The consensus in Champagne is that vintages dominated by exceptionally hot weather will generally produce sub-standard wines unsuitable for long-term ageing. In France, the 2003 growing season was the embodiment of this stereotype. Often referred to as the ‘heat-wave’ vintage, alcohol levels were elevated and ripeness was pronounced, producing very concentrated wines.
Not only was 2003 remarkably hot, it was a year of extremes. Two destructive frosts in April and summertime hail storms more than halved the potential yields, with very small crops harvested in all regions of Champagne. Consequently, it is remembered as a controversial year: most producers chose not to produce vintage wines and those that were made are considered interesting expressions of an unusual year, but not champagnes to be kept in the cellar for serious ageing.
However, a new limited edition release from Champagne Palmer & Co has set about to challenge that notion. Palmer & Co Grands Terroirs 2003 is a blend of specific sites in the appellation that surprised managing director Remi Vervier and his team with their youthful and fresh characteristics.
“It was a very challenging year with concentrated wines and tiny crops, so we produced a vintage in tiny quantities and in magnums only,” Vervier told us during a visit to the house in Reims last week. Just 1,800 magnums were made and 1,703 are only now being released onto the market.
Veriver explained that the house anticipated the magnums to be ready for release in 2014. However, when the oenology team tasted it 5 years ago, the “explosive wine” they expected to find was instead “very closed and not ready to drink.” Over the following two years, they monitored its progression closely, and were continually surprised by its prowess in blind tastings and the intensity and complexity it gradually developed.
Palmer therefore made the decision in 2016 to honour this unusual creation with a special edition release, named Grands Terroirs as a tribute to the unique east-facing vineyards in the Montagne de Reims that the majority of the grapes hailed from: Trépail and Villers-Marmery for the Chardonnay, and Mailly and Verzenay for the Pinot Noir. “It is thanks to the special areas of the Montagne de Reims that we can have wines that are so fresh and expressive in such a difficult year,” Vervier said.
Further enhancing its unexpected ageing capability is the fact it was produced only in magnums, a larger format which has a knack for decelerating the champagne ageing process due to the fact that a larger quantity of wine is exposed to the same amount of oxygen that inevitably transfers into the bottle.
“We only have this wine today thanks to these grands terroirs,” Vervier concluded.
The Grands Terroirs 2003 magnums are all individually numbered and released in a limited edition wooden box, decorated with a map of the special Montagne de Reims region. Palmer & Co Grands Terroirs 2003 is available to purchase now.
Click here for more information on Palmer & Co Grands Terroirs 2003.
|Palmer & Co Grands Terroirs 2003 | 18.5/20
54% PN, 46% CH | Lees Ageing: 13 Years | Disgorged: November 2017 | Dosage: 7.5 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Lots of concentration of fruit to begin with, some of the rich red fruits are forward. A few minutes in the glass and the dried fruits come out like apricots, strawberry and pineapple. The long lees ageing is quite apparent on the mouth with that creamy texture filling out the mid-palate then you see the fruits like concentrated lime and roasted cashews from the Chardonnay richness and underneath the red cherry helps give a real zing to the slightly saline finish, great length. The magnum effect and selection of fruit from cooler northerly aspect vineyards is showing how great a 2003 can be some 16 years after the harvest.