The 2008 vintage in Champagne is widely considered to be one of the greatest of this century and the next-best since the legendary 2002. As such, each new release from 2008 has been met with increasing levels of enthusiasm.
Over the last few months, as the first prestige cuvées from this outstanding vintage have begun to emerge on the market (Louis Roederer Cristal 2008, Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2008, Dom Pérignon 2008), excitement has duly evolved into near pandemonium. The incredibly high scores that these champagnes have received from the world’s leading wine critics have further piqued consumer interest and have been reflected in the high prices being asked in the market.
However, with 2008 receiving so much attention, the 2009 vintage has been somewhat overlooked. With some prestige cuvées from 2009 already in the market – many houses released the vintages non-consecutively as the 2008s needed more time on the lees to balance the bright acidity – we sensed an opportunity to compare the vintages side-by-side.
After handpicking a broad selection of 2008 and 2009 champagnes from the most well-known producers in the region – five vintage-tier pairs and three prestige-cuvée-tier pairs – we invited guests to 67 Pall Mall to objectively compare the merits of both vintages and evaluate the price premium and superiority of 2008.
The champagnes were tasted in pairs by brand. Guests were informed of the brand, but weren’t told which was the 2008 and which was the 2009. Live-scoring on our smartphone app allowed us to analyse which were the highest scored champagnes and which brand’s vintages were most often identified correctly. The world’s leading wine critic, Jancis Robinson MW, guided guests through the experience, sharing her expert insights into these stunning vintages and champagnes.
The champagnes are listed below in the brand order tasted on the evening. Tasting notes are all The Finest Bubble’s.
|Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2008 | Group Avg. Score 17.7/20 | TFB Score: 18/20 | Rank: =9
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: October 2016 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Much more dusty and chalky on the nose. Some pears and ripe apples… seems quite grassy and a dry finish. Has some hints of brown apples and slight bruised apple character.
|Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2009 | Group Avg. Score 17.8/20 | TFB Score: 17/20 | Rank: =7
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: October 2017 | Dosage: 7 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Seems slightly more giving and perhaps the acidity is a little fresher? Some ripeness, quite tropical but quite tight so assume this is the 2008. Goes on nicely and has more interest.
|Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2008 | Group Avg. Score 17.2/20 | TFB Score: 16.5/20 | Rank: 16
40% CH, 37% PN, 23% PM | Lees Ageing: ~7 Years | Dosage: 5 g/l
Nice hints of mint, gunflint and nettles. Bright acidity; quite short but some grapefruit and ripe apples come out.
|Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2009 | Group Avg. Score 17.3/20 | TFB Score: 18/20 | Rank: =14
50% PN, 36% CH, 14% PM | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: January 2017 | Dosage: 5 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Bright fruit with more richness and freshness. Great texture.
|Palmer & Co Vintage 2008 | Group Avg. Score 17.6/20 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Rank: 11
50% CH, 40% PN, 10% PM | Lees Ageing: 6-8 Years | Dosage: 8-9 g/l
Seems a little more honey and lemons – somewhat less interesting than the other. Some lavender and very fresh so assume this is the 2009?
|Palmer & Co Vintage 2009 | Group Avg. Score 17.3/20 | TFB Score: 17/20 | Rank: =14
50% PN, 50% CH | Lees Ageing: 8 Years | Dosage: 8 g/l
Really chalky and fresh pineapple flavour. Quite tropical, fresh and light.
|Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 2008 | Group Avg. Score 17.8/20 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Rank: =7
70% PN, 30% CH | Lees Ageing: 5 Years | Disgorged: 2014 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
Very dusty chalk nose at the beginning and then the apples and tropical edges come through. This has a better texture but is fat and ripe, so guessing this is the 2009?
|Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 2009 | Group Avg. Score 18/20 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Rank: 6
70% PN, 30% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: 2017 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Quite tight at first; lots of freshness and tightness on the palate. Wasn’t the acidity I expected, this seems softer and rounder – going back perhaps this is 08?
|Taittinger Brut Vintage 2008 | Group Avg. Score 17.7/20 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Rank: =9
50% PN, 50% CH | Lees Ageing: ~4 Years | Dosage: 9 g/l
Seems slightly greener and tighter at present, almost seems to have some oak hints. Has great texture and seems to have brighter acidity and a racier finish.
|Taittinger Brut Vintage 2009 | Group Avg. Score 17.5/20 | TFB Score: 17.5/20 | Rank: =12
50% PN, 50% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: May 2016 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Seems tighter on the nose, quite a nice fine structure and going a little creamy. Nice bright fruit and the dosage is noticeable. Quite creamy on the finish.
|Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2008 | Group Avg. Score 18.2/20 | TFB Score: 18/20 | Rank: =4
55% CH, 45% PN | Lees Ageing: 8 Years | Disgorged: April 2017 | Dosage: 4.5 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Very bright oak notes, loads of fruit and has some of that candy edge on the finish. Quite big and masculine – must be, with all this acidity, the 2008.
|Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2009 | Group Avg. Score 17.5/20 | TFB Score: 15.5/20 | Rank: =12
61% PN, 39% CH | Lees Ageing: 8 Years | Disgorged: March 2018 | Dosage: 4.5 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 7 Months
Seems much softer, rounder and sweeter. That slight green pepper character on the finish.
|Dom Pérignon Legacy Edition 2008 | Group Avg. Score 18.6/20 | TFB Score: 19.5/20 | Rank: 3
50% PN, 50% CH | Lees Ageing: ~9 Years | Dosage: 4 g/l
Lots of lush fruits, more gunflint reductive character with seemingly noticeable sweetness – so perhaps the 2009 as seems softer?
|Dom Pérignon 2009 | Group Avg. Score 18.2/20 | TFB Score: 18/20 | Rank: =4
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: ~7 Years | Dosage: 4 g/l
Seems much more restrained with brighter fruits and wow how lovely is that texture! Seems dry and fresh and yum.
|Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 | Group Avg. Score 18.8/20 | TFB Score: 19.5/20 | Rank: 1
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 9 Years | Disgorged: 2018 | Dosage: 7.75 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: >1 Year
Has some older slightly aged character so longer post-disgorgement but actually going back to this it has really racy acidity and seems quite tight.
|Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 | Group Avg. Score 18.7/20 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Rank: 2
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: 2016 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Very fruit forward and fresh. Wow this seems like its ready, so the lush fruit means this is a forward 2009.
As the brand identities were revealed to guests, it is perhaps unsurprising that the most famous champagnes and prestige cuvées were the highest rated – even the most impartial taster isn’t immune to bias (when one is told they are tasting Cristal, one expects it to be good, and the score given typically reflects this).
However, the underlying purpose of this event was a vintage comparison. The group average scores showed only a slight preference for 2008 over 2009 (17.95/20 vs 17.78/20), suggesting that the difference in media attention that the vintages are currently receiving may not accurately reflect the difference in quality.
The only pairs for which the room preferred 2009 over 2008 were Louis Roederer Brut Vintage, Pol Roger Brut Vintage and Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage. Interestingly, TFB scores showed an even greater preference for 2008 over 2009 (18.4/20 vs 17.5/20) – the only pair for which we scored the 2009 higher was Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage.
(Unfortunately, on closer analysis the cork on Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2008 suggested the fruit character of the champagne may have been reduced, so results cannot be generalised – a perfect bottle of 2008 may well have been preferred over 2009).
When it came to vintage identification, the first brand tasted, Pol Roger, proved the most elusive, with only 8 guests correctly identifying the vintages (an outcome no doubt impacted by the faulty cork). The most commonly identified brand on the other hand was Dom Pérignon, of which 26 guests correctly identified the vintages.
Overall, this tasting highlighted both the unrealised power of the 2009s and the superb ageing potential of the 2008s. The fact that the 2008 vintage scored only slightly higher on average is an indication that 2009 is a stunning vintage in its own right. It is quite clear however, that the 2009 champagnes, especially the vintage-tier, are just entering their ideal drinking window. The 2008s on the other hand, need considerably more time to mature and balance out that beautifully bright acidity.
Further information about the growing seasons and harvests in 2008 and 2009 can be downloaded as PDFs below.
|Group Average Scores | 2008 Average: 17.95/20 | 2009 Average: 17.78/20|
|Rank||Champagne||Group Avg. Score / 20||RRP|
|1||Louis Roederer Cristal 2008||18.8||£229.95|
|2||Louis Roederer Cristal 2009||18.7||£179.95|
|3||Dom Pérignon Legacy Edition 2008||18.6||£175.95|
|=4||Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2008||18.2||£225.95|
|=4||Dom Pérignon 2009||18.2||£124.95|
|6||Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 2009||18||£69.95|
|=7||Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2009||17.8||£69.95|
|=7||Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 2008||17.8||£109.95|
|=9||Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2008||17.7||£74.95|
|=9||Taittinger Brut Vintage 2008||17.7||£89.95|
|11||Palmer & Co Vintage 2008||17.6||£56.95|
|=12||Taittinger Brut Vintage 2009||17.5||£54.95|
|=12||Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2009||17.5||£189.95|
|=14||Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2009||17.3||£54.95|
|=14||Palmer & Co Vintage 2009||17.3||£49.95|
|16||Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2008||17.2||£69.95|