Last year ended much the way it started, with a near continuous stream of big news stories. Wrapping up the decade in style, 2019 will be remembered for the Notre Dame cathedral fire, the first ever (but slightly underwhelming) picture of a Black Hole, the new addition to the Royal Family, another resigning Prime Minister, and another General Election. Fortunately, it was also another memorable year in the world of Champagne.
The world’s best sparkling wine welcomed some of the most exciting new releases of the century, the best of which we have highlighted below.
La Grande Année 2008 was launched in April. Notably, it was the first vintage to be sold in the new ‘1846 bottle’ (the curvaceous bottle design replicates the shape of a magnum, with a narrower neck and wider base) and came complete with a stylish new label. This vintage will perhaps be most remembered however, for its minuscule quantity of production. Due to the financial collapse in 2008, Bollinger produced a much reduced quantity of their vintage tier champagne while, by the close of the year, was already proving very, very difficult to source.
After the much-talked about release of Dom Pérignon Legacy Edition 2008 during 2018, the official launch of ‘regular’ Dom Pérignon 2008 kicked off the year for this famous house in January. Just four months, they then announced the release of their latest Plénitude 2 creation, Dom Pérignon P2 2002. It was a long time coming, having spent 15 years quietly ageing in the cellars on its lees and a further 12 months post-disgorgement, but it seems it was worth the wait: Jancis Robinson MW scored this one 20/20.
Krug were characteristically grandiloquent in describing last year’s October release, yet there was no denying the class of Krug 2006. A enticing marriage of classic Chardonnay, structured Pinot Noir, and elegant, well-balanced Pinot Meunier, this one will keep for years to come.
Perhaps no other house underwent as much transition as did Laurent-Perrier last year. They released an entirely new champagne, Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV; a new vintage in Laurent-Perrier Vintage 2008; revolutionised their prestige cuvée – which has become Grand Siècle Iteration, complete with its own website GrandSiecle.com – and will be released as a numbered edition in each year of production; and bid farewell to their long-standing chef de cave Michel Fauconnet.
There’s rarely a dull year at Louis Roederer and 2019 was no different. Following the quite manic launch of Cristal 2008, the house decided on a soft launch for their latest vintage, Cristal 2012 (there was no Cristal made in 2010 or 2011). Cristal 2012 is the first vintage of their world-famous prestige cuvée to be produced from 100% biodynamically farmed fruit and has been described as “the next chapter” by cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon. Cristal Rosé 2012 – also released last year – is, by comparison, already the fourth 100% biodyanmically farmed vintage of Cristal Rosé.
The house also revealed a new vintage of Brut Nature and the much anticipated first release of a rosé equivalent. Brut Nature 2012 and Brut Nature Rosé 2012 are both “field blends”, produced biodynamically with minimal interference, and are delightful expressions of what was ‘an extra special year of Pinot Noir ripeness.’
Rare Champagne, which separated from parent brand Piper-Heidsieck in 2018, celebrated the release of both Rare 2006 and Rare Rosé 2008 last year. Rare Rosé 2008, a champagne launched just two years ago, is the second vintage created and one of our absolute favourites of the year.
One of the most anticipated releases of the year – and indeed, the last decade – was finally launched in September. Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2008 would likely have been zealously coveted by Salon fans based on vintage reputation alone. However, Depond fuelled the fire in 2014, declaring Salon 2008 the “best ever” and revealing that it was produced only in magnums.
It later transpired that just 8,000 magnums were made and they are so scarce they can only be bought as part of a specially designed wooden case that will include two bottles each of Salon 2007, 2006 and 2004. No individual magnums will be sold.
Veuve Clicquot also said goodbye to the cellar master, Dominique Demarville, at the end of 2019. Before he left however, he released a new vintage, Veuve Clicquot Vintage Reserve 2012 and the latest editions of their prestige cuvée, La Grande Dame 2008 and La Grande Dame Rosé 2008.
Ironically, La Grande Dame 2008 was the first release of the prestige cuvée that Demarville produced independently, after joining the house in 2006. ‘The vintage was a perfect balance of power and depth, energy and beautiful acidity. It was a wonderful gift,’ he told us.