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La Grande Dame 2006 versus 1998, 1989 and 1976

Michael Edwards reports on his first taste of the newly launched La Grande Dame 2006 vintage Champagne and gets to compare it with three older vintages.

Dominique Demarville, Veuve Clicquot’s chef de cave was in London this week to launch La Grande Dame 2006 vintage Champagne, named for the Widow Clicquot, the titan(e)of 19th Century Champagne.

Demarville introduced the 2006 Champagne as the first in a vertical of four mature vintages of La Grande Dame blanc back to 1976 – then the rosé in a quartet culminating in the 1989.

All the vintages shared a common thread of similar potential alcohol / acidity to show how the 2006 might develop over two or three decades.

Tasting La Grande Dame 2006

Of the whites, youthful La Grande Dame 2006 was pastel yellow, with a green tint. The aromas after 30 minutes gave lilac fragrance, a sensation coming from the Chardonnay raised to 47% of the blend. A masterstroke, as the bright ripe Pinot palate could have been too low in acidity, but for this paperclip of Chardonnay. Score: 17.5 points (will go higher).

La Grande Dame 1998

An August heatwave during the growing season means that the wine was greatly structured yet hedonistic. There was citrus notes then almonds, apricot & quince, all cleansed with beautiful acidity. A keeper. 18 points.

La Grande Dame 1989

The 1989 emerged from another scorcher of a growing season. It has a green gold hue and was remarkably fresh and complex, with seductive tastes of brioche – a softness in tune with precision 18+ points.

La Grande Dame 1976

The Saharan 1976 brushed off the heat, protected by fine acidity from deep burrowing vines. Wonderful reductive flavours, with toast, praline and patisserie in their plenitude. Would go well with lobster, grouse and a good block of Comté cheese. 18.5 points

La Grande Dame Rosé 2006

Two magnificos among the rosés; youngest and oldest stand out. The 2006 is an exquisite salmon pink.

On nose and palate everything is in potential, to blossom over 25 years. It’s all here – salty, mineral
blackcloth of great wine, then nascent morello cherry, hazelnut, spices, light protective tannins. Latent elegance and grace. 18.5 points

La Grande Dame Rosé 1989

Finally, the sublime 1989. Gold, copper-pink in colour, the wine is delicate and intense with a stunning roundness and concentration. There is no hint of ageing – steady as a rock. Pinot Noir from Veuve Clicquot’s Clos Colin is a key ingredient. 19 points.

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