In the stunning clockhouse of the St Pancras Chambers, surrounded by oversized timepieces and over looking Kings Cross, Dominique Demarville, Chef de Caves for Champagne house Veuve Clicquot, introduces us to the latest vintage wine to be released: 2008. Here's what I learned about the vintage and the new way in which the wines are created...
Style-wise, Vintage Veuve is to Clicquot's 'La Grande Dame' what Kate Winslet is to Kate Moss: The former, voluptuous and powerful, full of intense fruit but also complexity and freshness. The latter all about fine-boned elegance and finesse, subtlety and a slight nerviness. Veuve only make vintage wine in good years and the 2008 was very, very good thanks to a particularly dry spring and optimal rain which gave the grapes an ideal balance of sugar and acidity.
For the vintage wines from 2008, Dominique has reintroduced the use of oak barrels; something the house hasn't done since the 1960s. His decision was less about adding oak flavour than increasing body and structure and this was apparent in the tasting. Only approximately 5% of these cask wines go into the blend so the oak should be considered 'more like a spice than a key ingredient' Dominique said.
By way of understanding this new/old technique, we were lucky to able to taste the six base wines side by side: two 2015 Chardonnays from Cramant, two Pinot Meuniers from Villedommage and two Pinot Noirs from Bouzy, where one of each pair was produced in stainless steel, the other fermented and aged in cask. The difference between the the tank and the cask samples were subtle, yet profound and just as Dominique had designed; Less about oak flavour, more about mouthfeel.
To make sure we understood, we were *forced* to try the final blend itself out of bottle and then magnum to see the difference (It's HUGE, by the way. The magnum needs another year or two at least). We also tried the 2008 Veuve Clicquot rosé; a delicious, perky pink with lots of grippy red fruit and were offered a sneaky, not so little glass of the 'cave privée' 1989, complete with six amuse bouche matched perfectly by the house chef Martin Milesi (Check out his pop up restaurant unalondon.com).
Veuve Cliquot Vintage 2008
Ready to drink, gorgeously, up front and fruity. Buttery with caramel, candied lemon peel, vanilla and with a characteristic creaminess to the mousse.
Veuve Cliquot Vintage 2008 from Magnum
Here, the general rule that wine takes longer to age in magnum was evident: still incredibly complex and with a silky, soft texture, but more closed with a touch of reduction and less overt fruit.
Veuve Cliquot Rosé Vintage 2008
Satisfyingly deep salmon colour. Strawberry and cherry notes with cream, sweet spice and subtle but welcome tannins. Drinking beautifully right now and crying for charcuterie.
Veuve Cliquot Vintage 1989
What treat this was: a deep, golden wine with almost imperceptible bubbles at first sight that burst to life on the palate. Delicate, intriguing aromas and flavours of toffee, mushrooms, spice, coffee and lots of fruit. Still remarkably fresh; Think Catherine Deneuve - glamorous and beautifully preserved.
There won't be another vintage released for four years when the 2012 finally hits the market, so stock up on the 2008 while you can!
Where to buy the new vintage:
Veuve Cliquot Vintage 2008: £54.99 & Veuve Cliquot Vintage Rosé 2008: £59.99
UK retailers: Jeroboams, Hedonism & Selfridges
Trade: Farr vintners, Bordeaux Index, Fine & Rare, Vanquish