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We are seeing the New Year in with some style as our “Champagne of the Month” for January 2018 comes from father and daughter Claude and Agnès Corbon from the village of Avize on the Côte des Blancs.
Agnès controls the family estate of 2.7 hectares with vineyards in their “back garden” in Avize along with plots in Epernay, Vandières, Verneuil, Vincelles and Trélou. About 10,000 bottles are produced annually and the wines do not undergo filtering, fining or cold stabilisation. Wines rest on the lees for a minimum of 5 years.
The “Grand Millésime 1996” is actually a first release despite being 20 years old. This seemingly late release stems from a decision Claude took after tasting the wine early in its life, deciding it simply would not be ready for 20 years. This got me thinking to what was happening all that while ago in 1996 when Gita and I were still two years away from meeting. Kofi Annan became the head of the United Nations, DVD’s were launched in Japan and the internet went from 1 to 10 million users within the year. Talking of the internet, Ebay hit our computer screens prompting millions of people to buy things they really didn’t need like a haunted rubber duck, an unassembled snowman and a grandmother – described as annoying but cuddly!
Claude and Agnès certainly know a thing or two about successfully ageing champagne. The Grand Millésime 1996 was born from an exceptional year in which the 100% Chardonnay grapes from Avize attained a very high level of acidity and it is this vital fact that gives the wine its longevity. After over 18 years resting on the lees, it has a delightful freshness and tension proving it is still in the stages of development, aided by the fact that malolactic fermentation was not used. Vinification was carried out in stainless steel yet the wine has acquired a beautiful richness with spicy undertones, the balance and refinement is incredible. It is safe to say that the Grand Millésime 1996 is an outstanding champagne. 996 bottles were produced although sadly is not on general sale, however Chamber Street Wines in New York City have some bottles retailing for $140.
Tasted: 12th December 2017
Appearance: Clear, pale, lemon.
Flavour characteristics: Pronounced intensity with primary notes of fresh lemon, lemon peel, preserved lemon, grapefruit, honeysuckle, jasmine, lychee, honeydew melon and roasted pineapple. Secondary aromas of sable biscuit, short crust pastry and toast. There are tertiary notes of almond, honey, marmalade, dried apple, ginger and a delicate hint of coffee. It was disgorged in February 2016 with a dosage of 5gl. Acidity is high with medium (+) body, a delicate mousse and a long finish.