I have aimed to emulate John by having a glass of Champagne at least a couple times of week, especially after a trying day. I have to report that it works. It’s a mood lifter and a palate cleanser. It’s hard not to be reminded of all that’s wonderful about life after indulging in a single glass of Champagne as a start to the evening. And Champagne keeps beautifully once you’ve poured out a single glass, better than any other wine I can think of.
As they say at Krug, it isn’t one single thing that makes Krug’s wines so extraordinary—it is the cumulative effect of a host of small details. Founder Joseph Krug was driven to produce the best product possible in Champagne, a quest for perfection that has somehow been maintained and enhanced by thousands of choices made by his descendants over the years. The result are vinous masterpieces that are among the most reliable sources of pleasure and deep enjoyment not only from Champagne, but in the whole world of wine.
There are an increasing number of very good sparkling wines out there, but there’s still something very special about a fine Champagne for honoring those memorable moments–gatherings with friends and family, holidays like Christmas, and the start of a new year. And in 2012, assuming we make it through the supposed final date of the Mayan calendar on December 21, we’ll have an additional reason to break out the Champagne in celebration.
This is a terrific event for assessing the latest releases from most of the major Champagne houses, and some of the more significant grower Champagnes. Unfortunately, most of the non-vintage Champagnes I taste year in and year out were weaker–less complex and captivating–this year, presumably due to wines from lesser recent vintages making up their base. Maybe nature is trying to tell us that this year we should check out some of the great non-Champenois bubblies for a change–cavas, spumantes, sparkling Loire and Jura wines that we might not normally reach for at holiday time.
Super Tuscans were darlings of the wine world from the mid-’90s through the early 2000s. These wines, whose producers include some of Italy’s most illustrious and historically significant, are based sometimes on blends of Sangiovese with international varietals–like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot–and sometimes just on international varietals. The term Super Tuscan is used to describe any red wine from the Tuscan region that does not conform to the region’s DOC(G) blending requirements, such as the Chianti DOC rule that the dominant grape of the blend has to be Sangiovese. Many Super Tuscans garnered very high scores from Parker and the Wine Spectator, leading to much demand and increasingly high prices for these wines. By the middle of the first decade of 2000, however, many Italian producers were offering Super Tuscan blends, most of which were indistinguishable from red international varietal blends from elsewhere. The market grew increasingly soft for these kinds of wines, and only the top, most well established names are still commanding prices well over $100 a bottle, and the demand even for these wines is much reduced from their heyday.
Of the 79 wines I tasted, I rated 30, or nearly 38%, 92 points or higher. My wines of the tasting were the ’95 Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires and the ’98 Krug, both of which deserved at least 95 points. The producers whose wines were most impressive at this tasting, resulting in one or more scores of 93 points and above, were Bollinger, Charles Heidsieck, Henriot, Jacquesson, Krug, Moët & Chandon, Pol Roger and Veuve Clicquot.