I love being surprised by great Champagne. It is great to be reminded that no matter how many bottles one has tried, how many visits to the region one has made, there are always more surprises. The Veuve Clicquot Extra Brut Extra Old Champagne is a spectacular surprise, and the best and most exciting bottling that I have had from this famous house since the 1988 Veuve Clicquot "Rare" Vintage Brut Champagne. This is the only Champagne that I have ever had that is composed exclusively of reserve wines. It has no vin clair from the vintage before the bottling in it- everything spent at least two years in tank before being bottled.
When I visited Veuve Clicquot last year Dominique Demarville and I spent a couple of hours tasting his wonderful collection of reserve wines. We tasted the 1988 Cramant that is the oldest part of the Extra Old blend—he still has some left—and it was so profound that I took a picture of the tank. I wrote in my notebook at the time that it smelled and looked like it could have been a Chablis that was twenty years younger, as the only hint to its age was the spectacular complexity and finesse of the wine.
The Extra Age, Extra Old opens up that collection of reserves for the Champagne lover to drink, and what a collection it is. Anchored by the 1988 Chardonnay from Cramant, this wine also has Pinot Noir from the Aube in 1996 and Verzy 2006. The youngest wines in the blend come from Ay with some 2009, and Ville-Dommange with some Meunier from 2010. In the end, the composition came out to about 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Meunier. The wine was aged for three years on the lees, and the bottle that we drank also had a couple of years on the cork, as it was disgorged in June of 2016. The dosage is very low at 3g/l, but the age of the wines makes it show more like a dry brut than an austere extra brut.
We had this Champagne with some mushroom pate that Cinnamon made out of hen of the woods and crimi’s from a local grower at the Menlo Park farmers market on toasts made out of the Woodside Bakery’s walnut bread. While the wine was clean, refreshing and bright the whole time, it also magically had vinous depth and complexity that on rarely encounters in current release Champagne. The subtle way that this power and depth presents itself is a testament to the blending mastery of Dominique Demarville, a cellar master at the top of his game. The savory, earthy flavors in the pate brought out the same in the wine, but without the food I might have missed them completely.
Two days later, as I type this I can almost still taste the wine. It is certainly the longest finishing Champagne with an Extra Brut labeling that I have ever had. If you love Champagne, and have the budget for a treat, this small production release is one that I hope that you will try. I have never had anything like it, and the quality is top notch.
A toast to you!