Part 3, the cellars, and tasting the wines
looking at the vineyards, it was time to tour the cellars and taste
with Mathieu Kauffmann, Chef de Cave (above). The
reserve wines, aged in magnums under cork, represent 10–15% of the
example of the blend for the current release of Special Cuvée would
be: 40–45% harvest of previous vintage (2008), 40–45% 2007,
perhaps a bit of 2006, and then 5–10% of 5–15 year old reserve
wine from magnum. All reserve wines are from Grand Cru or Premier
Cru vineyards, and are aged in bottle with one-quarter of the dose
of sugar and yeast that would be used for the final wine’s
secondary fermentation. The cellar has 550 000 magnums in it at
present; 6 years ago it was 300 000.
it comes to assessing the wines of a particular year, Matthieu’s
first priority is to construct the reserve wines in magnum. He won’t
commit to producing Grande Année in a particular year until all the
pre-blends are made and tasted. Unusually, the go-ahead was given
for the 2008 in November; the decision is usually left until
tasted the young base wines, vins clairs, from a range of different
vineyards, fermented in both stainless steel tanks and oak barrels,
before tasting some finished wines.
Clairs from 2008
(tank): very fresh lemony nose. Crisp and lemony with lots of fruit.
(tank): more intense; richer and fruitier with lemon and pear fruit.
(tank): fine, crisp and lemony on the nose. Focused high acid
(oak): aromatic and subtly volatile with appley, citrussy, herby
(tank): aromatic, tight and lemony with bright, pure fruit. Lovely.
(oak): aromatic, open, slightly herby and appley, with expressive
fruit. Savoury and rich.
Mesnil sur Oger (oak): herby and open with firm, structured,
(tank): very richly fruity and lemony. Bright and herby on the plate
with a full, fruity character.
Val d’Or (tank): focused bright herby linear fruit with lovely
(tank): very lively and aromatic with apples and herbs. Bright,
forward, fruity palate.
sur Aÿ (tank): Taut, focused nose is light and fruity. Very lean
and taut on the palate with herby fruit.
(tank): Rich, elegant pear and citrus nose. Palate is concentrated
and intense with a hint of cherry and herb. Great depth.
(oak): Just a hint of appley volatility. Palate is herby, appley and
intense. Bold and complex with lots of interest.
(oak): Complex nose of herbs and citrus with apple and nuts
(almond). The palate is herby and fresh with lovely structure. Bold
2004: Reduced matchstick nose. Slightly fizzy with firm, savoury,
mineral notes. Very fresh.
Special Cuvée NV
This is 2004 and 2003 with some reserve wine dating back to 1990.
Aromatic, appley, with lifted herby aromatics. The palate is fresh
and bright with open appley fruit. Quite rich and intense with some
lemony notes on the finish. A serious fizz. 90/100 (03/09)
Pale salmon/pink colour. Fresh, herby, lemony nose with a hint
of red fruits. The palate has lovely toasty warmth as well as fresh
fruit, with a hint of grip and nice acidity. Sophisticated stuff.
Grande Année 1999
A warm year with low acidity. Big, aromatic, complex and toasty
with some citrus freshness and a peachy, nutty richness. Bold,
complex, rich and toasty in the mouth with lovely pear, apple and
herb notes. Matthieu says that it is very easy to make this: all you
have to do is blend good things together. 93/100 (03/09)
Grande Année 2000
Pale yellow colour. Fine aromatic nose is almost floral, with
summer meadow hints and notes of toast and fresh lemons. The palate
is concentrated and taut with lovely savoury herby, toasty notes,
fresh persistent apple and lemon fruit, a hint of vanilla richness
and some structure. A beautiful wine. 94/100 (10/09)
Grande Année Rosé 1999
Pale salmon colour with hints of orange. Taut, complex nose
leads to an intense, slightly herby with rich citrus and peach fruit
as well as a hint of strawberry. Delicate yet powerful with some
savoury complexity. 93/100 (03/09)
is Grande Annee that has been kept on lees and is disgorged late.
There might be 4 Grande Annee vintages each decade, and of these
typically 3 will become RDs. The wines are disgorged about 3 times a
year, so the same vintage RD might be disgorged several times in
all, for example 9 disgorgement dates over 3 years.
Disgorged 8 June 2007, this is an extra brut style (less than 5
g/l residual sugar). A yellow/gold colour, this is wonderful, with a
complex, savoury, toasty, bready nose. Nutty and complex showing
lovely lemony fruit. The palate is super concentrated with amazing
acidity and richness to the toasty lemony fruit. Bold and intense.
Amazingly intense and complex, with powerful toast and lemon
flavours, with nutty bready notes in the background. Really intense,
powerful and complex with lively acidity. 94/100 (03/09)
La Côte aux Enfants Aÿ Rouge 2002 Coteaux Champenois
A still red wine from the Champagne region. This is Pinot Noir
from a small 2 acre south-facing vineyard in Aÿ. Focused and quite
rich with fresh berry and cherry fruit. Dense and berryish, with
some structure. There are also some medicinal notes as well as a
hint of sappiness. It’s actually quite a big wine, and hard to
pick as Pinot Noir. 88/100 (08/09)
La Côte aux Enfants Aÿ Rouge 2004 Coteaux Champenois
This is from a special vineyard site, and it’s a still red
Pinot Noir, picked at 12% potential alcohol, with much lower yields
than normal for Champagne grapes. Much of this wine is used for
adding colour to the rosés, but some is bottled separately. Lovely
focused sweet cherry fruit with a herby edge on the nose. The palate
has ripe cherry fruit with some spiciness. A delicious, fruit-driven
Pinot Noir. 90/100 (03/09)
1, introduction and the vieilles vignes Francaises
2, in the vineyards
3, in the cellars, tasting wines
previous report on the wines of Bollinger
tasted as indicated
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