2002...What a Vintage for Champagne!
Many people in Champagne hate Vintage releases. It's their opinion that Vintage Champagne steals lot of excellently ripe material necessary for the Non-Vintage blends which represent the soul of such climatically extreme region.
I mostly agree with this point of view, but it's also true that global warming will probably smooth asperities in Champagne region and in future the problem will be the opposite. Next generations will most likely treasure lesser vintages as essential players in keeping freshness and acidity to balance other overripe vintages. Please note how many Champagne producers can avoid malolactic fermentation (MLF) to preserve sharpness, while UK producers are still performing it to round up their wines. Please also note how some prestigious Champagne Maison is starting investing on UK territory. Why? Because in a couple of decades UK may end up to be more suited than Champagne for producing this sparkling joy. And what about Terroir? Ah, don't worry! Some wine critic/expert will come up with some sort of subdivision of UK lands in Crus, Grand Crus and so on. Don't forget that, in a remake of the 1976 Judgment of Paris, the Noble Rot magazine (now also wine bar) organised few months ago a blind tasting in which UK-based wine critics/experts endorsed UK sparkling wine to be as great as (in few cases greater than) Champagne(*). So, it's already a written story. It would be interesting to see how UK sparkling wine will be received by the international market with respect to other competitors such as Italy, Spain, Germany, New World... I think some serious (but niche) offer may also arrive from that regions that will be able to properly exploit high-altitude viticulture. Let's wait and see...
In the meantime, Champagne can still fight against global warming using another knob (set aside the above-mentioned MLF), that is Liqueur d'Expedition. Indeed, I believe we will see more and more Brut Nature coming out from this region, and this will be not for making Terroir apparent, but just to keep finesse and vibrancy.
Forgiving me for this too long preface, let me say that 2002 Vintage is simply stunning and therefore it's more than licit having few Vintage Releases. I was lucky enough to taste quite few representatives of this vintage and every time I try a new producer I remain allured by the coplexity and purity of these products. I have reported a couple of highlights in previous posts of this blog. Below I would like to signalling another striking cuvee I have very much enjoyed.
Collard Picard Champagne Cuvée Des Archives Brut 2002 (4.7/5)
This cuvee is vinified and aged in oak casks for 18 months, without malolactic fermentation or filtration. It's then aged on the lees in bottle for eight years with rémuage and dégorgement done by hand. A bouchon liège allows the proper micro-oxygenation during the maturation process. Produced only in exceptional vintages in numbered bottles. Only 8000 bottles have been made in 2002. Furthermore, this is a particularly unique vintage because the 100yo Chardonnay vineyard has been replanted since then. Gorgeous packaging as well.
Deep gold with amber tones. On the nose is profound, rich and lush, offering notes of jasmine, dried fruits, gingerbread, baking spices and mineral hints. On the palate is wonderfully balanced, opulence marries freshness, It's ripe yet vibrant. A sapid backbone supports the long finish.
Outstanding Quality, drink now or hold, Premium Price. Old-vine Chardonnay from Cote des Blancs (Grand Cru) 80% and Pinot Noir from Vallée de la Marne 20%, Champagne, France.
(*) Why I do not believe in this sort of competitions? Because I don't get the meaning of comparing a given wine (in this case UK sparkling) with the first in the class (in this case Champagne). What's the meaning of this benchmarking exercise? Why UK sparkling should be so similar to a Champagne wine (and I mean so similar to be mistaken for French wine in a blind tasting)? Why UK wine should look so alike to his French cousin? Doesn't UK wine possess his own peculiarities? If UK sparkling does possess his own personality, than the blind tasting is useless and polarised. If UK sparkling is, instead, just a copy of Champagne then we have done a very great job towards diversity. In this case I have no defence when people come to me and say "wine is just wine, they taste all the same, why wasting my extra penny". On one hand, I understand the hype generated by these competitions is beneficial to the industry, no doubt. On the other hand, we need to pay attention because today consumers are much more informed and attentive in spending their money. They are not looking for copies, they value individuality, personality and diversity.