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Veuve swaps vintage order with latest Cave Privée launch

Veuve Clicquot has unveiled its newest set of late-release vintage Champagnes called Cave Privée and, in doing so, reversed the order of what’s currently on the market.

While the Champagne house has been selling its Cave Privée 1990 blanc and 1989 rosé since 2010 – when it introduced the late-release concept – it’s now moving onto the 1990 rosé and 1989 blanc, the exact opposite of its former offering.

The vintages were officially revealed yesterday in Sweden to coincide with the launch of the brand’s Cellar in the Sea programme, which saw a selection of Champagnes lowered into the Baltic near the discovery of the shipwrecked Veuve Clicquot from the nineteenth century, which was brought to the surface in 2010, and found to be in surprisingly good condition due to the conditions underwater.

Speaking to the drink business ahead of the Cave Privée launch, Veuve Clicquot cellarmaster Dominique Demarville said the house had decided to reverse the order and bring out a younger rosé, but older blanc, because the Champagnes “were at the perfect level of ageing”.

Although the Champagnes are late-release, they are not recently-disgorged, with the 1990 rosé disgorged in 2011 and the 1989 blanc in 2010, allowing for at least three years ageing on cork, without the reductive influence of the lees.

Demarville admitted that not all of Veuve Clicquot’s stock of older vintages will be re-released as Cave Privée, but just those years with “perfect ageing – with a freshness that will keep them after 20-30 years ageing.”

Veuve-Clicquot’s Dominique Demarville captured by photographer Colin Hampden-White for his Greatest Winemaker series

Continuing he said, “I love Bordeaux that is 20-30 years old, but only when the vintage is exceptional, and it’s exactly the same in Champagne.”

As an example, he told db that there won’t be a 1993 Cave Privée from the house. “Maybe some houses have a 1993 that can age 20-30 years, but not ours… sometimes they age perfectly, and sometimes we put a lot of hope in the vintage and we are a bit disappointed.”

Nevertheless, Demarville stressed that, “Most of the time our hope is transformed into an exceptional wine, and it is the role of the chef de cave to follow year after year the ageing of the vintage.”

Looking ahead to recent harvests, he said he was “very confident” in the “tremendous ageing potential” of the 2002 vintage, but added that Veuve Clicquot’s current vintage release from 2004 is one “which offers me a lot of surprise day after day.”

“I am very impressed by the capacity of this wine to age very well, so we are keeping a lot of bottles of 2004 in our Cave Privée because I’m sure it will come back in 10-15 years time under the name Cave Privée.”

He also said that it was “wonderful” to have the “support” from parent company LVMH to allow him to put aside stock for extended ageing, although the quantities compared to Veuve Clicquot’s Yellow Label Brut NV are small.

The production of vintage wines at the house represents around 4% of the total, and around 5-7% of any single vintage is currently held back for later release as Cave Privée.

However, Demarville said that the role of Cave Privée should not be measured in volume, but “philosophy”.

“It gives an opportunity to Champagne lovers, wine collectors and sommeliers to have wines on their lists and in their cellars that are more than 20 years old and certified by the house, because the ageing has been done in our cellars in perfect conditions, and they have benefitted from 15-20 years on the lees,” he explained.

Furthermore, he pointed out that Cave Privée gives the house “a kind of wine credential” while “it shows that we are looking to the future, as well as the past, because keeping old vintages is a tradition.”

Concluding, he said, “We must do it, we have this savoir faire and we must show it, and it shows that the terroir of Champagne can provide wines with very good ageing potential.”

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