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Launching the cuvée in the dramatic setting of the English National Opera stage in London, Veuve Clicquot chef de cave Dominique Demarville outlined his vision for the style of La Grande Dame, saying: “We look for a maximum of minerality, purity, freshness and lightness, with a creaminess on the palate.”
Defending the house’s decision to skip the acclaimed 2002 vintage for La Grande Dame, Demarville cited a combination of stylistic and commercial reasons. Firstly, he explained, “2002 was a larger, very concentrated style, which is not what we are looking for with La Grande Dame.”
For the same stylistic reason, Demarville revealed that Veuve Clicquot’s next La Grande Dame would be from 2006, a year which the house felt was not suitable for its vintage expression. This will be released in 2015. However, Veuve Clicquot plans to release both styles from the much-anticipated 2008 vintage.
Returning to the 2002 vintage, Demarville admitted that the decision not to make La Grande Dame was also rooted in the fact that “Champagne was in crisis after the Millennium boom.”
He explained: “We shipped a lot of prestige cuvée all over the world in 1999 but what happened in 2001 and 2002 was that sales of prestige cuvée declined as there was a lot of stock everywhere. We still had a lot of La Grande Dame ’98, ’96 and ’95 so we decided not to declare 2002.”
La Grande Dame is a Pinot Noir dominated cuvée, with grapes from five different Pinot Noir grand cru sites – Verzy, Verzenay, Ambonnay, Ay and Bouzy – making up two thirds of the blend. The remaining third of Chardonnay come from three grand cru site in the Cote des Blancs – Avize, Oger as Mesnil-sur-Oger.
Tracking the recent evolution in approach to La Grande Dame, Demarville noted: “We are going to be more and more exclusive ad precise,” as he revealed: “For two years now we have made separate vineyard parcels and the winemaking has been done in separate tanks.”
Despite the fact that previous warm vintages like 1990 saw La Grande Dame feature a slightly higher proportion of Chardonnay in order to retain its signature lightness of style, Demarville suggested that, even with the evidence of global warming, “my point of view is to put more Pinot Noir into La Grande Dame.”
Elaborating his point, Demarville continued: “Global warming may mean less acidity in wines in the future, but i’m not sure that is what will happen.”
Instead, he suggested: “We will adapt cultivation of the vines to global warming – we are already doing the harvest earlier now than 20-30 years ago – and the roots are growing deeper and deeper, which is important for vines’ consistent supply of water.”
Of his desire to shift the blend even further in favour of Pinot Noir, Demarville pointed out: “The Veuve Clicquot style is based on Pinot Noir and so my perspective is to keep La Grande Dame in line with the Veuve Clicquot style, which is why I think we will see more Pinot Noir in the wine in future.”
Veuve Clicquot also used this event to unveil La Grande Dame Rosé 2004. Made from 100% Pinot Noir from a single parcel, Clos Colin, which was described by Demarville as “the Chambolle Musigny of Bouzy”, just 7,000 bottles are produced.
La Grande Dame 2004 is currently available from Harrods, Selfridges, Fine & Rare, Majestic and Jeroboams, with an RRP of £135. La Grande Dame Rosé 2004 has an RRP of £250.
Story by Gabriel Savage
Courtesy of The Drinks Business