WARNING: THIS ARTICLE IS OVER 6000 WORDS LONG AND WILL MAKE YOU BUY SIGNIFICANT QUANTITIES OF CHAMPAGNE
As long-time readers will know, New Year’s Eve has long been a special evening for me every year, as I always make sure to spend it with the world’s #1 collector of Champagne, otherwise known as Big Boy. One of our other, frequent drinking buddies happened to be in town as well this New Year’s, otherwise known as Bad Boy, another of the world’s top connoisseurs of Champagne. Add into the mix the world’s #1 expert on Champagne, Richard Juhlin, and you may be able to imagine the rest. Make sure to add ‘and then some.’ And when 2012 arrived, all through the house, every creature was stirring, thanks to Deadmaus.
Now normally, Mr. Rosania hosts an evening of rare Champagne and wine for many fine friends in his home on New Year’s, but thanks to some domestic construction, we were out and about this year. But I am getting ahead of myself, as four days before we welcomed 2012, Richard Juhlin stepped off the plane from Stockholm, and we welcomed him with open bottles. There were three nights of Champagne hosted by the Wine Workshop, and then one hosted by Big Boy, and the momentum kept building throughout the week until I couldn’t take it no more, which was about 2am Sunday morning.
I had the good fortune of meeting Richard Juhlin for the first time earlier this year, on the small yet lovely island of Aland in the North Sea. We were both there in honor of the ‘Shipwrecked’ auction, when we set a record for the most expensive bottle of Champagne ever sold. We instantly hit it off thanks to our mutual passion for Champagne, although he drinks it a lot more of it than me, an estimated 300 nights a year. I’m probably just over 100 myself, cut me some slack, will ya? Richard is closing in on 8000 unique Champagnes tasted, not even counting multiple notes of the same wine. Of course, Rob will tell you he has tasted 8001 lol. Much like Allen Meadows in Burgundy, Richard has taken over the Champagne space to become the voice that matters the most, and I couldn’t think of a better ambassador; charisma is his middle name. A former athlete and fitness nut to this day, Richard knows the value of both working hard and playing hard; we focused on the playing hard part ?.
In Sweden, his name is pronounced “Rick-arrd You-lean,” although it is tough not to go by the American pronunciation, aka “Jew-lin.” Even he has become accustomed to the latter, although when it comes to awareness in America about his work, I would call that in an infancy stage. There is much America has to learn when it comes to its bubbly. Remember, Champagne is a wine after all, one that ages as well as any red, and it fits at the beginning (always a good start), in the middle (always a great refresher), or at the end of any meal (skip the dessert wine and finish with Champagne if you want to do yourself a favor and keep the good times rolling). It truly is one of the most special wines on Earth, especially in the hands of its finest producers, of course.
People came from all over America to attend these events – Boston, Atlanta, even Los Angeles to name a few, which shows not only how people love their Champagne, but also that Richard is, how shall I say, someone worth seeking. I mean, he sold 100,000 copies of his first book in his native Sweden; I think that would translate to about 30 million books sold here in the USA if he was American. America still has a ways to go when it comes to stepping away from its Budweiser, but we will overcome.
