Wednesday, December 21, 2011

1996 Vintage Champagne Tasting at Vintage Vino

Vintage Vino is a wine shop in Kissimmee, Florida best known for being the site of Ron Siegel's 13-vintage Dominus tasting.  Well, Ron and Vintage Vino teamed up again to showcase a number of Champagnes from the spectacular 1996 vintage in an event titled '96 Champgne Tasting and Dinner.  The event combined a three-flight tasting of Champagnes from that heralded vintage followed by a 5-course dinner prepard by Chef Josh from the Ravenous Pig, one of the leading restaurants in the Orlando area.  But first, the vintage.

The 1996 vintage in Champagne was one of the most highly acclaimed in recent memory.  Superlatives abounded.  "Exceeded all expectations."  Most successful vintage for Champagne since ... 1990" "Best vintage since 1928."  What seemed to catch the eye of the experts was the combination of ripeness of fruit and high levels of acidity, a state of affairs resulting from the growing season depicted in the figure below.

So it was with great anticipation that we showed up at Vintage Vino last evening.  The tasting had been organized into three flights of three wines each:

Flight 1:
1996 Pol Roger Cuveé Sir William Churchill Brut
1996 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
1996 Philipponat Clos des Goisses

Flight 2:
1996 Dom Ruinart Brut Rosé Grand Cru
1996 Deutz Cuveé William Rosé
1996 Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon Rosé

Flight 3:
1996 Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon
1996 Louis Roederer Cristal
1996 Krug Brut

The details of the tasting are reported brilliantly here by Steve Alcorn, one of my tasting companions, on his blog.

The tasting notes of the event organizer, Ron Siegel, are presented below.

The Champagnes were amazing and having them served side by side was a great way to compare and identify house styles. In the 1st flight, the clear winner at our table was the Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill. It showed amazing balance, a laser-like focus on fruit and acidity, notes of buttered apple and some pear Danish; really a beautiful wine. This was followed by the Taittinger CdC which showed some earth and toast on the nose with a beautiful sour green apple on the palette. The Clos des Goisses showed a more oxidative note which some compared in style to the Jacques Selosse Substance which uses a solera aging system going back to 1986 (Cider and baked apple were the distinguishing notes on this wine).
The 2nd flight (Rosé) did not show as well as the other two flights. The favorite at our table was the Deutz Cuvee William which seemed the freshest, most vibrant, and most "open for business" with a nose of Rhubarb and some sherry-like notes.  I have gone through 6 bottles of this wine and can’t seem to keep my hands off it. This also happened to be the lowest- priced Champagne of the night.
This was followed by the Dom which happens to be one of the most expensive and I felt this night did not live up to its lofty reputation, maybe it needed more time in the glass to really show its stuff or it was off. There were notes of orange, horse saddle, sweat, and some felt a slight brettiness on the nose. No one thought that the Ruinart tasted like a prestige cuvee, most found it simple and uninteresting, comparing it to their non-vintage Rosé. 
I felt that the 3rd flight was spectacular.  All of the wines lived up to their reputations of being long-lived and some of the best Champagnes in the world.  The WOTN, and most everyone’s favorite, was the Krug.  This Champagne was off the charts in intensity. Its bracing acidity -- showing green apple -- steely minerality, and fruit structure reminded me of a great Chablis. There were also notes of toast, marrow, and sea shell. This will turn out to be one of the greatest Krugs ever made! The Dom was also showing well. It had nice structure and a long finish with crème brulee and roasted nuts along with some spicy citrus. A great Dom. The Cristal, which I feel usually needs more time to open than the Dom, showed beautiful fruit and acid structure with florality, some apple and pear along with a lemony citrus and brioche 
It was a great night and lots of fun!

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