2015 Champagne – First Thoughts
Tasting Champagne’s vins clairs is one of my favorite
moments of the year. Vins clairs are Champagne’s still wines before they are
blended and put into bottle with sugar to become Champagne. For a few months
between the end of the year and the following spring, when most wines are
bottled, the vins clairs offer the most pure expression of site, variety and
vintage. The following observations are based on one week of tastings at both
grower estates and large houses concentrated in the central areas around Reims
Tasting vins clairs at
Harvest began at the tail end of August, following an
exceptionally hot and dry summer period between June and the middle of August.
Rain towards the end of the season did not appear to cause major issues.
Potential alcohols came in between 10.5-11.5% on average, which is high for Champagne
while acidities were on the lower end, in the 6-7% range. But wine is seldom
about numbers alone. What impressed me most about the 2015 vins clairs is the
balance I saw in so many samples.
A broad selection of
vins clairs at Roederer, Reims
Two thousand fifteen is a rare vintage that appears to be high in quality for
both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Most producers I visited stated a slight
preference for Pinot over Chardonnay in 2015, although to truly have an
authoritative view on that subject would require an amount of vin clair
tastings that is likely beyond the scope of any publication. Champagne is a large region that produces in
excess of 300 million bottles per year. The samples I tasted over the
course of a week of visits to growers and larger houses represent a veritable
drop in the bucket. Take as an example the maison that vinifies over 250
separate lots and showed about two dozen samples. Given the numbers involved,
producers are naturally inclined to show the best the vintage has to offer.
Nevertheless, after having done these tastings for nearly a
decade, 2015 is shaping up to be an outstanding vintage in terms of both
quality and consistency. Whether or not 2015 is a truly great or historic
vintage remains to be seen. I expect most houses will bottle vintage wines and
that many will also produce their têtes de cuvées.
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-- Antonio Galloni