Moët & Chandon will be lowering the dosage of its market-leading Brut Impérial from 12 grams per litre to 9 g/l according to its chef de cave Benoît Gouez. This follows the decision by Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave Richard Geoffroy, who recently gradually lowered the sugar levels on the prestige cuvée champagnes. Geoffroy said, “There has been a strategy of lowering the dosage in the last 10 years and we are now between 6 and 7 g/l.” This decision by the biggest brand in the region follows a global trend towards adding less sugar to the world-famous fizz. Partly explaining this development is kinder weather in Champagne, giving riper and more complex fruit with less reliance on a conventional dosage of between 10-12 g/l. Michael Edwards from Drinks Business states “Even climate change skeptics cannot deny that, since 1990, harvests have progressively begun two to three weeks earlier than in the ’70s and ’80s – in better-tended, eco-friendly vineyards, under warmer autumnal skies.” As for the right level of sugar, opinions vary, but a balance appears to have been struck between 6-8 g/l, ensuring there is enough sugar to enhance the Champagne’s aromas but also protect the wine from premature oxidation. (this is an important statement as sugar helps the wine from premature oxidation. Philippe Thieffry, senior winemaker at Veuve Clicquot, says “If the Champagne has a moderate dosage – 6-8 g/l – and is well protected by SO2, it will release the same bouquet as one traditionally dosed at 10-12 g/l; it will not suffer oxidation.” Below 6-8 g/l however, and Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, vice-president at Louis Roederer, says “you reach an oxidative stage that quickly changes the fruit and aromas of the wine.”
When thugs drag off Honey Ryder in 1962’s Dr. No, he brandishes a bottle to defend her. Warned by the title character that he’s grabbed a Dom Pérignon 1955 and “it would be a pity to waste it,” 007 coolly counters “I prefer the ’53 myself.”
Even under duress, it’s important to keep your vintages straight. The best come from those years when already glamorous Champagnes reach their zenith of seduction. The year 2002 is one of those. We are now enjoying the fruits of the foremost vintage since 1996. This trio of 2002s, each with its own personality, would certainly fit in with Bond’s lofty preferences: Moët & Chandon’s Brut Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon 2002 (Wine Spectator-rated 95, $160), Piper-Heidsieck’s Brut Champagne Rare 2002 (95, $275) and Bollinger’s Brut Rosé Champagne La Grande Année 2002 (94, $230).
The Dom Pérignon comes swathed in haute couture. It’s all about elegance and attention to detail, with its smoky richness and fine-grained texture. And that’s only a backdrop for the layers of biscuit, candied lemon peel, coffee liqueur, chamomile, pine and crystallized honey to come. Choosing roughly equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from grand cru vineyards, DP’s chef de cave Richard Geoffroy took full advantage of the flavor maturity in the ripe grapes and the powerful profile of the vintage.
The classy Piper-Heidsieck Rare is a mosaic of textures. It shows red berry and graphite flavors and a firm structure, with honey, toast and seashore notes. Silkiness completes the picture. While the grape blend is dominated by Pinot Noir (70 percent), chef de cave Régis Camus stresses the importance of Chardonnay (30 percent) sourced from specific crus when it comes to elaborating a Rare vintage. “Our quest is always for Chardonnays [that] are mineral in style.”
With its deep rose hue the Bollinger is dressed up to celebrate. With a sense of balance and seamless integration, the wine delivers juicy fruit flavors of ripe black cherry, pomegranate and cassis that are fresh and vibrant. The finish is long and lightly spiced. Bollinger ferments the base wines in neutral oak barrels, adding 7 to 8 percent red Pinot Noir from its tiny La Côte aux Enfants vineyard located behind the firm’s offices. It’s aged on the lees a minimum of six years.
You needn’t wait until your dining with a super villain, however. Popping the cork on any one of these Champagnes from the glorious 2002 vintage is sure to enhance any situation. But even Bond would find it difficult choosing just one.
