2009 as great as 2002 in Champagne, says Moët cellar master
“I am convinced that 2009 is of the same pedigree as 2002,” said Moët & Chandon cellar master Benoît Gouez, when launching a Champagne from the former vintage in London last week.
To draw attention to the similar style and quality of the two years at a press tasting at Moët-Hennessy’s UK office on Thursday, Gouez poured the 2009 vintage alongside the brand’s ‘Vintage Collection’ from 2002 – a harvest that is widely heralded as the greatest of this century.
“2002 is considered a super vintage in Champagne and it [serving the 2002 with the 2009] is a way to assume my vision for 2009,” he began, adding that he believed that 2009 is as good as 2002, and “will evolve with the same complexity.”
He also poured the Moët Grand Vintage Blanc 2008 at the 2009 launch event, to highlight the differences between the two vintages, and show why he believed that the 2009 was a superior year to 2008 – a harvest celebrated for its wonderful balance and lasting freshness.
Initially, he described the two years as “opposite in style”, noting that 2008 was “very classic”, with enough warmth and dryness during ripening to ensure a good level of maturity in the grapes, but cool enough to prevent the acids in the berries being burnt.
In contrast, he said that 2009 was a “more modern year; more influenced by global warming,” pointing out that it was both warm and dry, which meant that there was no botrytis in the vineyards, and the grapes were “high in ripeness, high in flavours, high in sugars and yet average in acidity.”
Continuing he said, “2008 is like having an oyster by the ocean in winter, while 2009 is like biting into an apricot in an orchard in the summer.”
He then said, “2008 is cold and grey, with a smoky iodine reductive character, and an acidity that is dominant; 2009 is orange, yellow and pink flavours and with more weight, body and structure.”
Consequently, he said, “2009 is much easier to blend,” and “more Pinot Noir focused” – with, as previously reported by db, 50% of the blend comprised of this grape, which is the highest proportion since the Moët 1996 vintage.
“2008 has very little generosity by nature and acidity is so dominant, so I had to find ways to introduce the acidity progressively,” he recalled.
“2009 came together in a very natural way, so it is complete and balanced, and yes it has more Pinot Noir because we found the style of Pinot Noir we love: neither diluted nor too concentrated.”
Summing up, he said, “I prefer 2009 over 2008: it is more complete and it has more potential for today and the future.”
Indeed, he stated, “I don’t believe that because 2008 has more acidity it has more ageing potential, and if you look at the history of Champagne, the vintages that age the most gracefully come from ripe harvests.”
Speaking more generally about Champagne vintages he commented, “I think there is too much focus on acidity… acidity is not enough to define great Champagne or a great vintage, and in 2009 the acidity was not low, it is was the ripeness that is high.”
Significantly, Moët is listing on the front label the fact that the Champagne is an Extra Brut style (6g/l of sugar or lower) for the first time with the 2009 vintage release.
Gouez explained, “The 2009 has a dosage of 5g/l – a level our vintage Champagnes have had since 2002 – but this is the first time we have mentioned the fact it is an Extra Brut on the front label.”
Admitting that he “wasn’t sure” whether Moët should state that it was an Extra Brut, noting, “I thought it was enough to print the dosage on the back label,” he said that with this year’s release he thought it was important because “with vintage we target consumers with more knowledge and interest, and slowly they will see Extra Brut as a positive thing.”
Nevertheless, he made it clear that creating blends with very low levels of sugar was not his intention.
“I am not convinced at all that a low dosage makes a better blend… a dosage is need for ageing potential, because the dosage is used to help the wine recover from the oxidative trauma of disgorgement – it is not there to sweeten.”
As db reported last month, the 2009 vintage began with one of the coldest winters in 15 years. Although there was no frost in spring, it was a particularly rainy season with several severe storms.
However, by mid-July, consistently hot, dry and sunny weather arrived, allowing the sugars and aromas to develop in the fruit.
“The result was generous grapes,” commented Gouez.
“The combination of an ideal climate and a moderate yield created conditions for a high degree of ripeness both in terms of sugar and acidity, with neither in excess,” he added.
Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2009 is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay and 14% Meunier.
The Grand Vintage Rosé 2009 is an assemblage of 59% Pinot Noir (of which 19% is red wine), 30% Chardonnay and 11% Meunier.
Both cuvées are now available to the off- and on-trade from Moët Hennessy, with Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2009 having an RRP of £47 and Grand Vintage Rosé an RRP of £60.