In my world, a champagne tasting should always have an intention behind it and at the same time be immensely enjoyable. Every year for the last few years, I have had the pleasure of doing a virtually exhaustive evaluation of one segment of the jungle that is the champagne market, along with a carefully selected panel of my fellow Champagne Club members. Last year we examined the results of Decanter magazine’s gigantic prestige champagne tasting. The previous year we tested our way through the most important rosé champagnes on offer, and the year before that, blanc de blancs were the object of our scrutiny. This year we’ve tackled a topic that is far more difficult: a comparison between two completely different vintages. In cool wine regions like Champagne, these differences in nuance from vintage to vintage are among the most intellectually stimulating and fascinating phenomena to try to understand and appreciate. I have been thinking about this for several years, but only now do I feel that the wines from the two vintages I selected have reached a stage of maturity that makes comparison meaningful.
In Bordeaux and Burgundy, slightly weaker vintages are often referred to as charming or early-drinking, while in most other wine regions, vintages are simply said to be either great or less good. Obviously, the same holds true in weather-sensitive Champagne. The 2000 vintage is one such somewhat under-rated, charming, early-stage vintage that few wine collectors buy, but which very often springs a delightful surprise in the glass. In my opinion, this warmly generous, soft, charming vintage is in most cases just reaching its pinnacle right now. It was therefore very exciting to pit these wines against the acclaimed, grand, rather restrained 2002 vintage. In other words: a precocious fifteen year-old versus a majestically promising 13 year-old. Thanks to our tremendous interest in champagne, we managed to get hold of most of the top names for our tasting, with few exceptions, and in perfect condition, direct from the champagne houses’ own cellars: a veritable oenothèque tasting.