The Business Traveller Cellars in the Sky Awards have been running since 1985, with a record number of 36 airlines taking part this year. Blind tastings took place over two days on November 4 and 5 at the Grosvenor House, London, with five judges independently scoring. The judges included:
• Charles Metcalfe, TV wine presenter and co-chairman of the
International Wine Challenge;
• Sam Harrop, Master of Wine and winemaking consultant;
• Derek Smedley, Master of Wine for more than 40 years,
consultant and co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge;
• Peter McCombie, Master of Wine, accredited tutor for the Wine and
Spirit Education Trust and consultant; and
• John Worontschak, leading winemaker and wine business development
Business Class Sparkling
1. Qatar Airways – Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle 1996;
2. Etihad – Henriot Blanc Souverain;
4. (JOINT) British Airways, Qantas and Singapore Airlines –
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve AND LAN – Louis Roederer Brut Premier; and
5. Jet Airways – Dom Pérignon 2002.
First Class Sparkling
1. Qantas – Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1999;
2. United Airlines – Henriot Brut Millésimé 1996;
3. (JOINT) Qatar Airways, All Nippon Airways and Cathay Pacific –
Krug Grande Cuvée;
4. Thai Airways – Bollinger 1999; and
5. Malaysia Airlines and Jet Airways – Dom Pérignon 2002.
Aer Lingus, Aegean Airlines, Air Astana, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Alitalia, American Airlines, All Nippon Airlines, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, El Al, Etihad, Emirates, Finnair, Gulf Air, Iberia, Jet Airways, Kenya Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Korean Air, LAN, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, South African Airways, TAM, Thai Airways and United Airlines.
As director of education for Moët Hennessy USA, Seth Box is responsible for spreading the word about his company’s spirits, wines and Champagnes — including Dom Pérignon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot, Moët et Chandon and Ruinart — to as many people as possible. Simply put: he regularly takes people out for drinks.
Champagne, he says, shouldn’t be saved for a special occasion. “It’s embarrassing that we, as a country, drink as little Champagne as we do,” Mr. Box said. “Because it’s so much fun, tastes delicious and makes people happy.”
Like most Champagne aficionados, he has definite opinions about the glass in which it should be served. “If you’re someone who appreciates the nuances and finer aspects of Champagnes, the glass is really important,” he said.
He said that while flutes are “great for presentation and showcase bubbles beautifully, from the tasting standpoint, the shape isn’t ideal.” He prefers a shape that is a combination of a white-wine glass and a Champagne glass — one with a bulbous bottom and a narrower top. “You want something with a wineglass on the bottom, to capture the aromas,” he said, which “then tapers up a bit so you focus those aromas on the nose.”
With the holiday entertaining season in high gear, Mr. Box spent a recent morning searching for Champagne-worthy glassware. At Baccarat, on Madison Avenue, he found the Remy stems “boring, but perfect: the bowl will capture the aromas and then focus around the back, and you can hold it without mucking up the glass.” The Vega Flutissimo would probably not be a top pick for sommeliers, but he liked it “because it reminds us that Champagne is also about an aesthetic,” he said. “And the blue crystal adds a touch which is reminiscent of more classic times.”
Nearby, at Lalique, he picked the Facet Champagne flute. “If you’re going to do classic, do this,” he said. “It’s a gorgeous flute.”
Online, he found one of his favorites, the Spiegelau Hybrid. “The deep bowl and larger size allow the Champagne to aerate while still maintaining a sleek look,” he said.
He also liked Govino’s stemless shatterproof design, pointing out that its shape works for many wines and Champagnes, and its price ($12 for four) won’t break the bank.
Ultimately, though, the glass is secondary, he said: “Drink Champagne in anything. If it makes you happy to drink it out of a water cup or a cool little Italian country glass, go for it. Just drink, and be happy.”
New York Times
[of Top 100 Cellar Selections]
Henriot 1996 Cuvée des Enchanteleurs Brut $185. With all the extreme intensity of this vintage, this wine brings even more. The start of cookie yeast and toast character, a vibrant mineral texture, hints of spice, green herbs and a final white peach flavor. It is still young, just keep aging. Imported by Henriot Inc.
Moët & Chandon 1996 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Brut $385. A magnificent Champagne, one that is light, delicate, yet packed with character. It is beautifully balanced, with a bone-dry character, just softened by the toastiness that is developing. Expect this to age for many years. Imported by Moët Hennessy USA.
Bollinger 1997 RD Brut $260. Disgorged in 2009, this is a toasty wine, rich and concentrated. The idea of long aging before disgorging the yeast cells is to build up the unique complexity of the wine. In this Bollinger has succeeded magnificently. An opulent wine, with aging potential for 10 years or more. Imported by Terlato Wines International.
Krug 1998 Clos du Mesnil $1,400. A wine that has created its own universe. It has a unique, special softness that allies with the total purity that comes from a small, enclosed single vineyard. The fruit is almost irrelevant here, because it comes as part of a much deeper complexity. This is a great wine, at the summit of Champagne, a sublime, unforgettable experience. Imported by Moët Hennessy USA.