Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Tale of two LVMH champagnes

Recently tasted some champagnes, mainly grower ones, though there were a few products sold by big bad Luis Vuitton Moet Henessy. I thought it might be fun to write brief notes on two of these, as each portrays a telling snap shot of a company's reputation (LVMH in the first instance, Veuve Clicquot in the second) at a particular point in time.

Ruinart is marketed, from my understanding as a step up in quality from your basic NV champagne. At least the $59.99 price tag on the Ruinart Blanc des Blancs I tasted would suggest this. What an awful wine. There is no shortage of much less expensive sparkling wines, both bottle and tank fermented, that I would rather drink than this. Don't believe anyone who says that even lesser champagne is, after all, still champagne, and therefore worth the price. This was very reductive, with the tell-tale sulphurous nose lacking any aroma of fruits or anything other than sulphur. Sweet on the palate. And thin. Coarse. Billed as 12g/l dosage but it has to be more. No purity, nor grace, nor any flavors that I would ever want to re-visit. Shite.

On to another LVMH brand - the incredibly successful Veuve Clicquot. Now I am simultaneously as impressed and confounded by the orange driven power of the aggressively marketed and branded Veuve Cliquot as any other wine professional. Nonetheless, it is worth pointing out that Veuve Clicquot wines, the vintages and La Grande Dame in particular, used to be quite good! At least that is what I have heard - I have not been a drinker long enough to have experienced this first hand. So I truly was looking forward to tasting the 1988 Veuve Clicquot Rare Vintage (recently disgorged) champagne. It lived up to the promise of Clicquot's former reputation, and the reliability of the 1988 vintage in champagne (thought by some to be superior to the other great vintage of the '80s, 1985). Very complex on the nose, a bit sherried as one would expect, but in a good way. Deep, broad flavors on the palate, with recently browned apples and nuts. Amazingly silken texture, a gentle, lazy bead and simply terrific length and acidity. First class all the way, and for less than the price of a bottle of the recently mediocre Krug Grand Cuvee bottling, this one is absolutely worth it.

Funny how things change. And how a little (ok, a little more than a little) ambition to grow your business can detract from what made your business great in the first place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The branding of champagne and the subsequent drop off in quality is one of the most unfortunate things about the globalization of wine. Not only has it affected the quality (and prices) of the wine made in the region by the most well known producers, it has also negatively affected the image of producers of sparkling wines from other regions round the world (ever hear of something referred as a cheap substitute for champagne?). I can't think of another wine type (well i probably easily can, but its depressing) where hewing to one stylistic mode ha been so rewarded. Luckily importers like Terry Theisse and small growers around the world (mainly Europe) are attempting to wrest back the idea of sparkling wine that isn't over-dosed appley crap.

- cheers