Saturday, January 9, 2010

1996 Egly-Ouriet Vintage, Champagne

(It's freezing cold here)

60% Pinot Noir
40% Chardonnay
Disgorged Jul-2004
Time on lees: 85 months
Dosage: No idea – felt like 5-6 g/l.

My recent TN of this Champagne is from Jul-09. Back then I concluded, like several other tasters in Cyberspace, that the wine was mature. To some degree this was rather surprising, as it’s a ’96-vintage – the vintages which was supposed to be flawless and outlive us all. So what went wrong? Some are saying that Pinot Noir in particular has matured a bit faster and even if looking beyond Champagne the 1996 Vintage in Bordeaux and Burgundy has proved to be somewhat more controversial than first expected. Wine makers in Champagne are now also expression their thoughts to a year, which was perfect in numbers, but still very challenging. Champagneguide / Peter Liem has a lot of insight to the vintage and in particular I found this quote interesting; "Most of the 1996s will die before the complexity of the fruit balances out the acidity,” says Charles Philipponnat of Champagne Philipponnat. Whatever outcome for the 1996-vintage, I still consider this vintage exceptional and if you think of it, it can be of no surprise that a top class vintage sees several phases during it’s lifespan. Nor can it be a mystery that some haven’t hit jackpot in ’96 and wine is a living organism, which luckily prevents mankind and experts, in always having the ability to see the future.

But let’s return to Egly-Ouriet. It’s indeed evolved with lots of oxidized notes and a smooth waxy profile. The nose consists of; chocolate, honey, toffee, coffee beans and a touch of lemon peel. The latter is important and it’s a note you also find the Egly-Ouriet’s Blanc de Noirs Vielles Vignes. It’s a balance factor and what I so many times have called the: “Salt on the egg”. The taste is potent, smooth, deep and highly concentrated. Also on the palate you find the lemon peel note, which prevents it from being overly heavy. I had most of this Champagne without food and the acidity is painful high – it’s literally hurting the palate. This bottle was just a notch better than my previous bottle as it had a higher level of electricity. What confuse me though; are this ultra high-pitched acidity and this very evolved nose. Will this Champagne face what Charles Philipponnat are saying? Is it way to soon to conclude? I can’t answer these questions. But does it really matter if I liked it now – does Champagne need to age forever to be consider great? One thing is certain, had this wine been served blind to me, I would probably have praised it as a very nice bottle of Champagne. The dilemma is that we sometimes tend to put everything on a pedestal (the flaweless ’96 Vintage) and maybe we should stop doing that.

Tested in 4 different glasses; Juhlin, Zalto, Riedel Sommeliers and Spiegelau Adina “Red wine”. This small test will be included in the material for “The ultimate glass test”


voodoo Child said...

Should be a disaster ;-)

Thomas said...

Hehe - Ebbe...that was fast ;-).

Let's see - the TN is at home, will upload when I get back.

Isn't it exiting ;-).

E said...

Interesting insights Thomas and one that is probably true for a lot of wines of a lot of vintages that are praised when young. The features that that are attractive when young are interpreted as being able to give the wine a long life but in actuality may turn out to be quite tiresome in the long run. Examples that come to mind is the alcoholi Southern Rhone 07 and acidity in 07 Rheingau Riesling. That said, I wouldn´t mind aving some more 96 Champagne in my cellar.

Thomas said...

Hi Erik,

Very true.

I wouldn’t mind either having more ’96. I do have some though and I think I will gradually start to open some of them now.