25 Wines in 25 Years: 2000>1966, Veuve Clicquot

I was thinking about the year 2000 and even though I was pretty steeped in Iberia, the wine that jumps out was a bottle of 1966 Veuve Clicquot. I drank it at some point on or near my birthday at my friend Todd Stillman’s restaurant with someone who was and still is extremely dear to me, Rebecca Fisher.

Alfy's

Alfy’s Review in the SF Chronicle

Backstory. Todd, a former colleague and SF food and wine luminary, opened a restaurant in San Anselmo called Alfy’s, named after his father-in-law, Alan Rafkin, an incredibly prolific sitcom director. I was helping out a little with the wine list and staff training. When I think of great restaurants that no longer exist, this was one.

Anyway, somehow I came across a bottle of ’66 Veuve and if someone gave it to me and I am forgetting to give you credit for it, my apologies. I tried it previously in 1996, during one of the ’66 parties, when it was at its absolute prime.

Me and Veuve. I’ve always thought the “Gold Label,” which is the vintage brut, was and maybe still is, the star. Grande Dame is the supposed flagship but stylistically, I’ve always liked the gold label way more. It ages at least as well. The Grande Dame is more elegant but I find that after about 15 years its polished charm starts to wear off. On the contrary, the Gold Label, which is not as appealing upon release, explodes with flavor and verve after a few years and soars for decades. It is also less expensive. The truth is that I haven’t tasted either the Grande Dame or Gold Label in years. I’ve been offered the Yellow Label at parties recently and each time my feeling is confirmed; the parent company, LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy), is a marketing genius.

Apparently, Veuve has some eco-friendly packaging yet it is not used for all wines and equally important, I’m wondering what they are doing in the vineyards. One would think/hope that with all that money behind them they would be a leading force for organic viticulture in Champagne, right? I haven’t heard anything…I don’t know – for better, for worse – what types of practices are being used but usually, when big companies are doing good, they let you know about it. I’ll keep you posted.

Dinner. Of what I can recall, I had something with mushrooms and scallops. I still remember the apple, spice, and Brazil nut flavors from the Champagne that evening. Decadence squared.

The Takeaway. Young vintage Champagne can be judged for how it taste in its youth or for its potential. Champagne loses its effervescence over time and often takes on tertiary qualities that add extraordinary complexity. Don’t feel as if you are any less evolved if it is not your thing. For many wine drinkers, Champagne’s main attraction is its youthful vigor. The quandary is knowing when to pop the cork. Acidity, which is rarely a problem with Champagne, helps all wines age. Vintage and vineyard sourcing provide clues. Yet the most reliable indicator is knowing the track record of the wine in question.

In Conclusion. I’m going to try getting my hands on another bottle of ’66 Veuve, some time before November. It might be toast but then again, it might be a great reminder that this now mega corporately owned company once made superb wine.

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