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Champagne

Prestige Champagnes Deserve Their Reputation
Per Henrik-Mansson
Posted: December 1, 1992

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Krug doesn't claim to make a prestige cuvée. The Krugs immodestly argue that the Krug name, in itself, stands for prestige. Thus, it is impossible to single out a "prestige cuvée" in the Krug line. But if price alone is to judge, the vintage Krug Collection bottles are the most prestigious. They are the oldest Krug wines around. And they stand the test of time well. A recent bottle of 1964 was amazingly fresh. It was a delicious wine with complex aromas and flavors of apple, butter and pears. This Champagne was comparable to some of the greatest white wines of Burgundy's famed Côte d'Or region.

It is not by chance that Krug Champagnes taste like fine white Burgundy. In Krug's case, this is clearly due in part to the house's tradition to ferment in Burgundian-size, 205-liter oak barrels. The wines are then placed in stainless steel tanks. "By fermenting in oak barrels, we make the wines able to age for a long, long time. They become resistant to oxidation," says co-owner Remi Krug. After bottling and the second fermentation, the Krug vintage wines will age on the lees at least six years and often eight years before being disgorged and then released.

Bollinger's style is similar to Krug's, but Bollinger has a different approach for its famed RD series. "RD" stands for "recently disgorged." Disgorging is a technique to eliminate the yeasts, lees and other solids that have accumulated in the wine as it ages; after disgorgement, the wine is bottled and shipped. The RDs are released after at least seven or eight years of aging on their yeasts in the bottle. The '82 RD was released in 1991, and the '85 will be released in 1993.

Bollinger launched its RD line in 1955. "We wanted to let our clients taste a wine with some more age on it," said Christian Bizot, the owner. In a vintage year, Bollinger's production averages about 150,000 bottles of Grande Année and 70,000 bottles of RD. Older vintages of RD Bollinger Champagne are often available on the market, and Bollinger has even established a program whereby consumers place an order for these wines with a merchant. Upon receiving the order, Bollinger will disgorge and ship the bottles. Among the RDs available for purchase are the 1979, 1975 and 1973.

Although it is almost 20 years old, the '73 Bollinger RD illustrates how successful this house has been in aging these old Champagnes. This particular bottle of '73 was outstanding, complex yet fresh, with doughy, vanilla and lemon pie aromas and flavor.

Whether Bollinger RD, Dom Pérignon or Roederer Cristal, prestige cuvées offer Champagne aficionados the best quality. They don't come cheap, but they offer unforgettable finesse and complexity and exciting character. And these are as good as the world's best still wines, be it a Montrachet or a Bordeaux first growth like Château Latour.

Per-Henrik Mansson is a Switzerland-based correspondent for The Wine Spectator. Tasting Notes

98 Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1985: A great glass of champagne. As stunning as a complex wine, it delivers intense bread dough, green apple, smoky and roasted hazelnut flavors and a toasty finish. The biggest, most flavorful champagne in the tasting.

96 Krug Vintage 1982: A beauty. Impressively rich with a symphony of fruit and spice notes, it shows lovely perfumy, rose petal aromas along with pear and vanilla flavors. A ripe, soft style of champagne.

96 Louis Roederer Cristal 1986: Unbelievable finesse, very exciting champagne, rich in flavor yet fresh and crisp. Well structured.


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