2008 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame
Wine Details for 2008 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame
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: Nothing like a refreshing, vivacious glass of fine Champagne during a hot summer afternoon. Typically combining Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, each Champagne house has a distinct style. Whether you want to sample a single varietal (such as the 100% Chardonnay blanc de blancs) or a tasteful blend, no region can compete with Champagne.
: The Champagne blend is one of the most distinctive styles of winemaking in the world. This illustrious blend of grape varietals hails from northeastern France, in the winegrowing region of Champagne. The magical combination of varietals perfectly marry to the terroir, climate and topography of the region, creating a sexy, seductive and fascinating sparkling wine that is synonymous with success and celebration.
The primary grape varietals cultivated in Champagne and most used for blending are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. In fact, there are seven permitted grape varieties in the Champagne AOC (controlled designation of origin) though the other four are so rarely used they are often forgotten (Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc Petit Meslier and Arbane). The three grape varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier account for about 99% of the region’s plantings. Chardonnay is planted to 10,117 hectares, Pinot Meunier is planted to 10,521 hectares while the most widely planted, Pinot Noir, covers around 12,950 hectares.
Chardonnay brings crisp and refreshing nuances to the effervescent wine blend. When used as a single-variety offering, the wines are named Blanc de Blancs, and account for only around 3% of all Champagne bottlings. Pinot Noir is the staple in Champagne blends and interestingly, is planted in more hectares in Champagne than its ancestral home of Burgundy. It is one of just two allowable red grapes in the region. Pinot Noir brings body and mouth-filling structural texture to the blend. When used as a single-variety its creation is called Blanc de Noirs (white wine made from black-skinned grapes). Pinot Meunier, the other red grape permitted in Champagne brings red berry flavors and balances the overall blend. Though historically a blending grape, 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne wines are becoming increasingly popular.
Champagne has privileged environmental influences that give the wines produced here specific, unique characteristics that are often imitated but never duplicated. Its northern location, rugged climate, distinctive soil type and hillside vineyards makes Champagne terroir the only one of its kind. The first distinguishing factor is that Champagne enjoys a dual climate influenced by oceanic currents and continental winds. The oceanic currents help to keep the temperatures cooler, while the continental influence brings precipitation which are both essential for quality grape production.
Terroir is the second major component to the success of the grapes of Champagne to grow and prosper. It is composed mostly limestone (75%) chalk and marl with a limestone subsoil. The fissured medium provides good drainage, promoting the health and development of the vines. Each soil type is important to the stages of development. The chalk in Champagne consists of granules of calcite formed from fragile marine shells and micro-organisms. This highly porous compound assists in water movement into the root system. The limestone, being less porous allows the right amount of water to be collected while restricting erosion. Marl is just as important and contains highly rich minerals which allows the growth of berries with intense flavors.
The third distinguishing factor is the gift of Champagne’s natural landscape where the rugged and hilly terrain greatly assists in water drainage and root growth. The average gradient is around 12% with some of the slopes reaching grades as steep as 59%. The higher elevations receive greater sunlight than lower elevations at the same latitude. This feature alone creates diverse micro-climates within the region allowing grapes grown in different locations and at different Champagne houses to have unique characteristics.
The varietals of Champagne, the terroir of the region along with the oceanic and continental climatic influences come together to create one of earth’s most breathtaking wine styles. From the many styles and offerings, Brut (dry, raw or unrefined) to rose, vintage to non-vintage, Champagne blends offer to the world a euphoric, effervescent experience that cannot be matched.
: Wine is the lifeblood that courses through the country of France, pulsing with vigorous pride and determination. Viticulture is not just a hobby or an occupation in France; it is a passion, a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations of wine stained hands. Winemaking is a beloved art that has been ingrained in the culture, an aptitude instilled in sons by fathers and the hallmark for which France’s reputation was built, allowing it to be renowned as, arguably, the most important wine producing country in the world.
