TNs: Champagne, Burgs, Others

A few recent summer wines at a birthday party for a friend’s new spouse.

Birthday girl’s vintage:

1979 Veuve Grande Dame: pretty good 79, rich red fruit, dark chocolate.

1979 Clos de Goisses: better than its classmate, rich, deep, hazelnuts, kind of Krug-like (a good thing in my book).

It was a little depressing to think that I was already in college when the birthday girl was being “disgorged”.

A little sabering spree:

1980 Clos de Goisses: DP in disguise, has a coffee note that I haven’t found in any other Goisses, delicious but kind of atypical I think.

1982 Clos de Goisses: still a little young but really terrific with a little time in the glass, big framed.

2002 Cristal: seems a little simple and sweet at this point, young of course but not a fan.

2002 Agrapart Cuvee Minerale: acid is a little spiky and raw, better with time in the glass but probably not something we’re going to buy in quantity.

1999 Clos de Goisses Rose: going to be lovely in a few years but a little out of sorts initially, seemed cranky, improved a lot over a couple of hours, but worth letting this rest a bit more.

We dip into my stash:

2002 Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre: pretty opulent, even a little flashy, white peach with balancing acid.

1982 Leflaive Batard: not usually a big Batard fan but would be if more of them were like this, chiseled, not fat, but great depth to this.

1982 Leflaive Chevy: better than its stablemate, and that’s saying something, a wow wine for my tastes.

1978 Gaunoux Pommard Epenots: iron, freshly turned earth, maybe a little game, quite light in color but good length and depth, said birthday girl: “ooh, it’s older than me.” muttered my spouse (thankfully I think I was the only one who heard) “yes, more mature too.”

The birthday girl wanted burgers on the grill, so:

1989 Pichon Lalande: touch of green, middle weight, nice enough as a burger wine but makes me glad that I quit buying bordeaux (yes, I know it’s not a great example of PL; the 82 for example is far better, even the 79 is for my tastes).

2000 Usseglio Deux Freres: not exactly a subtle wine, mammoth really, ok for what it is but tiring to drink.

There were a lot more bottles opened as the day wore into night. NV Billecart Bdb was pretty good although the person wielding the saber didn’t quite understand the concept and went more for the Robespierre approach on the first bottle. 2004 Arnoux St Vivant was disappointing even taking into consideration its youth, lots of celery seed.

Fun night though.

I haven’t had any '82 Leflaives in quite a while, guess I drank 'em too young. A shame what’s happened to white Burgundy as the best ones with 20+ years of age are silly good. The producers who have ruined the age-ability of these amazing wines should be shot (or, at the very least, fired).

Steve,

Nice notes and collection of wines. I’ve always found the 80 DP and CdG to be similar. I think the CdG has the edge as it has a bit more going on. 79 is probably the best vintage to safely go to in Champagne (especially if you are buying now) for an experience that is drinking well with both maturity and freshness.

Brad:

The 80 CDG is the only one I’ve had that reminds me of DP. Normally not a huge DP fan (although the 75 Oeno and 95 Oeno are pretty remarkable wines). Have you had the 99 CDG Rose? If so, what did you think? We only received a tiny allocation in Tokyo, so there wasn’t much to go around; combine that with a preference for older wine, and thus little experience with the 99.

I don’t know when my friend bought his 79 champagnes, but he’s been buying for a long time (of course, he’s reloading now having left his first spouse for birthday girl). From my modest stash, I’m finding the 73’s, 76’s and some of the 82’s best for my taste. Just haven’t been that impressed with the 79’s. Given what’s going on in the market though I’m not buying much older stuff unless I’m reasonably certain it’s coming direct from the house cellars.

Nice line-up.

Agree with everything you say regarding the champagnes (except I’m a big fan of 79 champagnes overall as well as DP) and the Leflaive’s.

I drank my last bottle of '79 Goisses a couple of years ago, and haven’t had a bottle since. Not easy to find.

We’ll see what happens to the '02 Cristal as it ages, but I’m not so optimistic.

Haven’t had the '99 Goisses Rose in a couple of years. I’ll be trying it again next week. Hopefully, that bottle will be more together than your bottle, but I wasn’t wow’d the first time.

Love the '82 Leflaive Chevalier. One of my favorite vintages of that wine.

Here’s to more '79 vintage birthday girls !

Ray:

Thanks for the observations. Funny how one can find relative quantities of 80, 82, 85 and 89 Goisses in Tokyo, but 79 and 88 are pretty much non-existent. I’ll have to explore 79 champagne a bit more; there may be some coming available via a restaurant cellar sale here that looks to have pretty good provenance based on what I’ve had from the restaurant cellar in the past.

From your experience, any thoughts on other 79’s worth looking for? I’ve had a reasonable amount of 79 Cristal and Comtes and found the Comtes better for my tastes, only a few bottles of Pol Roger and Ayala and none really all that thrilling (but I didn’t buy the Pol or Ayala anywhere near release so provenance could be an issue), as well as Krug (which I like but not as much as 73 or 76).

I’m trying to ration my meager stock of 82 Leflaive but would gladly open one if you’re out this way (as well as the last of the 64 Figeac).

Steve,

My favorite '79’s in rough order are Krug CdM - but it’s incredibly expensive - Salon, Krug, Pol Roger SWC, Taittinger CdC in the top tier. The next group includes Cristal, Charles Heidseick Champagne Charlie, Piper Heidseick Cuvee Rare, Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque, Dom Ruinart and La Grande Dame.

I agree with you on the Pol Roger - not their best work - and I’ve had the Ayala once in a horizontal and it was either the worst or second to worst champagne of the dozen or so I drank.

Steve,

I’m not the biggest fan of aged Cristal and have never been moved by the 79. I do really like the Comtes de Champagne BdB. My top 79 list would be similar to Ray’s. I really like Krug’s CdM and Salon, but I would also put Comtes BdB, Ruinart BdB, Krug vintage, and Pol Roger’s Churchill right up there too. Over time, I think the Krug CdM will begin to pull away from the rest, but the Ruinart BdB is in a really, really nice place right now.

I’ve never been moved by the 99 Clos des Goisses Rose (or the 2000), but I think it does have good potential. Neither vintage is destined for greatness as I think they lack a little “oomph” and the distinctiveness that makes the white CdG so special. Philipponnat has always said the 99 CdG Rose is one that will take some time to show its true colors.

Ray & Brad:

Thanks very much for the recommendations. I have a couple of SWC and Ruinart in storage so I’ll have to dig them out. Agree about the Krug and CDM, both very nice but as Ray noted current market on the CDM is prohibitive. Never had the 79 Salon (regrettably, I passed on it because I’d gone deep on 76). Will keep my eyes open for some. Appreciate the info.

Thanks for the fine notes, Steve.

I hear what you are saying on the 2002 Agrapart Minerale with regard to the spiky acidity. We had a bottle outside on a very hot day recently and that character actually served it well in that setting. Still, I plan to cellar our other few bottles for a decent period of time.

On a side note, I had my first experience with Raveneau Montee de Tonnere last night (1995), which was much more about depth of minerality and complex restraint. Interesting to hear about the 2002.

-Michael

Michael,

Good point on acidity and a hot day. I enjoy non-dosage Champagne the most on a hot summer afternoon. The acidity and minerality often play well together in that setting.

Steve,

I like 76 Salon more than 79 Salon so you should be sitting pretty. 76 Salon is my favorite Champagne of the vintage. Give a 79 Ruiniart a go; it is sublime right now.