Vintage 2002: A Great Champagne Year

12th August 2014

Vintage 2002: A Great Champagne Year

The climate in 2002 in La Champagne–as the region is called by its inhabitants–was just about perfect for a potentially outstanding vintage:  A mild spring; warm, but not hot summer; with dry, sunny days in the fall.  Alcohol levels were high enough, combined with good-enough acidity to balance the wines.

Here are some 2002 Champagnes that I’ve tasted:

Champagne Bollinger:  Bollinger’s La Grand Année, as the house calls its vintage Champagnes, is invariably very fine and long-lasting, but Bollinger has outdone itself with its 2002, which will be (is already) one of the stars of this very fine vintage.  The Grand Année Bollinger 2002 (60 percent Pinot Noir, 40 percent Chardonnay) uses grapes from only Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards.  It is a huge Champagne, highly concentrated, with good acidity.  It is not nearly ready to drink.  Bollinger’s 2002 is clearly its best Grand Année since its magnificent 1996, although its 1997 was probably the best Champagne from that very precocious vintage.

Champagne Louis Roederer “Cristal”:  Rich and ripe, unusually forward for the superb Cristal.  It is intense yet refined, with perfect balance and enough acidity to guarantee a long future.  As of now it is too early to tell, but the 2002 might be one of the great Cristals.  It resembles the 1990 Cristal, but it will even be better, and longer-lived.  If you prefer not to spend $200 for the Cristal, the 2002 Roederer Vintage Brut (about $80 retail) is also excellent, but without the finesse and elegance of the Cristal.

Champagne Ayala, “La Perle d’Ayala” Nature:  I have personally become a big fan of Ayala since Bollinger purchased this small house seven years ago.  Ayala is leading the way among the houses by introducing a number of Brut Zero (Nature) Champagnes.  In fact, all of Ayala Champagnes have low dosage and are quite light-bodied and elegant, the perfect apéritif Champagnes.  Its prestige cuvée, La Perle d’Ayala Nature–which also comes in a non-Nature, low-dosage version–is superb, dry without being too dry, with great acidity.   I have also tasted the 2002 Ayala Blanc de Blancs; it’s a stunning, lively blanc de blancs.

Champagne Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne:  Always an elegantly-styled Champagne with an emphasis on its Chardonnay component, the 2002 is more full-bodied than usual–the nature of the vintage.  A lovely Champagne, delicious even now, but with a bright future ahead of it.

Champagne Piper-Heidsieck “Rare”:  Piper’s Rare has quietly become one of Champagne’s better prestige cuvées.  Its 2002 is smashing, a hit-you-over-the-head bubbly that you can’t ignore.  It’s lively and full of great flavors.  The Rare also has quite a reputation for longevity.  I have been enjoying bottles of the 1988 Rare for the past two years.

Champagne Pol-Roger Brut Rosé:  I have noticed a definite improvement in recent vintages of Pol-Roger (it was always good; now it’s even better).  Pol-Roger has been making particularly fine rosés lately, lively, brimming with fruit.  The 2002 quietly explodes in your mouth, a wine with depth and tremendous length.  And I can’t wait to try its 2002 Sir Winston Churchill, its prestige cuvée!

Champagne Deutz Blanc de Blancs:  Deutz has always produced excellent blanc de blancs, and it has a winner in its 2002.  Lively and brimming with its trademark lemony flavors, this Champagne is absolutely delicious right now, although it will age well.  Personally, I would drink the Deutz 2002 Blanc de Blancs now, at its lively best.

Champagne Dom Pérignon:  Usually, the DP has a quiet presence when first released, and unfolds its complex structure and flavors with age.  But the 2002 Dom is no shrinking violet; it is intense and in-your-face from the first sip.  A fellow-writer commented that this is the best Dom Pérignon since winemaker Richard Geoffroy took over in 1990.  Time will tell.  Personally, my vote goes to the1996 DP, although Geoffroy himself prefers his 1998.

Champagne Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs:  The other Dom has produced a wonderful, elegant 2002 blanc de blancs, perfectly balanced, with all signs of greatness.  This is definitely one of the better Champagnes of the vintage.  It should age beautifully for 30 years or more.  A triumph.

Shared by Ed McCarthy

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