For centuries, France has been producing wines of superior quality and in much greater quantity than any other country in the world. It boasts some of the most impressive wine regions, coveted vineyards and prestigious wines on earth. The regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Sauternes and Champagne have become the benchmark, for which others aspire to become. Legendary producers such as Chateaux Margaux, Domaine De La Romanee Conti, Chapoutier, d’Yquem and Dom Perignon are idolized world-wide.
France has stamped its name on nearly every style of wine, from the nectar-like sweet Sauternes to hedonistic Chateauneuf Du Papes classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, to its sparkling dominance in Champagne. Many of the most infamous grape varietals in the world, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originated in France and are not only beloved, but utilized in the creation of some of the greatest wines on earth. French wine production commands the attention of the wine market year after year. With over 860,000 hectares under vine, and numbers close to 50 million hectoliters of wine produced annually, France dominates the market and sets the standard for not only product quality, but also quantity.
France’s many contributions to the world of wine have been absolutely indispensable. The country is the originator of the term “Premier Cru,” coined the term Terroir (a French term so complex there is no literal translation) and has laid the blueprint for a structured appellation system, which others have implemented in their own countries. French vineyard techniques and winemaking practices are mimicked world-wide. California vintners have been replicating Rhone style wines for decades, South America has adopted the French varietal of Malbec and countries around the world are imitating Burgundian styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
With vast diversity in terroir, France is home to some of the most hospitable winegrowing locations on earth. The combination of topography, geology, climate, rainfall and even the amount of sunlight combined with the long historical tradition of winegrowing and making, has allowed the vintners of France to not only hone their skills, but learn from nature to create a product that like the world in which it resides… is very much alive.
: The sharp, biting acidity, cutting through the richness; the explosive force that shatters the bubbles as they rise to the surface; the intense flavor and compelling, lively mouthfeel; these are all hallmarks of a good Champagne. Most wines are made from a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, but there are pure-Chardonnay variants and ones that blend only Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. As a result, most wines come with a feeling of familiarity, if not nostalgia. Each Champagne house has its own unique style, so different bottles of Champagne may not resemble each other outside of the core varietal strengths. The soil composition of the subregion is characterized by belemnite and chalk, which lets it absorb heat during the daytime and release it at night. This terroir helps create the feeling of airy, playful lightness of fine sparkling wine.
These wines were originally marketed towards royalty, and you can feel a hint of that elusive blue-blood elegance and confidence while drinking one. A good Champagne carries you away like a hurricane carries small debris, and you can feel the powerful life force in each bubble even. The characteristic Champagne "pop" has become a staple at parties and celebrations around the globe - when you hear it, good times are right around the corner.
: The modern day Maison of Veuve Clicquot possesses one of the finest Champagne vineyards in the region, both in size and the quality of its vines. Its success can be greatly attributed to the “Widow” Clicquot (widow translates to “Veuve” in French) who took control of the small, under-performing family vineyards after the sudden passing of her husband and transformed them into an empire. Its rise to fame is a story of perseverance, courage and cunning in the eyes of defeat. Today the unmistakable yellow label represents the finest quality, is recognized worldwide and has become the badge of honor for one of the most popular brands on the planet: Veuve Clicquot.
If not for the keenly intelligent, determined and savvy Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin (the Widow Clicquot), the luxury Champagne house of Veuve Clicquot would not exist today. After her husband’s untimely death in 1805, Barbe-Nicole remained determined to fulfill his dream of developing an international Champagne brand. She convinced her father-in-law and successful textile businessman, Philippe Clicquot, to fund the operation; to which he agreed under the condition that she would apprentice in the wine industry and learn from the ground up. She did what was required, learned the business inside and out and then went about finding ways to produce the finest wines and market them outside of France.