The first night was more of an introductory course, Juhlin’s welcome to Champagne 101. I learned more on this night than any other in recent memory thanks to Richard’s navigation. I didn’t really take notes, sorry, but I do remember Richard’s unique way to smell and taste Champagne, which I worked on over and over for the next four nights – it really made a difference! It’s kind of tough to describe in writing; feel free to bring a bottle of Champagne to me at any time, and I’ll show you ?. I remembered a few other tidbits: one, if you drink Champagne more often, your body can process it more easily, as the enzymes in your liver can detect specific types of alcohol. So if you don’t drink a lot of Champagne, it will go ‘straight to your head.’ Two, alcohol strengthens the mood you are in, although when I am in a bad mood I always feel better after drinking, so I am not sure I agree with that one! Three, there are over 800 potential aromas in a glass of Champagne. Four, there is only one Champagne he has given 100 points, the 1928 Pol Roger Grauves…it’s a long story, or I would tell it, but I have a shitload of notes here to write. Five, buy old Champagne. Six was the whole NV/MV controversy about labeling what vintages go into the ‘non’ or ‘multi’ vintage blend. Seven, Champagnes that are recently disgorged are much better a decade or more later, once they re-capture some of their original complexity. So those of you drinking those 1981 or 1985 Krug Collections, or those DP Oenos that are just released, take it easy. If I was more fastidious, I would go on and on. Richard’s first-hand knowledge about the history of the region, the terroir, the grapes and their producers made for a most fascinating evening. We tasted many esoteric, ‘grower’ Champagnes; the two standouts were a delicious NV Coquilette ‘Les Cles’ as well as a NV Jose Michel Pinot Meunier, which was like a rock star at a tea party with its unique, Marquis de Meunier personality. Consider those a couple of good inside tips for everyday drinking. The evening was a true ‘connoisseur’s delight,’ as Richard put it, due to the diversity of terroir and wide range of growers, including three Champagnes he had never tasted before, out of seventeen total. He might have to rename his upcoming book ‘8003 Champagnes’ now lol.
The second night saw us sample a scintillating selection of 1996’s, the vintage that still remains the reference point of my adult existence. 1996 is so great to me that I can’t even pay attention to any Champagne vintage that is younger, although Richard insisted that 2002 and especially 2008 will both be considered great in the history books. Richard began by telling us why 1996 is so special. For the first time since 1928, Mother Nature provided Champagne with both maximum acidity and maximum maturity of the grapes at the same time. He recanted about the 1928 Pol Roger Grauves, and went on about how 1996 was similar to 1928 due to the amount of sunshine in a relatively cool year. Hello, acid. A cold climate with full maturity of ripeness is the best scenario for a grape grower, and that’s what 1996 provided.
I think it’s about time I start getting to those tasting notes. In the interest of actually finishing this article, let me first provide a summary of the evening at Gramercy Tavern:
1996 Pommery Cuvee Louise (magnum) (95M)
1996 Bruno Paillard Nec Plus Ultra (88)
1996 Billecart Salmon Nicolas Francois (94)
1996 Philipponat Clos des Goisses (96)
1996 Dom Perignon (92A?)
1996 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill (mag) (96)
1996 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame (93)
1996 Dom Perignon Rose (92)
1996 Ruinart Dom Ruinart (94)
1996 Salon (97+)
1996 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (95)
1996 Krug Clos du Mesnil (97)
1996 Roederer Cristal (96)
1996 Roederer Cristal Rose (97+)
1996 Krug (95+)
Notes on the first flight: For the first sixty, maybe seventy years of the 20th Century, Pommery was an elite producer of Champagne, arguably top five. It has been a long road to recovery, but the 1996 seemed to be on that road. Its nose was lean, with straw and gold dust aromas, while its palate was pleasing and extended, displaying complex flavors of ginger ale, herbs and fennel. It was clean and fresh with a long finish. Richard ‘adored it, very feminine, not aggressive… a winner.’ Neither RJ nor JK understood the Bruno Paillard, a Champagne purposefully oxidized to the point of possessing ‘overcooked fruit and too much sherry.’ I believe unique, funky, gamey and too much oak were the politically correct ways to put it. The Billecart-Salmon was classy and warm, nutty and toasty with nice caramel aromas. It was tasty and refined, long and satiny, staying seductively nutty until the very end. Richard found more maturity here than in the first or last wines of the flight, and thought it had the ‘best harmony.’ He also observed, ‘chocolate, butterscotch, nuts and exotic apple.’ The Clos des Goisses won the first flight for most. Its nose was less flirty, but its core was tight, and its palate enormous. Icy diamonds, minerals and white fruits came to mind, as did golden sweetness. Its acidity was special stuff, and a kiss of menthol added a layer of single-vineyard complexity. Richard found it ‘the most interesting,’ and found aromas and flavors of ‘hazelnut, meat, vegetable, tar and truffle.’
