This is the latest release of Veuve Clicquot’s icon cuvée, La Grande Dame. The bottle pictured is the limited edition with the label and packaging designed by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.
The wine was launched over a Zoom session with current chef de cave Didier Mariotti, who recently replaced Dominique Demarville. [Mariotti previously worked with Dermarville at GH Mumm, and took over from him there too.] This 2012 was made by Demarville; Mariotti only joined in 2019.
‘When I joined the house it was very important for me to taste some of the vintages, to understand La Grande Dame,’ says Mariotti. ‘The blend has been changing quite a lot.’ Typically, Grande Dame was 65-80% Pinot Noir, and sometimes the proportion in the blend went as low as 50%. ‘There has been a clear move which has been made by Dominique back in 2008, moving to 90% Pinot Noir,’ he says. ‘I’m very happy about this move. It’s important to show the spirit of the house, which is about Pinot Noir expression.’
A short film of me tasting the wine:
But Mariotti says that moving to 90% Pinot Noir in the blend is a challenge, because this is a sensitive variety. ‘We need to pay more attention when we start to harvest to really find the best date, village by village and even parcel by parcel.’
‘Pinot Noir is amazing because it can reveal a lot of different sides or expressions,’ he says. ‘I rediscovered Pinot Noir when I joined Mumm in 2003, tasting with Dominique. Especially Pinot Noir from the north of the Montagne de Reims. Verzy and Verzanay are very different expressions compared with Pinot Noir from Aÿ and Bouzy and Ambonnay.’
‘When we talk about Pinot Noir in Champagne, a lot of people think Pinot Noirs are very full bodied, powerful wines. The idea with La Grande Dame is to showcase the elegance of Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir can be delicate, and it can be quite sophisticated. I love how we can express it in a “vertical” way, by using more Pinot Noir from Verzy and Verzanay.’
Mariotti is a fan of bitterness, but understands that some people might be afraid of this term. ‘Bitterness can create a long finish in the wine, much more than the acidity,’ he says. ‘The bitterness happens at the end of the mouth. It is much better to have this long finish based on bitterness to pair with food.’ He says that the Pinots from Verzy and Verzenay bring structure and bitterness.
Champagne Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2012 France
12.5% alcohol. 90% Pinot Noir (from Aÿ in the Grande Vallée de la Marne, and Verzenay, Verzy, Ambonnay and Bouzy in the Montagne de Reims), 10% Chardonnay (Grands Crus of Avize and Mesnil-sur-Oger), with a dosage of 6 g/litre. Disgorged September 2019. This is amazingly focused with great precision to the citrus and pear fruit. It has some richness: there’s a bit of apricot and cherry here, but these richer flavours are compressed between walls of steely citrus fruit. There’s also a touch of green apple and pear drop. It’s very youthful. The acidity is really high, and you get the impression that this is just a baby wine with a long future ahead of it. It’s all about focus and purity. So much compression here. It tastes very dry, but I think this is the acidity making its presence felt. Great concentration. 95/100
The Yayoi Kusama limited edition is being launched exclusively through Selfridges on 27 October (pre-orders), and then officially launched on 9 November (priced at £160, also exclusive to Selfridges). The 2012 Grande Dame is priced around £120 and is available now.