Before long, shrewd business tactics were taking Veuve Clicquot to new heights, though not without its challenges. The Widow decided to focus her attention on the Russian market, which at the time was delighting in the French wines and conveniently, at the epi-center of international trade. Unfortunately, the naval blockades incurred during the height of the Napoleonic Wars had crippled commercial shipping. In her prudence and perhaps, daringness, Barbe-Nicole, managed to smuggle the vast majority of her best wine out of France as far as Amsterdam, where it waited for war to cease. As soon as peace was declared, the shipment made its way to Russia, beating her competitors by weeks. Soon after her champagne debuted in Russia, Tsar Alexander I announced that it was the only kind that he would drink. Word of his preference spread throughout the Russian court, which was essentially ground-zero for international marketing.
The next challenge was mass-producing the wines to meet consumer demand, but second-fermentation and transferring the wines from bottle to bottle to eliminate “dead yeast” (bi-product of the process) was time-consuming and wasteful, not to mention damaging to the wine with its constant agitation to the bubbles. Barbe-Nicole, in her ingenious, devised a method that kept the wine in the same bottle and gently agitated the wines by turning the bottles upside down and rotating them, collecting the yeast in the neck of the bottle. This revolutionary method, called “riddling” caused frustration among the house’s competitors, as they were unable to compete with the expedited process. The method was kept secret for a long time, but would eventually be replicated; it is still used among the top producers in the region. By the time of her death in 1866, her and her late husband’s dreams and aspirations had come to fruition and Veuve Clicquot was exporting Champagne to the far reaches of the world.
Today, 95% of Veuve Clicquot consists of Grand Cru and Premier Cru vines; the vineyards spanning an impressive 390 hectares over 12 of the 17 Grand Crus and 24 of the 41 Premier Crus. From the appellations of La Montagne de Reims to La Vallee de la Marne to La Cote des Blancs to La Cote des Bar, the vines of Veuve Clicquot flourish in the region’s exceptional terroir and benefit from the hilly topography, cool temperatures and regular, moderate rainfall. The vines are situated perfectly to collect as many of the sun’s rays as possible, while the roots are forced to find their own strength in the poor substrate. The result is ripe fruit which then undergoes a rigorous selection process, as the house motto demands, “Only one quality, the finest.”
The region’s top three varietals, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are cultivated at Veuve Clicquot and are the source of their incredible line-up. The wines of Veuve Clicquot are renowned worldwide and include the crazy-popular Brut Yellow Label and La Grande Dame, Extra Brut, Rose, Demi-Sec, Clicquot Rich and the numerous vintage Champagnes (another revolutionary idea of the Widow). Veuve Clicquot accounts for 1.5 million cases on the world market each year. An impressive feat and one made possible by a young, determined and savvy woman, and the house’s continuous demands for quality.
Decanter | 97 DEC
This is a sunny and delicious 2008, with brightness infusing the wine, from its platinum color to its mineral intensity, transforming its richness and power into cool elegance. Notes of agave and cassia bark add depth, suggesting the complexity this will develop with further bottle age.
Wine & Spirits | 95 W&S
An elegant Champagne, powered by a sculpted frame of acidity and minerality, this wears the refined, lacy mousse and well-meshed flavors of black currant, lemon curd, toast and marzipan like finely tailored clothing. Fresh and lasting, with hints of spice and smoke on the finish. Disgorged August 2016. Drink now through 2033.
Wine Spectator | 95 WS
Exhibiting aromas of pear, toasted brad, confit citrus and smoke, the 2008 Brut La Grande Dame is full-bodied, rich and textural, with a deep and layered core, ripe but racy acids and a saline finish. A blend dominated by fully 92% Pinot Noir, this is true to the cuvée’s rich and muscular style, but the vintage lends it welcome additional cut and precision. It’s showing a lot better than the bottles I tasted in the United States last year.
Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 93 RP
This rich Champagne is dominated, as usual, by Pinot Noir. Its ripe fruit is approaching maturity, the hints of toast and croissant becoming more apparent. It is balanced, rich but textured and with an opulent, ripe aftertaste. Drink now.
Wine Enthusiast | 93 WE