Notes on the second flight: Richard thought the Dom Perignon was slightly corked; regardless, I wasn’t thrilled with it, and I felt I got a good evaluation of it. There was manure, petrol and herbs, in a stinky, gassy and herbal way. I don’t know, I just didn’t speak its language even though I wanted to. The Dom Perignon Rose was also quite grassy, rusty and polished but tight and unyielding. Connoisseurs of Dom Perignon don’t regularly drink it after 1976, although the Rose might get more credit when younger. The Pol Roger was the clear winner of this flight; there was great bread here – doe, crust and the French open altogether. It was classic, rich and had great linearity with its white fruits and minerals. Richard found it ‘bright and big, chocolaty and complex, with every fruit there – apple, citrus, licorice, butterscotch, all in a cocoon of flavor. Sleeping beauty.’ I’ll take what he’s having lol. I liked the Grande Dame a lot for drinking now, but I felt it won’t get any better. Its musk and fireplace qualities blended into its bready and fat personality, but its tasty fruit was maturing fast, a sentiment that RJ seconded. It was fairly consistent with the bottle he had the week prior, although actually a bit better on this night.
For flight three, aka the Blanc de Blancs flight, Chardonnay stated its case, and won. The Ruinart was a bit DP-esque with its grassy style, although cinnamon and pheromones added complexity. It was young and racy, as 1996 oughta be. All hail the 1996 Salon. It may be the greatest young Champagne I have ever tasted, along with the 1996 Clos du Mesnil (we’ll get into the differences in a minute). The ’96 Salon was as great as it’s ever been. Every time I have this Champagne, it just kills it, never disappointing. White ice, diamonds, laser show, rockets on skates….Bryan found it ‘tight and clean, more Chevalier.’ He then went on about how every great wine, or terroir, ends up getting compared to Burgundy. Good point. On this night, I preferred it to the Krug Close du Mesnil; on other nights, it has been a different story. Richard found the Salon ‘pure and fat,’ also finding it one of the night’s top two. The Comtes de Champagne, whose first vintage was 1952 for those keeping score, had the signature butterscotch along with meaty, yellow fruits. Green apples and citrus dominated its finish. Richard found it ‘big and broad-shouldered, with flirty and exotic coconut.’ The Clos du Mesnil was so buttery and seductive in a forceful and powerful way. This particular bottle’s palate was a bit nutty and oaky, ‘obvious’ as Richard described its oak. It was still the Montrachet of Champagne, clearly, and its body and weight were unmatched despite the personality kinks that this bottle was showing. It kept revealing more nuances with time. Richard called this and the Bollinger VVF the best of the vintage, finding this ‘so fat and creamy, serious and deep. The aftertaste has a double length, and its acidity is the highest.’ The last time I had Salon and Clos du Mesnil side by side, there wasn’t any question about the Mesnil being the best; this bottle just showed a bit too much oak. Something that everyone forgets is that every bottle is a living organism and unique in some regard; they aren’t all the same. On this night, I preferred the Salon.
There was one more flight, and three more wines, two of which had Cristal in their name. I have long adored both the 1996 Cristal and Cristal Rose, always finding the Cristal more delicious, yet the Rose more serious. Tonight was no different. I have always loved the kink and butter of the 1996 Cristal; this is the vintage that makes me say no wonder it is popular in nightclubs, as this is the type of girl I would want to meet in one. It just oozed sex appeal, and its reductive caramel and honey flavors had me ready for seconds. Richard reveled in the Rose’s ‘white chocolate and strawberry with whipped cream flavors.’ The acid was clearly superior, and its finish was longer than going to the Opera. The ‘regular’ Krug was adolescently awkard on this night, and its oak really stood out again at first. The oak cooled off with time, and it became more beautiful and big; college should serve this wine well. In sum, Mr. Juhlin noted that this evening ‘strengthened my opinion of the vintage.’
