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Champagne vintage 2002


How is 2002 vintage in Champagne? 
“An exceptional vintage in Champagne. Despite low yields thanks to frost, hail and disease early in the season, August saw conditions improve dramatically resulting in exemplary maturity, acidity and grape health at harvest.” – Jancis Robinson MW
 “2002 was an outstanding vintage, most likely the best of the decade. The finest 2002s are powerful, firmly structured and truly mineral but neither lack freshness nor finesse.” – The Wine Advocate 
Well, good enough to know that it is great vintage 2002 in Champagne.

All right, good vintage means that it is good weather and healthy grapes during growing and harvest period. Let’s see how the weather was! According to information from Decanter magazine, it was generally a dry, warm year. Even though it was quite lots of rains at beginning of August followed by sufficient of sunlight, however unfortunately there were some thunderstorms at the end of the month. Rain continued but luckily there was clear sky in early September until harvest around 22 / 23 September. Usually if it rains before and during harvest, it will be disaster for winemaker, which does not consider as great year. For 2002, it was definitely great condition for grapes.

I had a chance to taste different champagne maisons to compare as same vintage of 2002. Here is the list I tasted.

1) Delamotte 2002
=1st flight=
2) Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blanc 2002
3) Gosset Celebiris Extra Brut 2002
=2nd flight=
4) Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Millesime 2002
5) Pommery Cuvee Louise 2002
=3rd flight=
6) Salon Le Mesnil 2002
7) Taittinger Comtesse Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2002

Owner of Ginsberg + Chan nicely offered 1 extra Champagne, Delamotte 2002. Usually the position of Delamotte is like as sister of Salon, we consider the year when Salon is not produced, it becomes to Delamotte. Salon is only produced in good years, so within 100 year there is only 37 times to produce. For example, 2003 there was no production for Salon, so all grapes cultivated in 2003 became Delamotte. Well fair enough! But how about great vintage like 2002? As I mentioned it was great year for 2002,  of course  Salon was also produced as well as Delamotte, although number of production for Delamotte 2002 is limited, 60,00 bottles.

Well what is different between NV champagne and vintage one for Delamotte? Simply the difference is source of grapes and basically NV champagne is blended 1/3 cuvees from grand cru vineyards at each 3 villages; Le Mesnil-Sur-Ogers, Oger and Avize, on the other hand vintage one is blended same cuvees for NV plus Cramant, and ratio of blend is 3:3:3:1. The former is at least 3 year bottle ageing, the latter is at least 7 years bottle ageing. After all, Delamotte is really individual and different brand even though some cuvees / grapes which supposed to use for Salon are used for Delamotte although it still is considered as sister. Well such a controversial issue.

     Grape Varieties Disgorgement Date  Dosage
1 Delamotte Chardonnay 100% Oct, 2011  6g/L
2 Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay 100% 2013  5g/L
3 Gosset Celebris Extra Brut Chardonnay 52%
Pinot Noir 48%
Aug, 2013  5g/L
4 Jacques Selosse
Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru
Chardonnay 100% 23, Apr,2013  <4g/L
5 Pommery Cuvee Louise Chardonnay 60%
Pinot Noir 40%
13, Sep, 2013  5g /L
6 Salon Le Mesnil Chardonnay 100% Jun, 2014  7g/L
7 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
Blanc de Blancs
Chardonnay 100% Mar, 2012

 9g/L

Compared to among 7 Champagnes, even it is same vintage, but there is so much difference. The first of all, I can tell range of colour from medium lemon to gold. The most dense colour was #4 Jacque Selosse one, the second was #2 Bruno Paillard, less are nearly close but the palest was #1 Delamote. Even though it is same vintage, why do they have different colour? There is some possible reasons.

1) Source of material – Grapes 
#2 and #4, both of them are grower champagne and less are négociant champagne house. The former can control their ideal grapes for 100% and take a risk like applying organic / biodynamic viticulture, wanting for grapes for maximum ripeness for harvest, the latter can might do as well, but they can not have exactly same grape quality as  same to growers’ one. And I must add that location of vineyard and which vineyards grapes are from.
2) Maturation technique
The period of maturation in barrel, different size and different type of barrel and period of bottle ageing are definitely applied differently by each producers. Usually if wine is darker in colour, it suggests to be aged in small barrel.
3) Timing of disgorge 
For #2 and #4, although it is same year of disgorgement, date of disgorge is different, so that’s why disgorgement date based on every single bottle is stated. You could encounter bottle variation for both of them. Unfortunately I forgot to check back label in detail, so I do not know exact date of disgorge for #2. According to list of date disgorgement at table, the oldest one is #1 and the latest #6, that’s mean the shortest period with lees is #1. So timing of disgorge might partially affect  colour.
4) Grape Varieties
#3 and #5 are blended,  less of them are made from single variety, Chardonnay. Blanc de Blancs usually 
tends to be deeper gold colour than blended one in general once it is aged well. I do not  deny its theory but since #3 is blended and med gold colour, that mean grape varieties are not determinant factor to colour.

Among 4 factors, I think 1)source of material and 2)maturation technique are strongly influenced. It is quite controversial, so maybe some might not agree my opinion.Ok, shall we move to nose and palate. 

Basically all of them has been aged more than 10 years, so  there are ripen stone fruit, toast, brioche, nuts on nose. #4 showed really mature on nose and palate with aftertaste of meaty and savoury flavour. It seemed to drink best timing now.  #2 had still creamy texture and good structure to keep another 5-10 years to develop. #3 had nutty aroma, rich and bold  on palate, despite still felt tight. #5 was most elegant and restrained. Although very delicate, it has potential to keep more than 5 years. #7 was quite racy and tight, has still potential to age for 10 years. #6 was was slightly similar to #7, although much tighter than #7. Definitely its firm structure can keep for ageing more than 10 years. And last but not least, #1 was the freshest and the liveliest one. It’s ready to drink now, but still can keep for 3 years for further developing. 

In fact, some are very delicate, other are firm. What is the reason behind so different? I mentioned 1)source of material and 2)maturation technique are strongly influenced to colour previously, however for structure 3)timing of disgorgement and 2)maturation technique can be strong factor. Let’s see disgorgement date column at table. The longest period with lees would be #6, on the other hand the shortest one is #1. Well, the longer bottle ages with lees, the more wine has complexity logically in general. However although#4 was disgorged earlier than others, #3 and #5 and later than #7, #4 showed mature well. Why? Probably this is because of aged period in barrel and size of barrel before starting second fermentation process. Oh dear… we can not rely on disgorgement date.

Nowadays quite number of champagne producer states the date of disgorgement at bottle, which actually help consumers to judge/expect how much its champagne matured. I consider it is very good indication for sure, but it is not only the one way to judge for maturation of champagne. Especially for #4, Roberto who conducted this tasting class mentioned it might be other possibilities of  issue like transportation from Europe to Asia, storing condition. Yes, it can be possible!!

For sure, vintage of 2002 was great and still can keep 5 ~15 years, which depends on items. Recently low dosage like zero dosage, extra brut are fashion, even all item I tasted are also its style. Despite low dosage all of them have excellent balance to drink, which are indubitably admirable.

Ginsberg+Chan
603, Loke Yew Building,
50-52 Queen’s Road Central, 
Hong Kong
2504-2221