I wrote about the 2003 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne yesterday, so I will save you the duplicate history lesson and jump right into today’s tasting notes for the 2002 vintage. If you missed yesterday’s post though, feel free to give it a quick read. At the very least you can compare consecutive vintage tasting notes!
Today’s Wine: 2002 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne
Typically about 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay (exact blend unknown); 12.5% ABV
The 2002 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne is transparent deep gold in color. I drank this over the course of a couple hours, and it only got bigger and bigger with air. The nose is stupidly complex, showcasing aromas of lemon curd, green apple, pear, honeysuckle, jasmine, incense, chalk, saline mineral, brioche, vanilla cream, butter, and almond. Meanwhile the palate is equally as mind-boggling, displaying notes of crisp green apple skins, peach, apricot, stone fruit, white florals, white truffle, chalk, limestone, white smoke, dill, caramel, butterscotch, and hazelnut. This is medium- to full-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel and razor sharp high acidity into an endlessly long finish.
Price: $270 (paid $180 a few years ago). This is in a very, very special place right now and provided one of those unique drinking experiences where a wine makes me tear up. Though there are no doubt better “value” brands out there, this 2002 is worth its price.
Dom Pérignon is a very famous Champagne produced as the prestige cuvée of Champagne house Moët & Chandon. Though the first vintage was 1921 and it first released to the market in 1936, Dom Pérignon takes its name from Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon (1638-1715) who became cellar master in the Abbey of Hautvillers. Though Dom Pierre did not “invent” sparkling Champagne (as many myths state), he was instrumental in quality control at a time when weak Champagne bottles were prone to explosion due to refermentation in the bottle as the wines aged. Some of his contributions included the use of blending to improve quality of the wine, perfecting the process of pressing white wine from black grapes, introducing corks instead of wood, and strengthening the glass of bottles to minimize time bombs in the cellar.
Originally, Dom Pérignon was bottled using vintage Moët & Chandon Champagne transferred to their new, specially designed Dom bottles so it was essentially an oenothèque. This ended with the 1943 vintage, however, and Dom was produced entirely separately for the next released vintage of 1947 and beyond. Why the gap you might ask? Well, Dom Pérignon is only produced as a vintage Champagne when the quality is high enough, so this Champagne has only been produced in 44 vintages from 1921 to 2010. Wildly enough, Dom Pérignon only released more than two vintages in a row three times until 2004 when vintages of 2005 and 2006 mark the first time ever five vintages were made consecutively (2002-2006).
Dom Pérignon is always a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, forgetting the third permitted grape of Pinot Meunier included in many other Champagnes. Across vintages, the Chef de Cave at Dom Pérignon sticks to roughly 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, however they maintain the flexibility of blending up to a maximum 60% for one variety depending on vintage conditions. I would be remiss, though, if I forget to mention that in one vintage (1970) they went over and the blend was 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir. This is the only time one variety accounted for more than 60% of the blend. All grapes are sourced from Grand Cru Champagne vineyards, save for one historical 1er Cru vineyard at Hautvillers which keeps the wine from being labeled as a Grand Cru Champagne.
Today’s Wine: 2003 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV
The 2003 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne is transparent deep gold in color with delicate effervescence. The nose is still gorgeous, offering up aromas of golden delicious apple, pear, honeysuckle, white lily, white truffle, brioche, white pepper, and vanilla cream. However, unfortunately the palate seems fairly advanced and displays notes of green apple skins, canned golden pear, white florals, almond, caramel, toffee, and hazelnut. This wine falls apart on the palate, proving rather disappointing compared to the last several bottles of 2003 I’ve enjoyed that showed the prowess of the producer in a tough vintage. This is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity and a moderately dry but medium (-) length finish.
Price: $250 (paid $170 several years ago). I had high hopes for this bottle, largely since we held it for a number of years and also since the prior 3 bottles of 2003 I enjoyed were fantastic. I’d say skip this if you come across it (though it could be an off bottle), and put the money toward 2002 or a more recent vintage like 2008.
