Page 0187

Vintage

Performers

2000 jStyle in brief: Generous, soft and ripe

Despite a cool, wet summer and severe hailstorms in

July, a dry, warm period just before the harvest in early

September resulted in mainly ripe grapes with relatively

low acidity. The wines are quite forward, which has

made for attractive drinking from the outset.

Overall rating: 6/10

When to drink: 2014-2018

Two to try: Lanson Noble Cuvée 2000,

Duval-Leroy Femme 2000

2002 jStyle in brief: Well balanced, age-worthy wines

After a cool, wet August, sunny weather from the

start of September helped produce one of the most

consistently high-quality vintages. It was widely

declared, with many houses making outstanding

wines of great balance and intensity. The best will

happily last at least another decade.

Champagne sans année, as the

French more attractively describe

non-vintage Champagne, is made

from a blend of two or more

harvests and accounts for the

vast majority of Champagne

production. For the large houses, the aim

here is to produce a consistent style.

In contrast, vintage Champagne has to be

100% from the year indicated on the label

and, as a result, is more variable in style.

It is, in e ect, an expression of one single

harvest. The character of the year gives the

characteristics of the vintage, but the step

up in quality and intensity of   avour

comes from the selection of the best

grapes from Champagne's top sites.

Vintage Champagnes typically spend

more time ageing than non-vintage Champagnes and,

consequently, few top houses have released vintages past 2006,

while several are still selling 2004 or even 2002.

It used to be said that vintage Champagne is typically released

by a majority of producers three or four times a decade -

only when the weather in this, the most northerly of France's

vineyards, is particularly kind and agreeable.

However, since the turn of the Millennium, Champagne has

experienced generally warmer summers and looks likely to

Overall rating: 9/10

When to drink: 2014-2024

Two to try: Pommery Louise 2002,

Cuvée Alain Thiénot 2002

2004 jStyle in brief: Attractive and relatively

forward-drinking

One of the largest harvests on record was also of

high quality, just like in 1999, 1983 and 1982. The

prospects looked good from the outset and it's turned

out to be better quality than many in the region

predicted, if generally not quite at the level of 2002.

Overall rating: 8/10

When to drink: 2014-2020

Two to try: Veuve Clicquot 2004, Laurent-Perrier 2004

2005 jStyle in brief: Developed, open, even luscious

More evidence of warmer summers came this year

with above-average sunshine. July was hot and

humid, followed by cooler weather in August but

a very sunny, dry September led to favourable

ripening conditions. Quality is more variable across

the region than in some years, but some excellent

vintage wines were made.

Overall rating: 6/10

When to drink: 2014-2016

Two to try: Jacquart Cuvée Alpha 2005,

Drappier Grande Sendrée 2005

2006 jStyle in brief: Developed, balanced wines

with some structure to age well

After a very hot and dry July, it was wet and cool

in August and a return to warm, dry weather at

the start of September enabled � nal ripening.

Generally the quality of Chardonnay is highest,

though some may be overripe. Pinot Noir did

better than Pinot Meunier. A season of extremes

has produced some high-quality vintage wines.

Overall rating: 7/10

When to drink: 2014-2020

Two to try: Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque 2006,

Louis Roederer 2006

more time ageing than non-vintage Champagnes and,

muster ‰ ve high-quality vintages (the 2008s and 2009s have

mostly yet to be released) in that decade.

Vintage cuvées demonstrate best that Champagne is a wine

that can be kept for many years without losing all its zip and

freshness, at the same time developing aromas,   avours and

complexity that set it aside from other top sparkling wines.

If you need more convincing, here's our guide to the vintages

that are available to buy at the moment.

Investing tips

The idea of buying vintage Champagne as

an investment - that is, buying it by the case

to lay down like top Bordeaux and Burgundy

wines - is a relatively new one outside a small

circle of Champagne lovers.

Champagne investment reached a wider

audience with the much heralded 2002 vintage,

when several leading merchants ran what was

in e� ect an en primeur campaign with certain

brands. When dipping a toe into these waters,

speak to � ne wine specialists such as Berry Bros

& Rudd, Farr Vintners and The Wine Society.

You can still buy 2002 (if you go back further

I'd plump for 1988, 1990 and 1995).

Since 2002, 2004 is also a good bet, though

the vintage was large and it may not have 2002's

longevity. Looking ahead at vintages yet to be

released, 2008 and 2009 look very promising.

More recently still 2012, small in size but in many

peoples' view perfectly formed, was very highly

rated at the time of the harvest.

If you can, buy in magnum format as the wines

age and develop more slowly than in 75cl bottles.

squaremeal.co.uk | 185

CHAMPAGNE SPECIAL

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