Drinking a Vintage: 2000 Champagne

January 5, 2009 at 8:10 pm (Our Favorite Things, What we are thinking) (, , , , , )

by Jane Lopes on Champagne

2000 in Champagne has been called a “winemaker’s vintage”. This means, essentially, that the vintage was problematic: winemakers couldn’t rest on their laurels, counting on good conditions to produce optimal fruit. A warm, damp winter was followed by a wet spring and not much warmth until May. June and August were warm and dry, but July was cold and rainy. The result of this variable weather was variable fruit: some afflicted by mold and chlorosis (a yellowing of the vine due to a lack of chlorophyll and other nutrients), some overly ripe; some vineyards had very high yields, some very low. Luckily, the weather evened out for harvest (beginning on September 11th and ending in early October), saving a considerable number of the grapes.

The Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes are thought to have fared better in this vintage; they are slightly heartier than the delicate Pinot Noir. Having said that, in the hands of the right winemaker, some Pinot Noir based Champagnes were successful in 2000.

Paul Bara 2000

Paul Bara 2000

Case in point, the 2000 Paul Bara. If any winemaker can save a vintage, it’s Paul Bara. Richard Juhlin, in his benchmark book 4000 Champagnes, calls Paul Bara “a living legend in Champagne…Bara’s wines have a very elegant fruitiness, which is unique in Bouzy. It is incomprehensible that he is best known for his red wine when his Champagne is of world class.” Although Bara’s vintage blends are usually 90% Pinot Noir (typical in the Pinot heavy Bouzy) and 10% Chardonnay, the 2000 does not fall short, unlike some other Pinot-based 2000s. Peter Liem, a senior correspondent for Wine & Spirits magazine, wrote an exclamatory review of the 2000 Paul Bara on his Champagne blog in November 2008: “…the 2000 seems to exemplify the best of what this vintage has to offer. It’s broad and rich, with a honeyed generosity, yet it doesn’t lose focus or precision, tethered by a fine structure and a firm but not aggressive acidity. It’s just beginning to develop some notes of nut oils and toast on the finish, while the fruit remains strongly primary in tone, and although this is showing perfectly well right now, it should continue to develop more complexity with additional time in the cellar.” I was equally as impressed by the 2000 when we recently tasted it at one of our Sunday tastings. My notes for this wine were: “tastes like the sea and rock-candy.” Awesome.

And for a completely different take on the 2000 vintage in Champagne, grab a bottle of the 2000 Launois Special Club Blanc de Blancs. 100% Chardonnay, this composition is going to be more typical of the wines that were successful in this vintage. But to call this wine “typical” in anyway is to do it a disservice. Launois is a staff favorite at LUSH, and we were astounded by the quality of the 2000 Special Club (and for only $55!). This wine is pristine, crisp, and clean — the kind of Champagne you can drink all night long. An enticing nose of toasty brioche, almond, honey, and juicy, ripe pear leads to a bright and mouth-filling palate, with notes of creme brulee, crisp apple, and baking spice. Absolutely spectacular, and sure to age well into the next decade.

One more 2000 Champagne we have in stock: the 2000 Louis Roederer Cristal. Whether you drink Cristal for the name, for the pretty clear bottle, or for the bubbles themselves, there’s no denying that Cristal is exceptional Champagne. Robert Parker said of this wine: “One of the finest Champagnes I have ever brought to my lips [Really!? Must be good! –ed.], the 2000 Cristal bursts from the glass with fresh hazelnut and apple scents. Elegant, deep, and silky-textured, this medium to full-bodied beauty is immensely concentrated, pure, packed with apple flavors, and astoundingly long in the finish.” That’s 98 points, if you’re counting.

So, it looks like 2000 didn’t turn out so bad after all in ol’ Champagne. But, if you don’t know the producer, I would still be weary (as I would in an exceptional vintage, as well). But 2000 was indeed a problematic year, making the winemaker’s role all the more important. Make sure you know and trust the producer (or the wine store it’s at!) before buying the wine.

Happy sipping.

JL.

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