May 17, 2012

Mature Champagne: 1966 Albert Le Brun Cuvee Reserve, 1985 Bollinger Grande Annee

Mature champagnes cannot be missed if you find them. So when the opportunity presented itself yesterday, we came across two nice mature bottles: 1966 Albert Le Brun Reserve and 1985 Bollinger Grande Annee.

When champagne matures it is full of nuances of an extremely full-bodied white wine, as the case is when bubbles are gone. However the long maturation of the wine is very evident and as they are mostly made of grapes grown in very good crus, they offer really interesting experiences. Champagne from the 1980s seem to have evolved to a state now in which you have the mature elements present while still holding some bubbles - a very enticing combination.

1966 Albert Le Brun Cuvee Reserve 

This one had already seen its best times as a sparkling wine, i.e. how champagne is usually enjoyed. However what a beauty in the oxidized-madeira-driven-taste sort of way. 

Color is intensive golden with no bubbles left. Nose is really thick, nicely oxidized (not too much!), fruity and toasty, like fried chestnuts, other tasters commenting "chestnut honey", "damp woolen stocking" and madeira wine. The wine was thick, almost oily in the mouth while having still big acidity. Citron peels, "apricot and sour orange" notes dominating the palate. 

1985 Bollinger Grande Annee 

The Bollinger Grande Annee is the flagship wine of the house, ok R.D. is their most prestigious wine - however where to find a bottle? So let's stick to Grande Annee then. And 1985 Grande Annee was a success still today. 

The 1985 vintage is hailed as a "miracle after Siberian conditions" by Bollinger itself as winter temperatures reached -25 celsius, and although part of the vineyards had to be replanted the surviving crus gave really good fruit. 

Golden yellow color and with really, really small bubbles. Slightly toasted nose, characterized by being full of fruit & sour apple notes, as well as honey, small oxidation component and some "mushrooms" as commented by another taster.

How about the taste? The mouthfeel is that of Big Fruit while being tight, really condensed, with citrus and sour apple notes dominating further backed up by high acidity. When enjoyed straight from bottle without decanting it seems like the taste has like a tight perimeter - like doors waiting to be opened with some air. Acidity dominates the mouth feel while alcohol takes a back seat and does not present itself big here like in a new non-vintage (N.V.), not even when the wine warms in the glass. By the way, 12% abv in this one. When the wine warms up in the glass after some air contact, apple and dark spices come through first, followed by beautiful floral notes. 

The Grande Annee 1985 was like a combination of 1966 Le Brun and a freshly new Bollinger N.V. Beautiful mature champagne. However personally I have to say that 1982 Deutz has a lively edge on its side.

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