Picture-perfect vintage Champagne

Matthew Sullivan's top picks of vintage Champagne
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Matthew Sullivan's top picks of vintage Champagne
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Andrea Parrish-GeyerIf you are a cinephile, you have to love what the Toronto International Film Festival does for our city every September. But even if you have no time for rush tickets and euro-trash, the film festival still has something to offer you. That’s because the LCBO has crafted their latest release especially for TIFF, and now you have a rare opportunity to drink what Clive Owen, Susan Sarandon and Isabella Rossellini will be drinking at the after-hours parties. And what do the beautiful people drink? Vintage Champagne.

Most Champagne is non-vintage, meaning it’s a blend of grapes from various harvests that are mixed so that the brand carries a consistent flavour year after year. Non-vintage Champagnes can be exquisite, but their very consistency can make them predictable and they are not designed to improve with age.

Vintage Champagne, on the other hand, is only made from grapes of a specific year. A Champagne house will only declare a Vintage Champagne in the very best years, when the grapes have the stuffing to create something that will evolve for long periods in the cellar. Over time, these bottles develop odd but entrancing flavours like mushroom or baked apple.

The LCBO release is interesting not only because it has a wide variety of vintage Champagnes, but because many of them are already mature. Here are the Short Cellar’s top picks:

Veuve Clicqout Ponsardin 2002 Brut Champagne ($88.95, #508614)
At 9 years old, this superb bottle shows a remarkably fresh nose with hints of peapod and newly mown grass. The palate, however, betrays its true age — it has fused spicy flavours of brioche and dried apples into the creamy mousse. The overall effect is soft, mellow and utterly luxuriant. This is extraordinary Champagne is a relatively good value and I highly recommend it. 95/100

Tattinger 2004 Brut Champagne ($74.95, #989905)
This Tattinger has a crunchy nose smelling of apple skin and ginger. The tartness of a Clementine gives this wine the acidity to complement seafood or other light canapés. Although the concentrated palate has not yet developed the florid complexity or mesmerizing depth that one would look for in a vintage Champagne, it still has lots of time to mature. Buy and wait for 4-10 years. 92/100

Dom Pérignon 2002 Brut Champagne ($219.95, #280461)
The bouquet on this extraordinary wine juxtaposes floral scents with a rich humus of mushroom and sourdough bread. The palate is a foamy burst of flavours and textures: dashes of pear, lemon zest, ginger and cherry. Although it is drinking well now, it will continue to improve over the next 10-20 years. Vava-voom. 96/100

Brochet-Hervieux 2002 Brut Champagne ($49.95, #226290)
The Brochet-Hervieux is fully mature now and offers delicious aromas of gingerbread, spice and crème brûlée. Despite these heavy flavours, it finishes clean and tart. This is for those who love rich, nutty Champagnes. In fact, I’ve got 2 bottles of this cooling in my cellar – while it isn’t the best vintage Champagne, it’s the best at this price. 91/100


Matthew Sullivan is a civil litigator in Toronto. He blogs once a month here on lawandstyle.ca. The Short Cellar column also appears in the print edition of Precedent. Matthew can be reached at matthew@lawandstyle.beta-site.ca. Follow along on Twitter: @shortcellar.

Photo by Andrea Parrish-Geyer