Champagne had an exceptionally strong year in 2022. Also in Germany, which reported record turnover with over 12 million bottles sold – even if we fell back to 5th place internationally. At ProWein 2023, 50 houses presented themselves in the Champagne Lounge, as well as 150 maisons, cooperatives and winemakers in the immediate vicinity of Hall 9 or at their importers. Here is my very personal selection of the top 5.
1. Champage Jacquesson Vauzelle Terme 2013 Extra Brut
Champagne Jacquesson caused a sensation when the Chiquet brothers announced the sale on October 1, 2022 to the Artémis Group of the billionaire Pinault family. At ProWein, the new director Jean Garandeau, also sales and marketing director of the Artémis Domaines, which include Château Latour and Clos de Tart, presented the wines. There will soon be a separate article here on my conversation with Jean Garandeau and the tasting of the entire range. Vauzelle Terme, in any case, is a tiny 0.3 hectare parcel planted entirely to Pinot Noir in Aÿ. So the Champagne bottled as a single vineyard is technically a Blanc de Noirs. These wood-fermented wines can turn out a bit massive and broad-shouldered in hot years. The late-ripening, cool 2013 vintage produced a muscular as well as elegant Vauzelle Terme. An excellent food companion that should, of course, age for a few more years: 96 points.
2. Champagne Gosset 12 ans de cave a minima Rosé Brut
This is a coup by Odilon de Varine, the long-time cellar master of Champagne Gosset from Épernay. And he did not miss the opportunity to present this champagne himself at ProWein in Düsseldorf. Because with the limited Special Edition “x ans de cave a minima” – in other words: “x years of cellar maturity at least” – he has, as it were, invented a new genre of champagne: Champagnes without vintage, but with very long bottle aging.
It is true that the longer time on the yeast is basically part of Gosset’s basic concept. But de Varine had come to the conclusion that the vintage concept, with vintages that vary greatly from region to region, had become too complicated for many consumers. At Gosset, there is no rule for bottling in this case; it is the condition of the wines that decides. After the 12 and 15 year versions for classic white cuvées were presented first, the rosé “12 ans” was now also presented at ProWein: Certainly a Champagne that polarizes, with its very delicate partridge-eye color, very subtle perlage and ripe, almost fleshy style, carried strongly by the autolytic yeast aromas, but hardly by fruit or even sweetness. Definitely for food: 94 points.
3. Champagne Boizel Collection Trésor 1990 Extra Brut
Champagne Boizel has been operating in Épernay since 1834, and for a time in the postwar decades the house produced a favorite champagne of Parisian chic. In 1994, the owners sold a majority stake in the company to the small Champagne group of Bruno Paillard and Philippe Baijot (now the mighty Lanson-BCC, with the B standing for Boizel). The right decision, because today Boizel is once again in excellent standing and all strategic and assemblage decisions continue to be made by the family. I will dedicate a separate article to the retreaded portfolio presented to me at ProWein by Florent Roques-Boizel, CEO since 2018 and from the sixth generation of founders.
At this point, I would like to introduce the Collection Trésor, specifically the 1990 vintage. In fact, Boizel owns a treasury of Champagnes dating back to the founding year of 1834, currently the 1985 and 1990 vintages are offered for sale in very small numbers. The base wines of 60 percent Pinot Noir, 30 percent Chardonnay and 10 percent Pinot Meunier remained on their lees for 30 years and were disgorged in April 2021, with 3 grams per liter of dosage added. The nose is a bit firn with some brioche, the mousse barely noticeable. But on the palate the Champagne seems highly lively and complex, with aromatics combining nuts and Mediterranean dry herbs, fascinating. Without scoring
4. Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill 2013
A revisit! Pol Roger has already presented the Winston Churchill 2013 2022 at ProWein, just like the 2015 Vintages. In the meantime, Winston Churchill 2015 has already been presented in London, and the 2016 Vintage Champagnes will also be delivered shortly. But there is a good reason for the renewed presentation. After all, all the Champagnes mentioned tasted well below their potential last year.
That’s why Axel Gilléry, the house’s export manager, had to smile when he poured me the samples. For he remembered all too clearly my astonishment last year. Now, both the Vintage Champagnes and the Prestige Cuvée have increased significantly. The 2015s because the champagnes, initially unbalanced by the 2015 heat vintage, have regained their focus. Winston Churchill, from the late ripening, cool 2013, because its refined precision could only be guessed at after tasting the 2015 powerhouses. Today, the Champagne seems to have blossomed, releasing much of its inner richness. Now I’m looking forward to the 2015 Winston, which Axel Gilléry will then probably present to me at the next ProWein … 96 points.
5. Champagne Roederer Cristal 2015
With the forerunner, Roederer Cristal from 2014, I opened this website last year – at that time on the occasion of a video conference with cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon. Now there was 2015, so to speak, as a pre-release at Schlumberger: If I see it correctly, even as a world premiere. And that was indeed a real stunner. How the Maison manages to produce such a fresh, vibrant Champagne in such a hot year, which was probably even more difficult for the region than 2018, borders on a miracle: 97 points.
Perhaps it’s because many of Cristal’s plots, in 2012 even the entire harvest, are farmed biodynamically. Lécaillon described last year that the impact on the base wines is noticeable. The ph is lower (and thus the acidity higher), the dry extract higher, he said. A downer, of course, is the price trend. On the platform of Millésima UK, the 2015 was just set at 320 pounds (equivalent to 360 euros). A clear increase once again compared to the already considerable 290 pounds, which are demanded for the 2014.
© Feature Image: Messe Düsseldorf / ctillmann
© all other photos: Stefan Pegatzky / Time Tunnel Images