CLICQUOT MAKES CHANGES WITH LATEST VINTAGE RELEASE - Veuve Goes Back to the Wood
The new vintage comes from the 2008 harvest, and differs from the previous release (which was from the 2004 vintage) for three main reasons: firstly, it is the first vintage at Veuve Clicquot to be made by cellar master Dominique Demarville, who arrived at the house in 2006 from Champagne Mumm; secondly, it is the first vintage since the 60s to use wooden fermentation and ageing vessels for the wines, and thirdly, it is the first vintage to feature the disgorgement date on the label.
The location was chosen to highlight the importance of Pinot Noir in the Champagnes of Veuve Clicquot, particularly the vintage which contains as much as 61% of the red grape in the blend, as well as the Burgundian winemaking approaches used at Clicquot today. Speaking exclusively to the drinks business, Dominique Demarville said, “We chose Clos de Lambrays for the launch first of all because of the Pinot Noir – it is the grape of the property and it is the main variety in Veuve Clicquot’s blend.”
Continuing he said, “But we also chose Clos de Lambrays because it is part of the same company [LVMH], and it is natural and normal to have this exchange, and because the 2008 vintage is the first vintage for a long time that has had wine made in oak – the last one to use oak was from the 60s, so close to 50 years ago – so we have come to Burgundy where ageing wine in oak is so important.”
Demarville also told db that both Clos de Lambrays and Veuve Clicquot share the same exclusive oak supplier, François Frères, and added that Clicquot’s red wines for its pink Champagnes are made in a similar style to the Pinot Noirs of Burgundy. “The red wines at Clicquot are made in a way that is so close to the approach in Burgundy: we love to make a cold skin contact at the beginning, before fermentation, and then, during the fermentation, we do a very light pigeage [punch down] to extract very delicate tannins,” he said.
But it was the use of oak in the 2008 vintage that, it emerged, is particularly important to wider developments at the Champagne house.
In 2007, Veuve Clicquot bought 30 foudres (oak casks) with a capacity of 55hl and 75hl for fermenting and ageing wine, according to Demarville, which meant that 5% of the wines for the 2008 vintage were influenced by oak, but, since 2009, 1-2% of the wines for the Clicquot Yellow Label, the brand’s Brut NV and best-selling expression, are touched by wood.
According to Demarville, this small proportion of oak aged wines brings extra creaminess and complexity to both the vintage expression and the Brut NV, comparing the effect to seasoning food with a pinch of spice.
“We use the foudres for fermenting and ageing the wine for our vintage, if we declare one, and if not, we use them for the reserve wine for Yellow Label,” he explained.
“I love the extra complexity from the foudres, and the richness it brings, but you don’t taste the oak flavours,” he stated.
Although the wines for Veuve Clicquot’s 2008 release all underwent the malo-lactic conversion, where the green malic acid is converted to the softer lactic acid by bacteria in a natural process that occurs after fermentation, Demarville said that for last year’s harvest, he prevented this conversion on 50% of the wines fermented and aged in the foudres.
“We want to block the malo-lactic on 50% of the wines in aged foudres to balance the creaminess from the oak with the extra acidity [from preventing the conversion],” he recorded.
“But at the end, sometimes we find that 70% of the wines have been through the malo-lactic, which we don’t mind,” he continued, before confirming that the malo-lactic was “part of the Veuve Clicquot style, it is important, but we love to explore what can happen without it, and in a blend, it can add something, and also, with climate change, it can help us manage the acidity – so malo-lactic is something we have been experimenting with for a few years at Veuve Clicquot.”
Dominique Demarville launched Clicquot’s 2008 vintage at the historic walled vineyard of Clos des Lambrays in Burgundy’s Morey-Saint-Denis
Speaking further to db about the use of foudres, Demarville said that he wanted to increase the proportion of wine aged in oak vessels for the house by doubling the number of wooden vats from 30 to 60 in the future.
“5% of the wines for the 2008 vintage were aged in oak, and that will be 10% for the 2012, and 2015, which we are working on, maybe as much as 15%,” he said, noting that he can put more wine in oak now the casks are older, but when they were new, he took a more cautious approach because he didn’t want any strong oak flavour.
Demarville also confirmed that Veuve Clicquot’s next vintage release would be the 2012, and then the 2015, meaning that the house will produce a vintage expression just three times in the last 10 years.
“The philosophy of Veuve Clicquot is not to declare a vintage very often, and that’s for two reasons: firstly, we must protect the Yellow Label and secondly, the vintage must be something very special, and it must tell our clients the story of the year,” explained Demarville.
Referring specifically to the 2008 release, he said that the wine was different to the two most recent Clicquot vintage releases, 2004 and 2002, but reminded him of other great vintages, such as 1995 and 1985.
He also confirmed that the 2008 will reappear as a second release in the future under the Cave Privée label, which is reserved for wines which have undergone extended ageing both on and off the lees.
“The 2008 has a great potential for ageing, we will keep some for Cave Privée,” he said.
The 2008 vintage has been launched in rosé and rich styles, the latter with a dosage of 30g/l, compared to 8 g/l for former (and blanc vintage).
The 2008 blanc was disgorged in March 2015, meaning it has had six years maturing on its lees and one year ageing in Clicquot’s cellars post-disgorgement. As noted above, Demarville said that the 2008 was the “first vintage to feature the disgorgement date on the label”, a piece of information that previously only featured on the Cave Privée Champagnes.