Prestige Cuvée Champagnes ~ Part 3 – Full-Bodied, Rich Prestige Cuvées

4th August 2014

Prestige Cuvée Champagnes ~ Part 3 – Full-Bodied, Rich Prestige Cuvées

Full-Bodied, Rich Prestige Cuvées

Champagne Bollinger, Vieilles Vignes Françaises Blanc de Noir 2002:  Bollinger’s position is that it really doesn’t make a prestige cuvée, but we can consider its Grand Année or R.D. as prestige cuvées if we want.  Actually, these two Champagnes, as good as they are, are really Vintage Champagnes.  Bollinger’s only true prestige cuvée is its very rare old vines Blanc de Noirs, Françaises, made from ungrafted vines in two small vineyards.  Bollinger does not like to publicize this wine because it makes very little of it, and it’s always in demand.  Bollinger Françaises 2002 is rich and magisterial with an extremely long finish, a Champagne you will not forget.  Some of the very best Champagnes I have ever tasted have been Bollinger Françaises Blanc de Noirs.  One way Bollinger has managed to deal with the demand for Françaises is to raise its price; it is now a whopping $925.

Champagne Gosset, Célébris Extra Brut 1998:  Gosset makes three wonderful Célébris extra brut prestige cuvees: in addition to the current 1998, Gosset has a 2003 Célébris Rosé available, and a non-vintage Célébris Blanc de Blancs, probably the best of the three.  Although Gosset’s house style is rich and full-bodied, with its excellent NV Grande Réserve Brut the best example, the Célébris Champagnes have an elegance combined with richness that leaves a lasting impression.  The 1998 Célébris, 64 percent Chadonnay, 36 percent Pinot Noir, all from Grand Cru grapes, is drinking beautifully now, but will age for at least a decade longer. $150-$160.  (Gosset’s 2003 Célébris Rosé Extra Brut and NV Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs are about $180).

Champagne Krug, Grande Cuvée:  Krug and Salon are the only major houses that make only prestige cuvées.  Krug has always been the connoisseur’s favorite, and why not?  It is complexly flavored, important, ages beautifully, and ages forever–even its multi-vintage Grande Cuvée (no one would dare to refer to it as a non-vintage; Rémy Krug always noted that 10 or more vintages and 120 wines are in the blend, including 50 percent reserve wines).  It is a masterpiece, and continues to improve as it ages; 50 percent Pinot Noir, 15 percent Pinot Meunier, and 35 percent Chardonnay.  $140-$150.  (Besides the magnificent Vintage Krug, priced at $240-$250, are the fantastic Krug NV Rosé at $300, and Krugmakes the world’s best Blanc de Blancs, Clos du Mesnil 2000, $800-$850; and its new member of the Krug family, the limited-production Blanc de Noirs 1998, Clos d’Ambonnay, $2,000).

Champagne Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses 2001:  Only Philipponnat would have the courage to make a Champagne in such a poor vintage.  Its record speaks for itself; Clos des Goisses is outstanding in every vintage it makes.  Blessed with an incredible, steep vineyard on the Marne River in Aÿ, Clos des Goisses, normally 70 percent Pinot Noir, 30 percent Chardonnay, lately has been using a 65/35 percent Pinot Noir-dominated blend.  Most knowledgeable Champagne lovers I know consider Clos des Goisses one of the world’s outstanding Champagnes.  It needs considerable time to open; I suggest 20 years from the vintage, although the 2001 might be ready sooner.  I do know that Clos des Goisses seems to last forever, like Krug and Salon.  It’s an extremely classy Champagne, with lots of finesse.  Always delicious.  $170-$180.  (Clos des Goisses 2002, 2003, and 2004 also in U.S.; tiny quantities of 2002 Clos des Goisses Rosé are available for $425-$450).

Champagne Pol Roger, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2000:  Pol Roger makes sturdy, long-lived wines, and none are sturdier than its Pinot Noir-dominated Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.  Its 1996, 1990, and 1988 Sir Winston Churchills are among the finest Champagnes that I have tasted.  The Cuvée began with the 1975 vintage, as a memorial to its greatest customer, Winston Churchill. The 2000 Cuvée is rich and full-bodied, like the man himself, and will live for several decades.  $200-$225.

Champagne Salon, Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 1999:  Salon only makes one Champagne, its prestige cuvée Blanc de Blancs, and only in good vintage years.  Salon is invariably the last house to release its Champagne.  No other Champagne, with the possible exception of Krug’s Clos du Mesnil, takes so many years (minimum 20 to 25) to be ready to drink.  It is no coincidence that the world’s two most renowned blanc de blancs Champagnes hail from the village of Le Mesnil.  Salon’s very small production, 40,000 bottles annually, sells out rapidly.  We don’t know how long Salon can age (its first commercial vintage was the 1921, although it did make a 1914).  Aimé Salon was the first to make a blanc de blancs Champagne to sell commercially.  Salon’s Champagne is huge; the amazing 1996 Salon is decades away from its maturity.  The 1999 Salon might be approachable in ten years. $300.

Champagne Veuve Clicquot, La Grande Dame 2004:  Veuve Clicquot, the world’s second-largest Champagne (after Moët & Chandon) has always produced excellent Vintage Champagnes, including its prestige cuvée, La Grande Dame.  This full, rich wine is made from 62 percent Pinot Noir and 38 percent Chardonnay.  La Grande Dame, like all great prestige cuvées, ages beautifully, at least for several decades.  The 2004 La Grande Dame should be ready in about five years, but will continue to evolve for many more years.  An exquisite Champagne.  $140.  (La Grande Dame Rosé 2004, made in smaller quantities, is even better than La Grande Dame, $290).

Prestige Cuvées will always be in demand, especially in the United States, their best market.  Many of them, of course, are extremely expensive, but if you check my listings carefully, you can find many bargains.  Yes, it’s true that the status of these Champagnes is a huge factor for many wine drinkers who buy them, but they are indeed outstanding Champagne that–like all great wines–will stand the test of time, and live for decades.

Shared by Ed McCarthy

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