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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.

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History

“Veuve Clicquot is a wine that is always dominated by the structure, aromas and body of Pinot Noir.” For this it is necessary to thank the energetic Nicole-Barbe Clicquot (1777–1866), née Ponsardin, better known as Veuve Clicquot. Demarville speaks of this Grande Dame of Champagne with reverence. “In the 19th century success came to those champagne houses that had excellent vineyards and a worldwide distribution,” explains Demarville. In that respect, nothing has changed to this day.

Above all else, Madame Clicquot was an innovator: she not only brought the first Rosé Champagne to the market, but also had the idea of designing a very special device. Around 1800, the purification of the wines posed a serious problem after the second fermentation; the champagne had to be transferred repeatedly from one bottle to the next. “In the wine there is a kind of distinct, fine sediment. In spite of every precautionary measure I fear that it is impossible for me to send anything other than this wine with the aforementioned fine sediment,” wrote Madame Clicquot to a customer.

The problem caused much racking of brains. The story goes that the widow would clamber down to the cellar, at night and in secret, to work on a solution with her cellar master Antoine Müller. By 1816, after a great deal of experimentation, they had constructed the first riddling table, designed to dislodge the sediment from the bottles. In1818 this method was refined: inclined holes were drilled into the table so that for the first time the bottles could be placed, neck-down, at different angles. This technical breakthrough boosted sales: Moscow, Venice, Buenos Aires... the triumphal march of the champagne around the world soon followed.

In the 19th century in Berlin, for example, champagne of this kind was so popular, “that one hardly dared to cough in the street for fear of spitting in the face of a champagne salesman.” Such was the colourful description of this period by Ludwig Bohne, representative of Veuve Clicquot. Bohne was esteemed a most successful salesman and likewise - with good reason - was Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1795–1861), the stubborn Prussian, named König Clicquot (King Clicquot) by his entourage. The Widow, in fact, was to outlive King Clicquot by four years. In the meantime, Champagne Veuve Clicquot itself is two-hundred and thirty-eight years old. How many cellar masters have there been in this period? Dominique Demarville is only the tenth. This figure alone testifies to the art and integrity of champagne in general and the Yellow Label in particular. 

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Inside information

A great non-vintage champagne is a pleasure to drink, harmonious in aromas and seamless in structure. At best, it delivers an illusion of easiness from the winemaker’s side. However, an immense amount of thought and effort goes into constructing these perfected cuvées. We talked to Dominique Demarville, the nose of Veuve Clicquot and the creative hand of Yellow Label.

By Tastingbook

Champagne is essentially a cuvée of numeroust origins (crus), several grape varieties and more than one vintage. Contrary to most other wine regions, the standard release of a Champagne House remains a non-vintage wine. The so-called experts, it is true, might readily speak and write about vintage champagnes or prestige cuvées. This causes most cellar masters to give a weary smile, however. Dominique Demarville, appointed Chef de Cave at Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin in Reims last year, maintains that vintage champagne is not the difficulty. The great challenge of his work lies in Carte Jaune, in Brut Non-Vintage. Because the Champagne region is so far north, the assemblage – i.e. the marriage or blending of different crus, grape varieties and vintages – has gained general acceptance as the fundamental recipe.

“Our first goal, therefore,” says Demarville of his job, “is to achieve an exceptional Brut Yellow Label.” In this cuvée he must retain the style of his famous champagne house, regardless of how the current harvest turns out: and to do this year after year. The final result, though, is only to be tasted after thirty-six months. Consequently, for Dominique Demarville, there is also no room for failure. Yellow Label, in respect of taste, is a clearly defined champagne: the oenologists look for a balance between the fruit on the one hand, and the roast aroma – like coffee or toasted bread – on the other.

This “balance”, or equilibrium, is one of the favourite words of the cellar masters of this northern wine-growing region. Mere fruit, and the champagne would linger too long in the mouth; merely roasted, and it would be too aqueous. The fruit aromas of the Brut Carte Jaune incline towards peach and apricot, with a hint of vanilla. A fine acidity is aspired to, as well as length on the palate. According to Demarville, the ‘goût’ (taste) should still be present in the mouth after thirty seconds. In order to achieve this distinguished flavour, the oenologists must select carefully amongst their four hundred reserve wines; they have to find a balance between the current and the reserve wines.

“In 2008 we only had a share of twenty-four per cent reserve wines. To achieve the desired flavour in 2009 we had to work with thirty-four per cent.” But reserve wine is a lot more than just reserve wine. “Last year, 2009, was also very fruity. If we had taken reserve wines that were too heavy or intense we would never have achieved our goal.”

No less than ten oenologists work on the assemblage process, with Demarville having the final say. They begin their activity in early October, directly after the harvest, between the alcoholic and maloactic fermentation. All still wines are carefully tasted (degustation) at least twice, sometimes even four times. As a rule, twenty-four to thirty different wines are tasted every day. This is the maximum, says Demarville, since the mouth will sometimes become tired. In addition to the four hundred reserve wines there are some six hundred wines of the current harvest. Thus the oenologists have a thousand or so wines at their disposal. When this is multiplied by two or four... an unimaginable number!

