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January 05, 2009

NV Andre Clouet, Champagne Bouzy Grand Cru 1911

Bottle 1484 of the 1911-bottle production of cuvee 13 should have a vintage label. Originally a limited blend of the 1996, 1995, and 1997 vintages, past selections have been incalculably amazing. As is this one, which is the freshest and tightest 1911 I've tasted, disgorged just six months ago almost to the date. I wish I'd known that before buying, because it does much better with a year or two of age (or 90 minutes open in the glass). In that sense, Clouet is maybe the only vintner outside of Charles Heidsieck who's managed to produce a non-vintage blend that varies from year to year the way great vintages do, but still expresses a consistent (and bold) house style. And though Champagne only vintages in qualified years, Clouet creates years of its own, all apparently heavily influenced by the tart 1996 and, with this bottling, I would suspect the equally loud but suddenly maturing 1999. The smoky, wildly phenolic aroma is too strong at first, then the woody coconut and vanilla gives it away, gives it away, gives it away now. If Clouet's Grand Reserve is the brain of the winery, 1911 is the amygdala, responsible for processing and remembering his emotional reactions. Cold, it's austere. But once it warms to cellar temp, it's hedonistically oily and rich with the longest finish of raspberry sweet tea, pomegranate, Meyer lemon juice, tangelos, floral peaches, porcini powder, and turbinado sugar. I think I had a dish like this at Alinea. Maybe the truest testament to this wine is the note buried on the last page of the booklet that comes with each bottle, where Champagne guru Richard Juhlin writes that the original "perfectly avoids the clumsiness that is often found in blanc de noirs." At first, I thought Clouet included that as a marketing artifact, one that should be either dusted or pulverized now that we're beyond the first cuvee. But what's eminently clear is that I have no fucking idea. And the truth is that Clouet kept this note not as promotion, but as the die cast for everything it ever does. So for that, I thank Andre Clouet, and kneel to Richard Juhlin. This 1911 is not Clouet's greatest wine. I think that will come in the next few years. But it is the greatest wine that Bouzy has ever made. And Burgundy should start taking notes, too.


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