After a good deal of indecision, I eventually plumped for a bottle of Ayala 2002, partly on the basis that was the year when he started at the school at the age of seven. The Ayala wines under Hervé Augustin’s reign there as MD all have disgorgement dates on the back label, something he instigated that I thoroughly approve of.  Unfortunately on this particular bottle the space for this date is empty (see photograph). However I reckon it’s been in my cellar at least 12 months.

Probably the best vintage of the past decade (though ’04 is shaping up very well) , a lot of 2002s are I believe still a long way off their best, so I was hoping we wouldn’t regret opening this as it’s the only bottle I have. We didn’t, it was absolutely gorgeous. A glorious deep golden colour it was at or near a delicious peak with developed aromas of honey and toast plus a sumptuous creamy texture. It’s a wine of impressive intensity without being at all heavy. With the blend made from 80% Pinot Noir sourced in Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ set against top class Grand Cru Chardonnay from Mesnil-sur-Oger, Cramant and Chouilly it certainly has impeccable breeding.

I have tried many fine 2002s and it’s a vintage I look forward to returning to over the next ten years or more (I’m still reluctant to drink ‘88s), but this was probably the single bottle of ’02 that I have enjoyed most. I am glad to report it is still available too at Champagne Direct online (£42.95) and vintagewinegifts (£54.97 in wooden box with accessories).

On a separate but connected note, at the last Waitrose tasting when their pre-Christmas champagne selection was looking very lacklustre, the Ayala Brut Majeur NV was the only fizz offering any excitement in the line-up. It will be interesting to see if their tasting tomorrow has any champagne highlights.

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