15. VEUVE CLICQUOT
It shows how long it takes for a chef de cave to make their mark – or should I say marque – when you consider that Dominique Demarville, who joined Veuve Clicquot back in 2006, has only just overseen the release of a vintage cuvée he made wholly himself. Up to now, he’s been talking about his predecessor Jacques Peters’ vintage wines and, in the case of long-aged, pre-1979 Cave Privée wines, his predecessor’s predecessor, Charles Delhaye.
Like Peters, whose first solo vintage was the very fine 1988 – though he always preferred the riper follow-on ’89, particularly the rosé – Demarville has had the good luck to start with a cracking year in 2008. And he’s put his particular mark on this vintage by returning, for the first time since 1961, to some fermentation to oak foudres. Demarville bought 30 such large vessels, made in the forests of central France, Allier and Vosges, for the benefits they bring to the assemblage, which are some micro-oxygenation which confers textural qualities, plus aromas of wood, vanilla and toast.
For this ’08 vintage he only used around 5% of oak fermented wines in the final blend, but the effect is noticeable. Perhaps more significantly, Demarville has also started using some oak-fermented juice in the make-up of Clicquot’s Yellow Label non-vintage, as part of his stated long-term aim to improve the quality of this important wine that accounts for well over 80% of production.
One of other ways he intends to achieve this is by declaring vintages less often. This would also have the benefit of making vintages that much more special. For Yellow Label, the chance to have more of the quality material that had been going into making vintages will really help, and the barrel-fermented juice will be part of this juice.