I am an occasional Champagne drinker that had a bubbly good experience this weekend that I suspect even the region’s most avid fan might find exotic. A good friend and collector of old Champagne had told me about using young NV Champagne to bring life back to very old vintage wine. We actually opened two 375 ml bottles of 1928 Pol Roger and after a quick taste of the wine “neat”, added some 3-year-old Pol Roger Reserve NV.
The 28 Pol Roger was orange, completely absent of any effervescence, tasting like old Sherry. It had a silky oily mouthfeel and was still alive and well knit. There was a little corkiness in evidence, but it was almost excusable as the strong advanced flavors of the wine were so exotic that they overshadowed or incorporated anything technically wrong. Mixing in the newer, non vintage wine obviously added the effervescence but also muted the advanced flavor nuances and aromas with a crisper and almost apply overtone.
We also opened a 750 ml 1923 Veuve Clicquot which was in better shape even at an older age. All wines were bought at auction so who knows if it was bottle format or storage. The wine actually retained some barely perceptible effervescence and had some relation to more current vintage Champagne. It was quite impressive and enjoyable on that basis.
To be honest, I prefered the Pol Roger, unblended and by itself. I think if we used just a smaller amount of the NV in the blend it would have been a more impressive result. In a blind tasting I would never have come close to nailing the wine as Champagne, and most certainly would have been steered to old Burgundy or even a fortified wine. Be careful if you try this at home and add very small amounts of the NV wine to just give enough effervescence without drowning out the ultimate experience of trying these wines “neat”.
It is just amazing to think about what was going on in the world at the time these wines were bottled pre-war. Such fun. The rest of the evening allowed us to get even more serious with our dinner wines, so more on this fantastic weekend of wines over the coming weeks.
Note: I recently wrote more about this concept, and aging wines in general, in a contributed guest post for Palate Press under the “Spotlight on” Category called “When is Wine Ready”.