Prestige Cuvée Champagnes ~ Part 2 – Medium-Bodied Prestige Cuvées

4th August 2014

Prestige Cuvée Champagnes ~ Part 2 – Medium-Bodied Prestige Cuvées

Medium-Bodied Prestige Cuvées

Champagne Deutz, Cuvée William Deutz 2000:  Deutz is one of my favorite houses, and I especially love its prestige cuvées, Cuvée William Deutz and Cuvée William Deutz Rosé (one of the best rosé Champagnes made, in my opinion).  Deutz has become even better since Champagne Louis Roederer bought a majority interest in the house in 1993.  Even in the average-to-good Champagne vintage of 2000, Deutz has produced a simply magnificent Cuvée William Deutz.  It is vibrant, lively, and truly singing right now, and will only improve.  One of the standouts of the Wine Media Guild luncheon, and a real value at $110-$120.  (The sensational 1999 Cuvée William Deutz Rosé is a steal at $140, but difficult to find).

Champagne Pascal Doquet Vieilles Vignes, Le Mesnil 2002:  Pascal Doquet’s old-vines Grand Cru, Le Mesnil, from the great blanc de blancs village Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, was the only grower-producer prestige cuvée at Wine Media Guild’s tasting, and it showed very well compared to its much larger, more well-known rivals.  It certainly was the best value of all the Champagnes we tasted.  It is very young and pure, with great pedigree, and from a fine vintage.  $83.

Champagne Charles Heidsieck, Blanc des Millénaires 1995:  It is mystifying to me that this Champagne does not sell as well as it should.  Wine director Régis Camus has done wonders here, as well as at its sister-house, Piper-Heidsieck.
From its amazing NV Brut Réserve to its blanc de blancs prestige cuvée, Blanc des Millénaires, Charles Heidsieck is first rate.  And how fortunate are we that the 1995 Millénaires is still available, and as fresh and lively as ever.  Pure elegance and finesse. $175-$185.

Champagne Henriot, Cuvée des Enchanteleurs 1998:  Henriot is another very underrated house with a style that depends on its Chardonnay.  Although Henriot’s house style veers clearly to light-bodied, very elegant Champagnes, its superb, long-lived prestige cuvée, Cuvée des Enchanteleurs, is clearly medium-to full-bodied.  Made from 50 percent Chardonnay and 50 percent Pinot Noir, with the Chardonnay dominating, the 1998 Enchanteleurs is stylish and classic, a superb Champagne, almost as good as Enchanteleurs’ other-worldly 1996 and 1988.  $142-$160.

Champagne Lanson, Noble Cuvée 2000:  Lanson makes three prestige cuvées called Noble Cuvée; the blended Noble Cuvée, a vintage Blanc de Blancs Noble Cuvée, and a non-vintage Rosé Noble Cuvée.  All are made from Grand Cru grapes only, and all age extremely well, partially because Lanson does not use malolactic fermentation (a process which softens the acidity in wine).  Lanson Champagnes, especially its Noble Cuvées, need time to age and soften.  They can be austere when young.  My experience with these Champagnes is that they can age for 40 years or more when stored well, and will be at their best with age.  $130.  (The Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs, probably the best of the three, is $170; the NV Rosé Noble Cuvée is $120).

Champagne Laurent-Perrier, Grand Siècle:  Laurent-Perrier is the largest privately-owned Champagne house and the fifth-largest house.  Its well-known prestige cuvée, Grand Siècle, is always a blend of three vintages; the current blend is from 1999, 1997, and 1996.  Grand Siècle veers from Laurent-Perrier’s house style epitomized by the light, elegant NV brut.  Grand Siècle, although not huge, is clearly closer to medium-bodied in style, 55 percent Chardonnay, 45 percent Pinot Noir.  Grand Siècle ages very well, 20 years or more, and is at its best with some maturity. $120.  (Its Grand Siècle Cuvée Alexandra Rosé 2004 is $300).

Champagne Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon 2004:  The world’s most famous wine, Dom Pérignon is clearly the largest-production prestige cuvée, and can be found throughout the world.  Despite its sizable production, I have never come across a less-than-good bottle.  Granted some vintages are better than others, of course; the current 2004, 50 percent Chardonnay, 50 percent Pinot Noir, is quite good, very dry, but needs another five or six years of aging.  It will never be as great as the 2002, 1996, or 1995, but Dom Pérignon always has finesse and class.  In any vintage, Dom needs at least 15 years of aging before it shows its stuff.  $160-$165.  Moët is now making a non-dosage Dom Pérignon as well, but it is not exported to the U.S. yet.  (The 2003 Dom Pérignon Rosé is available for $300+).

Champagne Bruno Paillard, Nec Plus Ultra, Grand Cru 1999:  Bruno Paillard’s N.P.U., as his prestige cuvée is known, is a clear deviation from the light, very delicate, and very elegant Paillard style.  The 1999 N.P.U., only the 4th vintage N.P.U. Paillard has made (after the 1990, 1995, and 1996), is a medium to-full-bodied Champagne, 50 percent Chardonnay and 50 percent Pinot Noir, that is fermented in small oak barrels, and then aged in these barrels for nine months.  The N.P.U. 1999 was aged further in bottle for 12 years before it was released in 2013.  The grapes from only Grand Cru villages are selected for the N.P.U., and the dosage is a low 4 grams/l.  Bruno Paillard believes that his N.P.U.will be a great Champagne in time.  Right now, it is a huge bruiser, so different in style from Paillard’s other Champagnes.  $225-$230.

Champagne Louis Roederer, Cristal 2005:  Is Cristal the world’s greatest Champagne?  Perhaps.  I’ll be conservative and say that it’s always in the top three.  Again we have a great prestige cuvée that is misunderstood.  Cristal is not meant to be consumed in its youth; it really needs time to develop.  The 1996 Cristal, 17 years old, is not really at its peak of maturity yet, but the magnificent 1988 Cristal, 25 years old, is perfect now.  The 2005 Cristal, 55 percent Pinot Noir and 45 percent Chardonnay, shows all the signs of becoming a great Champagne:  Loads of finesse, class, and elegance, and complexly flavored even now.  Perhaps it will not reach the heights of 2002, 1996, or 1988 Cristal, but it will be great.  $220.  (Small quantities of Cristal Rosé are made; 2005 Cristal Rosé is $500 to $530!  But Cristal might be the world’s best Rosé Champagne).

Champagne Ruinart, Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2002:  Dom Ruinart’s Blanc de Blancs is another prestige cuvée that requires patience.  Are you seeing a pattern developing?  The “other Dom” is quite a huge blanc de blancs which comes into its own with at least 15 years of aging.  The classy 2002 Dom Ruinart is a beauty; it will compare well to the 1996, 1990, and 1988 as one of the best Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs of modern times.  At $130, it is indeed a value for a Champagne of this quality.  (Ruinart also makes a Dom Ruinart Rosé, which sells for $300 and is not as good as the Blanc de blancs, in my opinion).

Champagne Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne 2005:  The huge house of Taittinger, the world’s sixth-largest, probably makes more blanc de blancs Champagne–and certainly the largest amount of prestige cuvée Blanc de Blancs–than any other house.  Its Comtes de Champagne really was the Champagne that popularized the blanc de blancs style after WW II.  Comtes de Champagne 2005, made with grapes from excellent villages on the Côtes des Blancs, is a big, voluptuous Champagne that will be at its best with 15 to 20 years of aging, and will continue to live for many years after that.  $150.  (The 2005 Comtes de Champagne Rosé, mainly Pinot Noir, also will take time to develop.  $230).

Shared by Ed McCarthy

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