It’s been a difficult time for Champagne producers recently, no doubt due to the COVID crisis. Below average sales across the board have been due to several reasons including restaurant closures around the world, and the uncertain economy in many nations. As Champagne is thought of by many as a celebratory beverage, many consumers have put their Champagne appreciation on hold.
But producers are still releasing their latest cuvées, many of them from vintages from 6-8 years ago. Most of these wines are special offerings companies have been producing for decades; overall quality is first-rate in most instances.
So in the spirit that Champagne needs as much good news and publicity as possible these days, here are notes on several of the latest releases I’ve tasted this calendar year.
Waris-Hubert Blanc de Blancs NV « Lilyale » –100% Chardonnay from Grand Cru Villages, Avize, Oger and Cramant. Light yellow; aromas of lemon peel, a hint of grapefruit and hints of green apple. Medium-full with a rich mid-palate, ripe fruit, good freshness and very good acidity. Excellent persistence, and quite stylish. Enjoy over the next 5-8 years. Excellent (92)
Philipponnat Blanc de Noirs 2012 – 100% Pinot Noir, disgorged September 2018. Dosage 4.5 g/l. Rich yellow; beautiful persistent stream of bubbles. Aromas of Anjou pear, yellow plum and yellow orchid. Medium-full with lovely harmony, very good acidity and excellent persistence. While offering impressive richness, this displays a great deal of charm and finesse, and is more refined than many examples of Blanc de Noirs. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years. Excellent (93)
Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2013 – Light yellow; excellent stream of persistent bubbles. Rich aromas of green apples, lemon peel and hints of green herb. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Very good acidity and complexity. Beautiful varietal purity, impressive persistence. Enjoy over the next 2-5 years. Excellent (93)
Ayala Blanc de Blancs 2014 – Light yellow; aromas of fresh lemon, yellow flowers and chamomile. Medium-boded, balanced acidity, soft finish. Nicely balanced with good varietal purity. A lighter styled Blanc de Blancs, but very charming. 3-5 years. Very Good (88)
Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2013 – Lovely yellow; textbook aromas of lemongrass, citrus peel and white flowers. Medium-full with beautifully ripe fruit, good acidity, very good persistence and beautiful harmony. Wonderful finesse – classy as always from this great producer. A touch lighter than the outstanding 2012, but another excellent Blanc de Blancs. Drink over the next 3-7 years, perhaps longer. (93)
Champagne Marc Hébrart “Mes Favorites” NY Brut – This cuvée is labeled “Vielles Vignes” (old vines) and is a blend of some of Hebrart’s favorite vineyards in his home village of Mareuil-sur-Ay. 75% Pinot noir, 25% Chardonnay. Straw/light yellow; aromas of lemon peel, orange rind and chamomile. Medium-full, elegant, round finish, very good persistence. Lovely blend, this is a cuvée all about elegance and freshness. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Excellent (91)
Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2012 – A blend of 51% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay and 15% Meunier; 11% of the wine was aged in large wooden foudres. Light yellow; persistent stream of bubbles. Aromas of yellow plum, lemon zest and lilacs. Medium-full with very good concentration. Bright fruit, very good acidity and persistence, with a clean, appealing finish. Quite enjoyable at present; consume over the next 3-7 years. Excellent (93)
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2012 – La Grande Dame (“the great lady”) – refers to Madame Clicquot who managed the company for several years in the 19th century – is the prestige cuvée of Veuve Clicquot. The blend of the 2012 as well as the previous 2008 have been dominated by Pinot Noir; the 2012 is a blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. Light yellow; aromas of plum, lemon peel, quince and orange blossom. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Lengthy, elegant finish with very good acidity and freshness. Impressive complexity, lovely Pinot Noir character, and beautiful overall harmony – no one element stands out in this cuvée. Enjoy over the next 7-12 years. Outstanding (95)
The striking design for the label and packaging of the 2012 La Grande Dame is the work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. She often uses polka dots in her work; here they represent the bubbles in Champagne.