Veuve Clicquot is a large, well-known Champagne house established in Champagne, France in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot. In 1805, the house was taken over by perhaps one of (in hindsight) the most famous personalities of Champagne: Madame Clicquot, who was the widow of Philippe’s son François. Thanks to a great education and noble birth, Madame Clicquot quickly demonstrated her business prowess by creating the first-ever recorded vintage Champagne in 1810 and in 1814 triumphed over a European trade embargo by shipping her wine to Russia. In 1816, the Madame invented the riddling table which produces clear Champagnes and she became known as “La Grande Dame” of the region (which happens to be the name of the house’s highest end bottling today). She did not stop here, however, introducing the first rosé d’assemblage in 1818 by blending red wines instead of elderberry solutions. Though Madame Clicquot passed away in 1866, the house continued to rise in stature and, in 1877, trademarked their signature yellow label that stands out in any grocery store or wine shop today.
Veuve Clicquot continued to grow and adapt over the following decades, constantly improving their winemaking methods and modernizing their tools. By the house’s 200th anniversary in 1972, they were one of the most recognizable Champagne brands and introduced the top bottling of La Grande Dame. The house was later acquired by Louis Vuitton in 1986 (became LVMH, or Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, in 1987) and continued to grow, with the next breakthrough in 2004 with the release of their NV Rosé. While a very large house, Veuve Clicquot is still instantly recognizable and can be depended on for its consistent quality from vintage to vintage and non-vintage from year to year.
Today, the Clicquot vineyards consist of 390 hectares of which 86% are situated across 12 of the 17 Grand Crus and 20 of the 44 1er Crus of the Champagne region. In terms of the vines themselves, 47% are planted to Chardonnay, 36% to Pinot Noir, and 17% to Pinot Meunier with all farmed adhering to sustainable practices and zero use of herbicides.
For more, check out the incredibly extensive Veuve Clicquot website here. At the very least, I highly recommend reading through the details of harvest and winemaking here, which are too great for me to do them any justice.
The 2012 Brut Champagne is transparent to medium gold in color with deep gold variation along the edges of the glass. Beautifully effervescent in the glass, the wine emits aromas of ripe green apple, pear, white peach, stone fruit, white florals, brioche, and dried vanilla. Moving onto the palate, this displays notes of lemon and lime zest, green apple skins, peach, chalk, light green herbs, slight earth, toasted almond, and lees. This is a very linear and precise bottle of Champagne while being medium-bodied and offering vibrant high acidity into a crisp medium (+) length finish.
Price: $85. I think this is pretty fairly priced for a vintage Champagne compared to some of the other large Champagne houses, however I must say it gets beaten by a number of grower Champagne producers I’ve tried over the years. Even the standard NV yellow label isn’t too terribly far behind this vintage bottling, missing out largely on focus and depth. Regardless, Clicquot always gives you exactly what you expect with great consistency, so take that how you will.
Billecart-Salmon is a family-run Champagne house established in 1818 in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ through the marriage of Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon. Nicolas François, who handled the commercial aspects of the new Champagne house, brought his brother-in-law Louis Salmon on board to make the wines. 200 years later, the 7th generation of the Billecart family manages the house with the 6th generation still very much involved. Together they cultivate 100 hectares of vineyards across 40 crus of Champagne and an area of 300 hectares, the majority of which sits around Epernay. Billecart’s signature style comes largely from their fermentation process, which is accomplished in stainless steel tanks at lower temperatures to prolong fermentation an coax out delicate aromas and purity of fruit. All vinification occurs cru by cru and variety by variety, allowing each to maintain the unique expressions of the varying terroir. The house’s wines rest in chalk cellars dating to the 17th and 19th centuries, with the NV bottlings enjoying 3-4 years in the cellar and the vintage bottlings enjoying 10 years.
The Champagne Brut Réserve is transparent gold in color with tiny bubbles. On the nose, I get aromas of yellow pear, golden apple, honeysuckle, toast, yeast, and chalk. There’s a delightful herbal earthiness there too. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of crisp green apple, lemon citrus, stone fruit, honey, brioche, rose petal, and cream. This is medium-bodied with great effervescence and vibrant, mouthwatering acidity into a medium (+) length finish.
Price: $45. I think this is a great “entry level” Champagne from one of the larger, more recognizable houses. You can without a doubt find better values from growers, however you can’t go wrong with Billecart-Salmon in this price-point over some of the bigger names.