Champagne tasting
Wine Club O Collection 4 August 2020

Essi Avellan MW reviews aged Champagnes

A comparison of recently disgorged Champagnes with their original counterparts held Essi Avellan MW spellbound
Introduction and recommendations by
Essi Avellan MW

For 21 years, Marina Olsson has been going to great lengths to assemble extraordinary sets of rare wines for her Gomseglet Champagne club. Late last year, I had my first experience of the private collector’s famously exclusive and hedonistic tastings – something I knew was going to tickle both my taste buds and intellect.

In essence, the tasting was about comparing original disgorgements with so-called late disgorgements. The latter category was initiated in 1967 when Bollinger launched its récemment dégorgé (RD) 1952, a longer lees-aged, extra-brut version of Grande Année. Ahead of her time as its creator Madame Bollinger was, the cuvée stood long in solitude. Finally, in 2000, the launch of Dom Pérignon Oenothèque series (renamed Plénitude, or P, in 2014) kickstarted the boom. Since then, many ‘ultra-prestige’ cuvées have emerged, among them Louis Roederer Cristal Vinothèque, Dom Ruinart La Réserve, Laurent-Perrier Les Réserves Grand Siècle and Gosset Les Célébrissimes.

Despite the seemingly simple concept, the reality of late-disgorged Champagnes is mesmerisingly complex. What is understood is that, as long as the wine is kept on the lees it remains fresh and protected against oxidation. However, the longer it is on its lees, the more sensitive it will be to the oxidative shock of disgorgement and the more rapid its subsequent evolution. Thus, many late-disgorged Champagnes are best enjoyed within a few years of sediment removal. Perhaps surprisingly, it is often the original version that takes extended ageing better.

Our wines were served in themed flights, within which they were tasted blind, which gave us many surprises and lots of food for thought. We oriented to the tasting by comparing the much-hyped 2008s of Dom Pérignon and La Grande Année. Still warming up to the real deal, Marina treated us to a surprise quintet, which was revealed to be a vertical of Moët & Chandon vintages, the “little brother” of Dom Pérignon.

The next two flights compared Bollinger La Grande Année and RD. It was not easy to distinguish which was which, even if we knew that RD comes with lower dosage. In the more youthful set, to me the RDs ranked superior, whereas out of the 1990s, La Grande Année was in a league of its own, astonishingly fresh and impressively vivacious. The 1988 was regrettably corked, and cork was an issue for several other bottles in the tasting. Unacceptable yes, and Champagne has tackled the problem since, but many corky disappointments still sleep in collectors’ cellars.

In the first Dom Pérignon flight, I was seriously impressed by the underdog to the two 1995s, the elegant and tightly knit 1993 Oenothèque. In the 1990 and 1996 comparison, it was the original 1996 disgorgement that came with the complexity, drive and youthfulness of a magnum. Our last pleasurable drill was to taste every Dom Pérignon P2 released so far, and polished-to-perfection consistency and remarkable youthfulness greeted us in every glass.

Firm conclusions depend on personal preference of course, but what is for sure is that the original and late disgorgements are not the same wine anymore. If you are looking for an immediately complex, lush and yeast-enriched experience, go for the long-aged one; a more budget-friendly option is to buy original disgorgements and open them at any time, depending on your taste. Personally, I relished the intellectual experience of savouring them side by side.

The wines are listed below, grouped by producer.

This article first appeared in the spring 2020 issue of Club Oenologique magazine.

Top Rated Bottles

Dom Pérignon, P2, 2002

Score
97
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2040
  • RRP £294
P2
  • Lemon meringue
  • Toast
  • Tropical fruit
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, Brut, 1996

Score
97
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2030
  • RRP £201
Brut
  • Coffee
  • Guava
  • Liquorice
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, Oenothèque, 1993

Score
96
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2030
  • RRP £320
Oenothèque
  • Chalk
  • Lemon
  • Oyster
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, P2, 1995

Score
96
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2025
  • RRP £477
P2
  • Caramel
  • Honey
  • Vanilla
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, P2, 1999

Score
96
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2030
  • RRP £263
P2
  • Gooseberries
  • Pear
  • White flowers
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, P2, 2000

Score
96
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2035
  • RRP £210
P2
  • Almonds
  • Baked apple
  • Coffee
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, Brut, 2008

Score
95
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2040
  • RRP £112.50
Brut
  • Smoky
  • Toast
  • White flowers
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, P2, 1998

Score
95
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2025
  • RRP £397
P2
  • Coconut
  • Peardrops
  • Toffee
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, P2, 1993

Score
95
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2025
  • RRP £444
P2
  • Green fruit
  • Toast
  • Wax
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, P2, 1996

Score
95
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2030
  • RRP £400
P2
  • Pure fruit
  • Saline
  • Youthful
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, Oenothèque, 1995

Score
95
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2030
  • RRP £258
Oenothèque
  • Herbs
  • Honey
  • Toffee
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, Oenothèque, 1990

Score
95
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2025
  • RRP £636
Oenothèque
  • Gingerbread
  • Green apple
  • Roasted hazelnut
Learn More

Dom Pérignon, Brut, 1990

Score
94
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2025
  • RRP £412
Brut
  • Honey
  • Marzipan
  • Tobacco
Learn More

Bollinger, RD, 2004

Score
95
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2030
  • RRP £149
RD
  • Fruity
  • Hazelnut
  • Juniper
Learn More

Bollinger, RD, 2002

Score
95
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2035
  • RRP £112
RD
  • Brioche
  • Honeycomb
  • Vanilla
Learn More

Bollinger, La Grande Année, 2004

Score
94
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2030
  • RRP £68.50
La Grande Année
  • Iris
  • Pastry
  • Red fruit
Learn More

Bollinger, La Grande Année, 2008

Score
94
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2035
  • RRP £81
La Grande Année
  • Mineral
  • Red apple
  • Saline
Learn More

Bollinger, La Grande Année, 1990

Score
94
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2030
  • RRP £196
La Grande Année
  • Grappa
  • Lemon
  • Straw
Learn More

Bollinger, RD, 1990

Score
93
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2025
  • RRP £283
RD
  • Grappa
  • Honey
  • Spice
Learn More

Moët & Chandon, Brut Impérial, 1988

Score
94
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2025
  • RRP £324
Brut Impérial
  • Apricot
  • Floral
  • Fruity
Learn More

Moët & Chandon, Grand Vintage, 2008

Score
93
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2030
  • RRP £165
Grand Vintage
  • Mineral
  • Toast
  • Vanilla
Learn More

Moët & Chandon, Brut Impérial, 1990

Score
91
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2022
Brut Impérial
  • Apricot
  • Toffee
  • Vanilla
Learn More

Moët & Chandon, Brut Impérial, 1995

Score
89
100
Champagne
  • From 2020
  • To 2025
Brut Impérial
  • Fleshy
  • Round
  • Silky
Learn More

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