The next night we were at Le Bernadin, and we were going deep…‘Deep Ocean’ as one of our guests might say. Every Champagne served was from 1961 or older, and all were from the collection of Rob Rosania. In typical Big Boy, generous fashion, Rob decided to bring a dozen extras, ‘just in case.’ It was on this night that we also welcomed Bad Boy back from the Carribean, in what we called a case of perfect timing. At Rob’s insistence, this evening would show no DP, no Krug, no Salon and no Cristal. He wanted to show the true depth and diversity that Champagne had to offer. Mission accomplished.
We started with a 1961 Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, the second vintage ever made. ‘Smoky and toasted’ came from the crowd, and I found gorgeous caramel and honey in its nose. There was also apple and hickory, and its palate reminded me of cream soda, fresh from the fountain with a nice corned beef sandwich waiting. Alexander the Great found it ‘amazing,’ and it was Richard’s favorite of the flight, and he observed, ‘coffee and lemon pie,’ admiring its ‘sweetness without being sweet.’ It was delicious for sure (95).
A quadrafecta was next, beginning with the 1966 Pommery. Richard felt this was the decade where Pommery’s quality started to wane, although this flight kept me hanging on. The ’66 was a bit rusty with some rubber tire in its nose, but the palate was mature, round and sugary. This bottle was a touch earthy and a touch advanced, and Big Boy found it ‘clumsy.’ While its first sip charmed, it fell apart quickly (91A).
The 1964 Pommery was lightning in the bottle by comparison. Its big vanilla nose had pure white sugar to it and displayed beautiful maturity. It was delicious, mature and clean, a classic all the way around (95). The 1962 Pommery was more wine-like, but it was still excellent. Aromas of orange rind, dust, honey and bitter sugar made way for a lush, soft and fleshy palate (93). The 1959 Pommery was ‘well-built and the biggest,’ per Richard. However, it was a touch oxidized in the nose, although the palate was not as affected and showed more of its true character (94A). A quick query about the 1960s made for fascinating conversation when I asked Richard what he thought was the best vintage for what many consider to be the greatest decade for Champagne. 1964 was his answer, although 1966 is ‘the safest,’ 1962 ‘the most powerful,’ and 1961 ‘the most generous and charming.’ Big Boy added that 1961 is ‘a phenomenal Blanc de Blancs vintage.’
It was onto the next flight where a random assortment of fifties and forties flexed their aged-yet-toned muscles. First in flight was the 1953 Philipponat Blanc de Blancs. There was great sugar in its nose with a touch of rust and wet wool. The texture was fleshy and lush, and its flavors were tasty, mainly sugar, caramel and earth. There were touches of menthol and mint on its backside, along with coconut. Mr. Unfiltered found it ‘vegetal,’ and The Bone Collector felt it had ‘a lack of smell.’ Richard noted that it was ‘not fully harmonic, but a nice wine’ (91). A 1952 Heidseick Dry Monopole was oxidized; a telltale sign is morning mouth, or excessive yeast and sherry. No fear, we had a 1949 Charles Heidseick instead. Technically, they are different companies; I assume they were once related, but honestly I am not sure. Big Boy admired its ‘delicate’ qualities, and Richard purred that it was close to 1947, one of his favorite vintages of the 20th century. It was almost Sauternes-ish with its lush and tasty personality. While long and delicious, it was just holding on to its last breath of bubbles. It reminded me of 1949 Burgundy; in this vintage, they were brothers in arms (94). A 1959 Gosset was extra special. Richard reminded us how a 1952 Gosset was actually #3 in his ‘Millenium Tasting’ twelve years ago, where he tasted almost 200 Champagnes over a three day period. The Gosset got a lot of ‘wine of the flight’ votes. It was really pretty with fresh aromas, and lots of rocks in its nose and orange flavors in its mouth. It was delicious with nice sprite and wheat and caramel flavors. This was ‘sexy wine with a smiling charm and so many layers,’ and ‘the best bottle of this that I have ever had,’ noted Richard. Welcome to New York, baby (96).
