Started last week in Burgundy at Clos des Lambrays in Morey-Saint-Denis c/o Veuve Clicquot, for the launch of their 2008 Vintage Réserve. Clicquot never likes to do anything by halves, witness the event they organised in June 2014 around burying 300 bottles and 50 magnums on the Baltic seabed to test how champagne ages there;
Despite forecasts of thunderstorms last Tuesday, it was gorgeous warm spring day, that kicked off with a look at the Clos des Lambrays virtual ‘monopole’ that LVMH boss Bernard Arnault bought in April 2014 (there’s one tiny 0.18ha parcel of this glorious grand cru site he doesn’t yet own). We were shown round the 8.66 hectares vineyard by chief winemaker at Clos des Lambrays Thierry Brouin. Walking up the narrow road — no more than 12 feet wide — that separated the Grand Cru vines on the left from those enjoying the simple Morey-Saint-Denis commune designation on the right, he pointed out the land value differential. Grand Cru vineyard worth 10m€ per hectare; a road’s width away it’s down to a mere 500,000€ a hectare.
The perhaps not that obvious link between Clos des Lambrays and Veuve Clicquot – apart from LVMH and Arnault – istop quality Pinot Noir and Francois Frères oak barrels. We tasted the impressive silky 2008 Clos des Lambrays and the 2015 wines still in barrel prior to a sample of Clicquot’s 2015 vins clairs and the 2008 vintage, white and rosé in three formats, bottle (75cl) magnum and jeroboam.
The 2008 vintage was Dominique Demarville first solo effort, for although his predecessor Jacques Peters had not fully retired then, he let Demarville make all the decisions about the blend. Oak fermentation and ageing in foudres was re-introduced at Clicquot in 2007 and 2008, so this is the first vintage champagne to see some oak components in the blend, around 5% Demarville
says. The blend for the white vintage is a fairly typical Clicquot mix of 61% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier with an identical dosage of 8gms/l in all three formats. The vintage wines now all have disgorgement dates on the back label too, with the bottle disgorged in March 2015, the magnum in October 2014 and the jeroboam in April 2015.
In 75cl bottle the wine has already developed an attractive biscuity, mid-palate richness, married with a savoury tang and some honeyed spicy notes. While not so developed the magnum – the format the majority of those at the tasting admired most – had the edge in terms of lovely balance and that extra magical lift magnums so often seem to boast. For the rosé 2008, basically the white blend as above with 14% Pinot Noir from Bouzy vinified as red wine added, the freshness and lovely, bright, youthful fruit character of the bottle format was preferred by most to the magnum and jeroboam. Lovely now, this is style of rosé champagne that ages attractively when a more vinous, sometimes truffley, character emerges and anyone familiar with the Cave Privée 1989 rosé release will have seen.
We will look at the 2015 vins clairs, examples of which were also shown at this tasting and the 2015 vintage in a separate blog soon. The 2015 harvest report based on the immediate post-harvest assessment by winemakers across the region can now be seen on the Trade Report page.