A vertical tasting organised by Cambridge Wine Merchants of Joseph Perrier vintage Champagnes from their 'museum collection'. Hosted by Hal Wilson, Managing Director of Cambridge Wine and led by Martin Gamman MW of Joseph Perrier. All the Champagnes were served from magnums.
Cuvee Royale Non Vintage Brut
Fresh, rounded nose with only slight hints of biscuit and yeastiness. Feels rounded on the palate, with the autolytic characters of baked bread and brioche coming through; decent lemony acidity, keeping everything altogether very fresh and clean. Good balance, a classically styled Champagne.
Cuvee Royale Vintage 2002 (disgorged 2011)
Savoury, buttered toast, with baked bread, brioche and cheese notes too; still showing primary fruit aromas of green pears, apple peels and citrus; very appealing and complex nose. Rounded fruit, acidity is firm and structured, lending a slightly steely feel to this; not immediately expressive on the palate, but flavours are sustained, good length on the finish. Still showing the rough edges and nerve of youth, should open up with time; I wouldnt bet against this lasting as long as the 1982.
Cuvee Royale Vintage 1998 (disgorged 2008)
Quite closed on the nose, you've got to work quite hard - still primary fruit on the nose, green pears and apples again; some secondary notes also showing, but quite muted. Very gentle mousse; big acidity hit here, its large and expansive to start but doesnt last as long on the mid palate; slight oxidative / aged flavour profile beginning to show on the palate. Excellent balance but probably wont keep as long as the '02 or '96.
Cuvee Royale Vintage 1996 (disgorged 2009)
Beginning to take on more colour - all previous wines have been light straw coloured, this has some gold tinges to it. A developed nose - mushroom, brioche, baked cheese, some oxidative character as well; all underlain with hints of citrus. Such balance on the palate, no one thing dominates - acidity and fruit both expressive; feels opulent yet focused, properly structured; finessed and concentrated flavours. Still so fresh and lively, very 'together' - its drinking beautifully now but, undisgorged, will no doubt age another 10-20 years with ease.
Cuvee Royale Vintage 1989 (disgorged 2010)
Mid gold in colour; a very developed nose of baked brioche, mushroom and yeastiness, lots of secondary notes to go with the hints of citrus thats just about hanging on. Still fresh and lively but its beginning to show its age; the fruit is fading (but not gone), the secondary developed notes are beginning to dominate on the palate. Overall balance is still good but in comparison to its peers, this feels somewhat one dimensional and at this stage, a bit awkward - perhaps time to drink up?
Cuvee Royale Vintage 1982 (disgorged 2011)
Pale lemon gold in colour, distinctly paler than the younger '89. Bready and yeasty, hot buttered toast with marmite on the nose, very savoury and even nutty notes are showing; incredible secondary aromas coming through, in my mind more Burgundian than Champenoise; oh and theres still citrus fruit showing too. On the palate its fresh and lively, the savoury notes comes through but theres plenty of lemony acidity and primary fruit showing; you could almost call it powerful; yet theres still verve and vivacity; long, sustained finish. Everything is so integrated; amazing freshness, quality and.longevity. Left me absolutely stunned; favourite wine of the evening.
Cuvee Royale Vintage 1979 (disgorged 2010)
Again pale lemon gold in colour, similar to the '82. Does smell more developed but slightly more madeirised nose, with a touch of aldehyde nuttiness coming through; the primary fruit is fading. Acidity is still lively; focused and perhaps even a bit lean; definitely more reserved than the '82, just isnt as opulent. The primary fruit is fading away, secondary notes dominate but isnt as expressive. Towards the end of its drinking window?
I dont often do this but I would like to add a few words about these old vintage Champagnes. The key here was that these wines had been stored their entire lives in magnums and most were recently disgorged (within a year or two or consumption) thereby minimising any bottle aging under cork. This is probably why all of them felt incredibly fresh and looked relatively pale in colour. If I were to buy the current 2002 vintage and cellar it properly, I doubt they will be anywhere near as fresh in ten or twenty years' time. With regards to the '82 and '79 - how they've managed to last so long (and still stay so damned good) is beyond me and it was indeed a great privilege to try these wines. In the words of a fellow (very experienced) taster 'Served blind, I would never have guessed in a million years that it was that old'. Bravo Joseph Perrier!