Champagne Friday: Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée Brut 1990

I’m back. And this time I mean it. So let’s get to it: Champagne Friday.
This week, I tasted the Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée Brut 1990. Released in Texas just last month after having reached the legal drinking age in Texas, this rare (only 24 bottles came to Houston) bubbly has spent its youth chillin’ in the caves at Clicquot’s cellars in Reims. The idea here is the ultimate in Brut Vintage, which is where many of the best values in Champagne originate. For most Champagne houses (and Clicquot is no exception), Brut Non-Vintage is both the entry level and the work horse. I’ve heard and I believe it that Veuve Clicquot’s famous “Yellow Label” brut is on more Houston wine lists than any other sparkling wine. While Yellow Label is obviously a popular choice, Brut Vintage is a whole n’other critter. Most houses’ Brut Vintage sells for maybe 50% more than their Brut Non-Vintage but delivers as much as 100% more quality, flavor and value. This is certainly true of Clicquot’s Brut Vintage, currently 2004. The 2004 is certainly delicious and will undoubtedly feature in a future post but last night it acted in a supporting role to show off its older sibling, the 1990. This has star power and more than just a little exclusivity.

VEUVE CLICQUOT Cave Privée Brut, Champagne, 1990

11.1% Alcohol. A blend of 56% Pinot Noir, 11% Pinot Meunier, and 33% Chardonnay from 17 crus all over Champagne made to be the 1990 vintage. There were no real “belles and whistles” in the winemaking, blending, and champenization. The big difference here is that these bottles were kept “en tirage” in Clicquot’s cold chalk cellars until they were disgorged in 2008 and then dosed at only 4 grams per liter (and so a sort of an Extra Brut). This Cave Privee wine then received an extra four years of bottle aging before finally being released in 2012. Sensory: Pale golden straw in color, fully sparkling with remarkable richness. Quite dry with still very fresh acidity and a scant hint of phenolics. The nose is rich and toasty with notes of cocoa and even coffee with whiffs of red fruit and citrus as well as a chalky minerality. The mouth brings more of the same with still ample effervescence. As the wine warms and flattens a bit, it gains in richness and texture. Its depth and complexity command your interest. As it opens further and further, the wine moves past being a beverage into the range of an experience. This isn’t an “aperitif” Champagne or a “food” Champagne, rather, this is contemplative Champagne that peels back to reveal layer after layer. You’ll want to drink this with and as part of a conversation. This wine is a great pleasure. Bear’s Score: 97 points. Price: about $225 per bottle. (If I hadn’t recently tasted Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1996 and La Grande Dame 1998, I may have rated this higher.)

This Week’s Champagne Quote: When you have bubbles, you have no troubles. – my friend Denise Wardwell (while sipping Cave Privée 1990)

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