My old friend and colleague, the late Mark Shield, used to say that talking about the great wines you’ve drunk is like skiting about your sex life: unless you were a participant, it’s not very interesting.
At the risk of breaking Mark’s golden rule, here we go.
In the build-up to the year’s end, I was lucky enough to attend several BYO dinners for hard-core wine heads, including two Champagne dinners where some of the icons came under serious scrutiny.
These are expensive, luxury wines – prestige cuvées which we expect not only to deliver when young but to age well.
The Dom Pérignons starred – except for a corked bottle of 1996, which went straight down the drain. The others more than lived up to their exalted name. The youthful Dom Perignon 2004 was very fine, but the value of judicious cellaring was demonstrated by two great bottles, first the wonderful 1999 and then as a finale, a great bottle of 1990. These were both sublime experiences.
Other top bottles:
2004 and 2000 Boizel Grand Vintage, 2002 Piper Heidsieck Rare, 1995 Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires, 1998 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée magnum, a pair of Palmer & Co vintages in magnum: 2002 Vintage Brut and 1996 Blanc de Blancs. Also a remarkable magnum of 1986 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses. A bottle of 2006 Deutz Cuvée William Deutz was also magical and proved that an earlier bottle sampled in October had been subliminally cork-damaged.
All of these were outstanding wines. I won’t describe them here as the tasting notes are on the website.
The two Palmer wines were a revelation to me. Both were exquisite – helped no doubt by the magnum format. It is often said that the magnum is the best bottle size for ageing Champagne, and I’ve seen this theory proven time and time again. The theory is that the larger the volume of wine in a container, the more slowly it ages. But big bottles are inconvenient in several ways – you need a lot of people to drink one, they tend to be disproportionally more expensive, and the risk of loss due to a bad cork is much greater.
A magnum provides the best compromise.