A couple of weeks ago, Champagne-heavy French-Swedish online wine merchant Franska vinlistan (“French wine list”) ran a tasting of their current campaign. We got to taste a trio of 2008 Champagnes – a fabulous vintage – as well as “higher” trio from the same three producers. When it comes to the 2008s, I have so far not encountered a single Champagne from this vintage that wasn’t good. Those that know that they usually like the style of a particular Champagne producer should definitely buy their 2008s when there’s an opportunity.
Here are the Champagnes we tasted. Reviewing my notes, it seems I was frugal rather than generous with my scores, but as always, they serve to make my descriptions less ambiguous, and I don’t claim that they represent the full truth.
2008 Legras & Haas Blanc de Blancs
Nose with ripe green apple, some citrus, minerality of the chalky kind, some bready notes with some nutty notes. Acquired some flowery notes when it sat in the glass and got to a higher temperature. The palate is dominated by ripe green apple with some minerality and high acidity, and shows a fresh style an a pure aftertaste. Rather young but approachable now, 89(+) p.
Of the three 2008s, this is most likely to appeal to those that want something that’s very fresh, but still drinkable now.
Compare to my notes on the 2007 vintage.
50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir.
The lightest colour of the first three. Nose with yellow and red apples, noticeable bready and toasted notes, a classical Champagne nose. Palate with green and red apples, a fresh apple note, rather high acidity, some minerality and mint, and a fresh and apply aftertaste. A pleasant Champagne with a fresh palate, rather young but reasonably approachable already, 89(+) p.
At present the most approachable of these three 2008s, and shows quite a bit of pleasant and highly classical Champagne notes, although it may not be a heavyweight for a 2008. This seemed to be the most popular of the first three among the average participant at the tasting. But I suppose it is fair to say that anyone who likes Champagne in general will like this one, simple as that.
2008 Philipponnat Blanc de Noirs
100% Pinot Noir, a low dosage of 4,25 g/l.
A rich colour. The nose was initially a bit shy, but developed quite a bit in the glass, so young but with great potential. Once it had unfolded a bit, it showed a ripe and almost sweet fruity note with ripe red apple, peach, some nectarine, some spice notes, hints of honey and rum raisins, discrete bready notes, and a hint of oak barrel. The palate is distinctly dry with notes of apple, citrus, some ripe stone fruit, hints of honey, pronounced minerality of the stony type, high acidity, some spice notes, and an aftertaste with green apples. Young with quite a bit of potential, 90+/91(+) p.
This was my favourite among the three 2008s, and here my personal taste definitely come through in the scoring! I definitely like when Pinot Noir-dominated Champagnes get powerful and simultaneously show minerality and a good level of acidity, that provides balanced and elegance.
This is the first vintage of this particular Champagne. Philipponnat has discontinued their previous vintage cuvée, Réserve Millésimée (Pinot Noir-dominated but also with about 30% Chardonnay) and instead produces this Blanc de Noirs. Their other vintage Champagne, the Cuvée 1522 (Aÿ-Pinot Noir-dominated with 30-40% Chardonnay) is still produced.
Legras & Haas Exigence No 8
50% Chardonnay (Chouilly) and 50% Pinot Noir (Aÿ), produced in a solera (= continuous blending of vintages, where a certain proportion is withdrawn and replaced in each vintage) commenced with the 1996 vintage, and where the most recent vintage could be about 2009-2010. The different releases are numbered and nowadays have different label colours.
A complex nose with ripe apple, both green and red apples, some peach, a “creamy nose”, spice, some dried yellow fruit, rum raisins, hints of vanilla, and some developed notes. Palate with apples of different colours including red, powerful minerality, spices, definitely a high acidity, some hints of development, and a fresh and mineral-dominated aftertaste. Not extremely developed in the nose or on the palate for a Champagne produced in a solera, and in this case I think it could benefit from additional development in bottle, so my judgment is: rather young, 90 p.
2005 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
100% Chardonnay, a small proportion is treated in new oak. Actually, the 2006 was sold, but it hadn’t arrived in time for the tasting, so we got to taste the 2005 instead.
Powerful nose with noticeably smoky and toasted notes, ripe yellow apple, some fried apple, some yellow plums, spice, i.e., quite a bit of notes usually found in a white Burgundy from the Côte d’Or. Palate with powerful concentration, quite high acidity, powerful minerality, some apple in the background, some Burgundy feeling also on the palate, and an aftertaste with stone fruit and minerality. Rather young, approachable now, 92(+) p.
Could be compared to my score earlier this year, when I said 92-93(+) p. In my opinion, the “2005 opulence” now has emerged more in the 2005 Comtes, but it still has quite good acidity and quite pronounced minerality (in particular on the palate) for a vintage with a somewhat hot character.
2005 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses
65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay from a vineyard in the home village of Philipponnat, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ; there’s more on Clos des Goisses in my village profile. Vinified in oak, disgorged in March 2014.
A big and complex nose with quite ripe and sweet fruit, peach, nectarine, some wild strawberries and red currants, melon, red apple, some perfume note and hyacinth, spices, noticeable and well handed oak notes. Palate with powerful concentration, yellow and red apples, peach, good minerality, quite good acidity, spice, and a long aftertaste with minerality and ripe apple. Rather young, 93(+) p.
Clos des Goisses handles the power of the 2005 vintage well, in similarity to Comtes de Champagne. On the other hand, Clos des Goisses is always a powerful wine, since it originates from a distinctly south-exposed vineyard, is dominated by Pinot Noir, and is vinified in oak barrels.