A bonus bottle of 1949 Alfred Gratien made its way to the table to make up for the ’52, and this was our first ‘non-malo’ bottle, if my notes serve me correctly. It had a great nose full of apple, pear and caramel. Its acidity was superb, and Alexander The Great found it to be her favorite of the flight (94).
We took it way back with the next flight, beginning with a 1929 Lanson, another non-malo bubbly, which translates into ‘apple acidity not milk acidity,’ Richard informed. This was the first time Richard had tasted this wine, and he reminded us what a ‘fantastic vintage’ 1929 was. The Lanson was musky and mature, with ‘marmalade and less dimension than 1928,’ per Richard. There were great musk and oil flavors in this delicious and honeyed wine, which almost lost sight of the fact it was Champagne. In the end, it eeked out the Pommery that followed, although it wasn’t self-evident from the get-go (95). The 1929 Pommery was butterscotch-y and delicious, so luscious with just a touch of sprite. There was earth and more vim at first than the Lanson, but it got a touch bitter and faded while the Lanson exerted itself. Keep in mind that it all comes down to the bottle; this was a game that could go either way 51 times out of a 100 (94). A 1928 Perrier Jouet was oxidized. Big Boy comforted us, saying ‘Don’t worry, it was still Perrier Jouet’ (DQ).
The 1926 Pommery was incredible. Stuck in between the shadows of 1921 and 1928, 1926 doesn’t really come up in many conversations regarding 1920s Champagne. Then again, that conversation probably doesn’t happen that often lol. This was ‘the best ’26 ever,’ per the KOC. It was rich and buttery, with light caramel and garden flavors, still possessing nice sprite and spice. Someone said the P-word, ooooooooooooo. That’s ‘perfect,’ by the way (97).
It was time for the flight of 1955s, one of the greatest vintages of Champagne…ever. I have long loved 1955 Bordeaux, and Burgundies and Piedmont are no slouches, either. Could 1955 be the most underrated and underappreciated great vintage of all-time? Yes, it could. We started with – surprise – a 1955 Pommery. Shit, was there any vintage of Pommery we didn’t taste tonight? Rob’s long love affair with Pommery has long been documented, and who can blame him? The ’55 was oh so nutty with sexy caramel action, and a fresh and classic personality. Balanced and long, this oozed goodness (95). The 1955 Charles Heidseick was night to the Pommery’s day. It was much more elegant and pretty…lovely summed it up, along with more orange (93). The 1955 Louis Roederer was (DQ), so we quickly moved on to the 1955 Bollinger, which had that beefy, purposefully oxidized style (without being oxidized). I suppose this is what Bruno Paillard was trying to do, unsuccessfully. This bottle was nutty and zippy with lots of coffee aromas. The palate was thick and creamy, heavy and meaty with a warm, nutty finish (95). A 1955 Moet was ‘exotic’ per somebody, who was that guy lol. The nose had hay aromas, and the palate was lush and flavorful with coffee and earth flavors. It was tasty, complex and smooth, a good show overall. Let’s not forget that Moet makes Dom Perignon, although I guess they run it separately, supposedly (94). The 1955 Philipponat Clos des Goisses was the first time I have ever seen an original label of a Goisses this old. Richard immediately recognized that this was ‘the best by far of all,’ in this flight. It had a great nose full of rust, dust and musk. Wet wool, iron, spice and white meat gyro all joined the party in this complex wine. The acidity was still ‘how you like me wow’ (97).
