A remarkable Champagne Veuve Clicquot tasting
With winemaker Cyril Brun, looking at the Cave Privée wines in different formats

This week I was treated to an amazing tasting of Veuve Clicquot Champagnes with winemaker Cyril Brun. As well as the latest release of the Veuve Clicquot vintage and the two current Grande Dames, we looked at some of the Cave Privée wines. These are vintage wines that have been kept in ideal conditions in the Veuve Clicquot cellars, and they were offered first in 2010, and now again in 2014. The great thing is that this tasting allowed us to compare a range of formats and disgorgement dates, which is really interesting.

Cyril Brun

The theory, which usually works in practice, is that Champagnes that are late disgorged stay fresher than those that have been disgorged earlier. And the larger the format, the slower the ageing process, because the oxygen transmitted through the cork is taken up by a larger volume of wine. Also, when disgorgement takes place, some sugar is introduced (the dosage) which can then go on to react in certain ways with other components of the wine during the ageing process.

‘It’s very interesting when you taste wines of different times of disgorgement,’ says Cyril. ‘You have different animals.’

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2004 France
Dosage 7 g/litre, 62% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, from 17 Grands and Premiers Crus. Fine and fresh with nice toastiness and some herbal notes. Detailed, with quite a savoury edge as well as apples, herbs and a bit of spice. Nicely focused. 92/100

Champagne Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2004 France
61% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay. 8 g/litre dosage. From 8 Grand Cru sites. Very lively and bright. Fruity and precise with citrus and pear notes, and a bit of grip. Nicely fruity with subtle toast and real complexity. 94/100

Champagne Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Rosé 2004 France
61% Pinot Noir (15% red Bouzy from Clos Colin), 39% Chardonnay. Dosage of 8 g/litre. Pale pink colour. Lively and textured with nice fruit and some grip to the subtle cherry and pear fruit, as well as ripe red apples. Very stylish with lovely precision. A pretty wine. 93/100

Cave Privée wines

‘1990 was a classic year for Champagne,’ says Cyril. ‘It was the classic year of the 1990s, just as 1982 was the classic year of the 1980s and 2008 was the classic year of the 2000s.’

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Rosé 1990 France (magnum, 2000 disgorgement)
Nice structure and depth with lovely hints of red cherries and herbs. Very detailed and structured with a hint of toast and some old cask characters. Very fresh on the finish. 95/100

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Rosé 1990 France (standard bottle, 2011 disgorgement)
Lively herbs, cherries and spices. A bright wine with taut fruit and marked cask-like notes, with a hint of caramel. This is more spicy than the magnum, and has less of the cherry fruit characters. Drier, too. A stylish wine. 95/100

1989 was a very ripe vintage, one in which the phenolics were very ripe. ‘You get textured, structured body, with notes of liqourice related to the high maturity tannins,’ explains Cyril, ‘and this is what helps the wine age so well. It has moderate acidity but great ageing expectations because of the ripeness of the tannins. Missing acidity is balanced by the ripe tannins.’  

Champagne Veuve Clicquot 1989 France (jeroboam, disgorged January 2014)
Fermented in the bottle, with 24 years on the lees. Wonderfully fresh with pear, lime and citrus, and even some reductive notes, too. Lovely crystalline fruit on the palate with fresh pear and ripe apple characters. It’s youthful with real finesse, and isn’t ready yet. Remarkable. 96/100

Champagne Veuve Clicquot 1989 France (standard bottle, disgorged May 2010)
Very fine, taut and precise with lovely citrus and pear notes. White peach, too, as well as some subtle toast, and quince. A lovely wine that’s ageing beautifully. 95/100

The two 1982s show that the rules about disgorgement and bottle size are not so simple. Cyril says that the 1982 magnums disgorged in 2009 were not as fresh as the ones disgorged a decade earlier, and he thinks it’s because the previously disgorged bottles got a batch of very tight corks with super-low oxygen transmission rates. This could explain why the 1982 magnums disgorged in 1988 are just so fresh now. ‘We had to do the comparison several times because it should have been the opposite,’ he says. ‘Also, wine is a living product.’

Champagne Veuve Clicquot 1982 France (magnum, disgorged January 1988, 9 g/litre dosage)
This is astonishingly complex and multidimensional. Fine nose of ripe pear and peach, with melons, hazelnuts and apricots. Lovely finesse on the palate: it’s mature but still fresh with crystalline fruit, apricots, pears and spices. Wonderful. 97/100

Champagne Veuve Clicquot 1982 France (standard bottle, disgorged June 2010, 5 g/litre dosage)
Rich and mature with a toasty, nutty nose, some spice and some caramel, as well as citrus and peach. Savoury, mature palate is dense and structured with good grip and some old wood character. Very much in the nutty profile, this is interesting but not in the league of the magnum. 93/100

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Rosé 1979 France (magnum, disgorged December 2013, 4 g/litre dosage)
A really Burgundian style of rosé that’s a superb expression of Pinot. Amazingly lively with bright red cherries, plums and spice, as well as a hint of caramel. So pretty with lovely fruit: the essence of Pinot with some meaty, fleshy notes and complex earthy hints. Cyril says that Bouzy Pinot has earthy, mushroomy, salty flavours in the red wines that is revealed after many years. 96/100

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Rosé 1979 France (standard bottle, disgorged March 2011, 4 g/litre dosage)
Rich with some spice and caramel hints alongside the attractive cherry fruit on the nose. The palate shows spicy, toasty old cask notes and rich cherry fruit, with some structure. Nicely dense, this feels more textured and sweeter than the magnum, and also a bit more developed. Spicy, cedary and quite generous. 95/100

See also:

Tasting the wines of Champagne Charles Heidsieck
Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs vertical
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne vertical

Wines tasted 10/14  
Find these wines with


Back to top