Wine review — Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot & Tyrrell’s

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1996 $180-$240
In today’s salute to Len Evans it seems fitting to include two contrasting luxury Champagnes from the great 1996 vintage. The all-chardonnay Taittinger Comtes de Champagne – sourced from top-ranking vineyards in the Champagne district’s Cotes de Blancs sub region – has Champagne’s elusive combination of intensity and delicacy. Without pinot noir in the blend the colour is a deceptively pale lemon, belying its ten years’ age. But that prolonged bottle ageing prior to release added a subtle patina of aromas, flavours and textures that simply enhances the wine’s extraordinary vivacity and freshness. This is about as good as aperitif style Champagne gets.

Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame Champagne 1996 $220 o $260
Veuve Clicquot’s luxury Champagne is a more traditional blend of two-thirds pinot noir and one-third chardonnay. The high pinot content gives the blend its deeper colour and assertive backbone but this is mollified by the more delicate chardonnay. La Grande Dame’s great flavour intensity comes from the quality of the grapes – all sourced from top-ranked vineyards: Verzenay, Verzy, Ambonnay and Bouzy for the pinot noir; and Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger for the chardonnay. While power with elegance is always the keynote of La Grande Dame, the 1996 seems particularly elegant though, from experience, the assertive pinot character tends to grow with bottle age.

Tyrrell’s Reserve Belford Hunter Valley Semillon 1999 $29
The Elliott family planted the Belford vineyard in the Hunter in 1933 and a fourth generation still controls it. However, Tyrrell’s lease and manage the vineyard which is source of some their best semillon. Typically these are very pale, minerally and delicate as young wines, gradually taking on a fuller, honeyed character with bottle age. Fortunately, Tyrrell’s hold small volumes back for later release, giving the majority of drinkers without cellars a chance to taste the glories of aged semillon. The 1999 is a lovely drop that’s just beginning to show some of the classic maturation characters while retaining great freshness. Cellar door phone 02 4993 7000.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2006 & 2007