There were two flights left, one being a VVF one, which happens to be one of Richard’s personal favorites, ‘one of the greats,’ as he summated. The 1981 Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises had an ‘unreal finish,’ per Big Boy. There was big-time pear and ginger ale to this long, smooth and fine Champagne. Its minerals and acidity were noteworthy and outstanding (95). The 1980 Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises was even more special given its vintage. Have I even ever had a Champagne from 1980? I would have to take the fifth, as it is quite possible, but I honestly don’t remember. Aromas of white cola were balanced by grilled asparagus, in a good way (I love grilled asparagus!) Orange blossom and cinnamon were also present in this ‘undeclared vintage.’ Fireplace flavors kept my soul warm in this soft and smooth bubbly. Not surprisingly, it gained in the glass and became more rugged and stronger (95). As good as the 1981 and 1980 were, the 1979 Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises was in a league of its own. It was so good, it caused Richard to kiss Rob, in a totally hetero, love at 22nd bottle kind of way ?. The 1979 had a fabulous nose that was pure, liquid cream. It was deliciously aromatic with white fruits and musk in perfect harmony. Its flavors were also great, dominated by cola and chocolate at first. This got more than one wow in my notes; its complexity was special. It gained in the glass, its extraordinary acidity flexing with each repetition, gaining a caraway complexity before the last sip sadly disappeared (98).
The closing flight was one of Roederer, not Cristal, yet still Roederer. One of the best kept secrets of the 20th century is the ‘regular’ Roederers, at least through the 1950s, maybe 1960s. We started with the 1947 Louis Roederer. This bottle was so fresh it was bordering on imaginary. Aromas of straw, grain, hay and nut all danced around its dangerously good nose. There were lots of flavors in what was ultimately the ‘spritziest’ wine of the night; this was a perfect bottle if there ever were one. Long and zippy, the ’47 had Richard citing ‘railroad track,’ this combination of wood, steel, stone and flowers on a sunny day. ‘Only 1947 and 1959,’ he continued (98). The 1953 Louis Roederer had another great nose of pure vanilla, musk and smoke. It had a lush, honeyed palate bordering on suckle with a touch of minerals on its pleasant finish (93). The 1959 Louis Roederer was typically great, although I have had one 1959 that was in 98-point territory, and this wasn’t. There was a touch of body odor here, in a sweaty and sexy way. Caramel, smoke and brick were more traditional aromas. It was lush and so sweet with its musk flavors. Great stuff, even though it can be even better (96). Last call was a bottle of 1937 Pol Roger, another added bonus courtesy of Rob. I gave it (95), although I didn’t have much to say about it other than ‘grain, straw, zip, long, smooth.’ That was about it for tonight, but tomorrow was New Year’s Eve, and it was time to rest up.
Part One of New Year’s Eve took place at a home away from home, Marea, at least until the clock struck eleven. It was a smaller group of friends and family, the core of which was Richard and I, along with the ‘boys’ Big and Bad. Most of the evening was courtesy of Big Boy, although Bad Boy certainly contributed, and I, of course, got the bill. That’s ok, there is one wine auction house in the world that puts its money where its mouth is, or is that its mouth where its money is? As far as I know, I only live once. Big Boy was relishing the opportunity to taste Richard blind on numerous Champagnes, and Richard was up for the challenge, nailing a couple right on the head.
We started with a super-rare 1975 Deutz Ay Blanc de Noirs Oenotheque, of which only 200 magnums were made. There were light straw and golden aromas in this ‘so’ fresh bubbly. This is ‘never breathe again land,’ Rob thumped on the table. I’m not sure it was from above or below the table, but there definitely was some loud thumping happening. The yellow theme continued on the palate, in a dusty way. It was rich, lush and incredibly long and fine. So great, so young, so balanced and with an endless summer of a finish; this was clearly the best Champagne from 1975 ever, and one that transcends the vintage. Richard noted ‘violets’ and that signature of greatness, ‘railroad tracks.’ It was a good beginning, and to give credit where credit is due, Richard nailed it on the head (97M). The next bubbly had a mature, warm nose of bread and honey. It was creamy and lush, and the palate was round, rich and smooth, never losing its lushness. It was very wine-like with its orange marmalade palate. There were gold flavors and excellent acidity still to this wooly and textured wine. It was a 1976 Clos Tarin Clos du Mesnil. I don’t think even the owners of this wine at the time would have identified this one blind (93)!