His aptitude for absorbing the nose or taste of a wine Demarville characterises not as a gift of genetic recombination but rather as training: a cellar master requires powers of recollection. Every oenologist has a very good recollection of aromas and must train this skill. This always takes place in the morning, between eleven and twelve o’clock, when the senses are at their keenest. “This is actually the time when we start to get hungry,” observes Demarville drily. “We humans are like animals - when we are hungry we are vigilant and only look for the best.” “Only the best” is what these Veuve oenologists are looking for – sometimes for a second time between five and six o’clock in the afternoon.

There is no question about it, Demarville works hard and is intent on the details. At the same time, let it be said, there are champagne cellar masters who are real showmen – to this class Demarville does not belong. The work of assemblage he must have finished by March. Asked whether he is responsible for six million bottles of Carte Jaune, he replies “there are a few more than that.” When I ask whether he has nightmares during the degustation process he answers “No, I don’t get too much sleep during that time.” 

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18 different wines with 120 vintages

Winemaking since 1772

  • Dominique Demarville

    “Veuve Clicquot is a wine that is always dominated by the structure, aromas and body of Pinot Noir.”

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 John Kapon / CEO / Ackerr Merrall & Condit, Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  29 wines 

The last of our Bacchanalian extravaganza found us at Per Se, for lunch. Noon is about the minimum recovery time after an evening full of many (many) wines, and thankfully we had a lot of experience at the table. Everybody was ready to go, although I must confess that first glass of welcome Champagne was not easy going down.

13d 23h ago

 Edward Cuvée, Pro (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  14 wines 

nice peeps good wines. really enjoyed DP Rosé and P2 :P 

3m 29d ago

 Mark Beaven , Pro (United States)  tasted  23 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  26 wines 

Veuve Clicquot tasting from 1928 vintage at Vaucluse.

4m 6h ago

 Richard Juhlin / The number One champagne expert in the world, Pro (Sweden)  tasted  1 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  29 wines 

Many prestige champagnes debuted in 1959 vintage, for example, Dom Ruinart and Pol Roger Blanc de Chardonnay. A large harvest of champagnes, that often ended up above 13 percent alcohol because of the extremely hot summer. The wines have proven to be very sustainable, despite the low acid. Power and concentration are great regardless if the wines are dominated by Chardonnay or pinot noir. A wonderful champagne year in its style!

5m 10d ago

 Essi Avellan MW / Editor of the Champagne magazine, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  26 wines 

KRUG CLOS DU MESNIL 1995 / The toasty nose, with a suggestion of oak, is both subtle and layered. The structure is exceptional; the rich fruitiness of the vintage is combined charmingly with the stylish acidity of the Chardonnay. The concentration is perfect and the length of the taste does not leave any room for improvement. The wines of the 1995 vintage can usually be enjoyed at a young age but the rather unattached aroma of oak should be allowed to integrate into the fruitiness of the wine over time.

6m 17d ago

 Mikke Frisk, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  28 wines 

DRC Romanée-Conti 1961, Pétrus 1961, Unico 1961, Krug 1961, Château margaux 1961....etc.

7m 17d ago

 Luciano Cesare, Wine Dealer (Italy)  tasted  1 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  23 wines 

Dom Ruinart 1982 / Good looking normal size bottle, in an excellent condition with 2 cm level ullage below the cork. Colour is straw, and looking bright, healthy and medium. On the nose it is intense, fresh, seductive and round. The taste is fresh, rich, fruity, medium-bodied, with balanced, complex, concentrated structure and youthful. The finish is medium long, round, gentle and vibrant. This wine is sophisticated and fine. Perfectly stored bottles are still very worthy and will last well for another 10-15 years and decant at least 15min before tasting. Good value for money.

8m 6d ago

 Robert Langer, Wine Collector (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  24 wines 

Some great bottles of champagnes with old red rarities.

8m 28d ago

 James Aylward, Wine Collector (Australia)  tasted  1 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  22 wines 

Dom Perignon 1990, 1995, 1996 and 1998 + Krug 1996, 1998 and Clo du Mesnil 1996.

9m 6d ago

 Mark Beaven , Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  118 wines 

BF Post-Bday Marathon Tasting with White Truffle Twist + Elvis - 118 wines!

10m 26d ago

 Essi Avellan MW / Editor of the Champagne magazine, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  19 wines 

Some great Dom Perignon vintages like 1934, 1969, 1971,1975, 1976 etc.

11m 8d ago

 Rajiv Kehr, Pro (India)  tasted  2 wines  from  Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin . In a tasting of  23 wines 

The second day of the 100-Tasting offered a lots of great Champagnes. My best were Krug 1998, Dom Pérignon P2 Rosé 1995, Cristal 1996, Krug Clos du Mesnil 1998 etc.

11m 17d ago

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