Extreme drought prevailed in Champagne from March to August 2015. This means: the lowest rainfall ever recorded between budburst and picking, and at the same time the highest average daily temperatures. The year was a model of a vintage under the influence of global warming. For Champagne, however, this is not fundamentally alarming. As one of the northernmost wine-growing regions for quality wine, it is in fact one of the winners of the climate crisis. Moreover, the effects of the vintage on the different regions and grape varieties of Champagne are quite different.
A “solar” year like 2015 – some also speak of a “continental” vintage – is basically a year for red wine varieties in Champagne. Accordingly, the Grand Vintage from this year is dominated by Pinot Noir with 44 and Pinot Meunier with 24 percent. Chardonnay, at 32 per cent, only makes up a good third of the blend. In the previous vintage 2013 – 2014 was skipped due to large losses caused by the cherry vinegar fly – Chardonnay still dominated with 41 percent (Pinot Noir 38 %, Pinot Meunier 21 %). The latter’s harvest, after a significantly cooler year, had begun in October, the 2015 harvest on 7 September. In fact, the Chardonnay partly suffered from a lack of nitrogen in the summer of 2015 and the acidity levels were below the ten-year average. But the grapes easily reached phenolic ripeness even in cooler sites.
This results in two stylistically very different Champagnes. 2013 was very classic, with high tension and great precision. 2015 is more powerful and creamy, with still discreet aromatics, very lively perlage and a delicately bitter finish. The freshness and liveliness of the champagne is a particularly positive surprise, thanks to the high, ripe phenolic (91 p.).
The signature of the cellar master
The fact that we are able to enjoy such different expressions of Grand Vintage at all is certainly due in large part to Benoît Gouez. In 2005, at the age of 35, he was appointed the youngest chef de cave ever at Moët & Chandon. One of his first steps was to redefine Grand Vintage. Until then, it had stood for a kind of “upmarket” Brut Impérial: but with a vintage and extended yeast ageing of seven years. In its clear and consistent embodiment of the house style, it was more of a brand than a wine. Now the Grand Vintage embodies the individuality of the vintage more clearly. Of course, as Gouez emphasises, not simply as a reflection, but as “his interpretation” of the respective vintage. Moreover, with only 5 grams of dosage per litre, the Grand Vintage is now an Extra Brut. The back label now states the disgorgement date, and a QR field gives access to additional information. With the 76th vintage of Grand Vintage, Moët & Chandon is up to date in every respect.
© of the photographs: Stefan Pegatzky