The 1963 Clos Tarin Clos du Mesnil was shot, oxidized unfortunately. I guess all 1963s might be at this point (DQ).
Big Boy went straight to the hoop, Blake Griffin style, with the next selection. ‘Perfect, flawless, top five ever produced,’ he went on, and he was right. Richard was at first in the ‘55/’47 camp, identifying the strength of the wine with some of Champagne’s strongest vintages. Its nose was both classic and insane at the same time. There were hints of hinterland oak, along with meaty, yellow aromas that were sweet, rich and nutty in an autumnal way. Its palate was musky and zippy yet rich and lush, with divine flavors of seltzer, bread and citrus. Secondary flavors of orange, chocolate and tobacco emerged in this incredible wine. It was a 1966 Krug Blanc de Blancs, the pre-cursor to Clos du Mesnil that was only made once, and only 500 bottles were made. Holy shit (99).
The next flight was for 2012’s ‘Birthday Boy,’ Mr. Juhlin himself, who will be turning fifty this year. We started with a 1962 Charles Heidseick British Cuvee, and Alexander The Great and Brooklyn Mike were in agreement over its ‘pineapple’ qualities. Aromas of waterfall, musk and nut oil rounded out its nose. Flavors of pineapple and coconut expanded in this long and icy wine. There was great fruit and great mineral components here (95). A 1962 Piper Heidseick Rose was so rare, even Piper didn’t know they made it until Bad Boy came knocking at their door. The nose was all strawberry rose, so sweet. Richard noted, ‘lower alcohol and more sugar.’ It was lush, round and long, with a ‘high dosage’ per Bad Boy (93). The regular 1962 Piper Heidseick was impressive, quite effervescent with its hay and straw aromas, forward and zippy. Flavors of honey didn’t compromise its great freshness, and additional flavors of mineral and white earth were balanced by impressive sweetness (95). ‘1966 Dom Perignon Rose?’ Richard asked. Close, it was 1962 Dom Perignon Rose. Aromas of earth, chocolate and strawberry stood out, complemented by granny apple and cranberry flavors. It had that earthy, sweaty, good drity style of mature DP Rose and was a rock solid bottle. It was surely great with its outstanding acidity and weight (96). The 1962 Krug had that big, classic Krug vanilla aroma, with a ‘so good’ toasty and nutty nose to match. The palate was balanced yet big, with a cascading finish that went on and on and on. You can always count on Krug (96+). There was one more ’62 bubbly, a 1962 Roederer Cristal. Orange rind and butterscotch squared off in the nose, and that Cristal kinkiness shined throughout that battle. The palate was sweet and larger than life with its caramel flavors. The acidity and spritz were both great. This is one Champagne whose performance lives up to the reputation (96).
Enough with the Champagne, we needed some wine, and Big Boy continued the 1962 theme with four of the greatest Burgundies ever made. The first had a wow nose that reeked cherry sex. Its aromatics were so delicately good, just like 1962s are supposed to be at age fifty. Its aromas tickled while grabbing my….attention. Musk and mint added layers of complexity to this ‘category six hurricane,’ as Big Boy accurately commented. The palate was super long, with incredible rose and tobacco flavors. Its finish was soft and caressing, yet it walloped at the same time. Long live Rousseau, starting with the 1962 Rousseau Chambertin (97).
We continued with the 1962 Roumier Musigny, which doesn’t exist, except for the few that still have some. Big Boy, The Don, anyone else? Deep, foresty fruit signaled a different producer, and its fruits were a bit blacker. Traces of tobacco and coffee lingered in the nose, along with some tomato and Worcestershire. The palate was phenomenal, possessing superb length. It was hearty in a fine way, typical of great Musigny. The flavors shifted to red, along with tobacco and citrus, in this spectacular wine. Long live Roumier (98).
It couldn’t get any better, could it? Enter 1962 DRC La Tache. At first, there were oysters and ocean action in the nose; it needed some time to unravel, and did it ever. Aromas of rose and tobacco slowly took over, with secondary rose and menthol seeping up out of its earth. The palate was out of control. It was rich, saucy and long with crazy spice and oomph to its finish. I must confess that I was starting to think the sun was setting on the 1962 vintage, in a long, graceful way, as great vintages fade away and never disappear. I am happy to officially stand corrected. Long live La Tache (99).
The 1942 DRC Richebourg, which was supposed to be a 1962, was unfortunately gone with the wind (DQ).
The 1962 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes was also spectacular, though a hair behind the La Tache. Its smoky red fruits slithered out of the glass in an unctuous way; its richness and concentration were as good as it gets in Burgundy. This was so thick and lush, singing at the top of its lungs, yet its finish was so fine. This was higher level juice. Long live Comte de Vogue (98).
We were running out of time, so Big Boy went back for one last flight of Champagnes, beginning with a 1911 Moet, and not the batch that was recently released, which I have not sampled. I’m talking ORIGINAL. Having had two 98-point experiences with this incredible bubbly, this bottle disappointed relatively, but it was still impressive. Ever so slightly oxidized, the nose still delivered immense pleasure with aromas of rye bread crust, nut oil and kisses of caramel and fino. The palate was lush and great, and its acidity was extraordinary, but it was definitely a kiss oxidized (95A). The 1921 Pol Roger was another great nose, dusty and great in a white cola, zippedy doo dah way. Its flavors were sweet and honeyed, and its finish vibrant, but I did find it a touch sweet, holding back its fantastic self (95).
‘Everything else is immaterial,’ announced Big Boy after sipping the next wine. It was another wow nose; everything was starting to border on the surreal. Richard thought this might be the elusive 1938 Krug, but it was the non-existent 1932 Salon Nature. Its nose was deep, rich, sexy and nutty, and while its fruit was mature, it was still delicious, and its acidity was still superior. Lush and creamy continued my notes. Earthy and autumnal flavors suggested this might have been a touch advanced, but since I have no 1932 references, who knows? Big Boy knew only one thing at this point. ‘I am in awe of myself,’ he summed up lol. To be honest, so was I (96).
There was one Champagne before we hit the road; it was a bottle of 1942 Pommery, and damn was it good. Dirty, but good. That’s how things happen after 11pm lol. There was zip and zoo here, but sweet vanilla took over, and its palate cheered ‘hip hip hooray.’ Absolutely delicious, this was Pommery at its best, rich and perfectly sweet in a toffee way. It kept getting better (97).
There were actually a few other bottles opened, but I didn’t catch them all. It was finally time to go out, and thanks to Bad Boy, we had tickets to the hottest show in New York City, the Deadmaus concert. We arrived at 11:55pm and danced in the New Year with more magnums of Champagne. So many magnums I lost track, but I do remember the 1981 Krug (95M) showing better than the 1982 Krug (96+M), even though I thought the 1982 was the better wine. The ’81 was showing delicious, mature and bready flavors, and it was still young, but not as young as the 1982, a truly impressive vintage for Krug. The most memorable wine thereafter was an extraordinary magnum of 1971 Salon (98M), which was like a Starship Enterprise of a wine. Its finish rocketed into the next vintage in such lingering fashion, I can still taste it. It had all the classic components of icy white fruits, sparkling diamonds and endless acidity. I missed a bunch more, as I lasted about two hours less than the ‘Boys.’
Remember, life is too short not to drink it. Long live Champagne and its two greatest ambassadors, Robert Rosania and Richard Juhlin. It’s going to be a good year.
Acker Merrall & Condit