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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
DOES VINTAGE CHAMPAGNE
AGE – A DEFINITIVE TASTING 1966 – 1996  …



Michael Broadbent,  2002:   I cannot think of any other wine which automatically, unconsciously, conjures up such a variety of (mainly) happy associations. It is, par excellence, the wine of celebration; it has an almost unassailable position in the hierarchy of wine.

This tasting of older champagnes was held in the first week of May,  2016,  in Wellington.  The atmosphere in the room beforehand was exciting,  a great sense of anticipation being evident amongst the group.  And during the tasting,  I can say,  having now presented quite a few tastings of older wines over the last 20 years,  that I can scarcely recall seeing (some) tasters so rapt ... one Victoria University of Wellington academic looked absolutely beatific.  What a joy to see.

The logistics of placing the wines before the tasters was not quite such fun.  It being likely that pressures would be low in some of them,  the bottles were opened then and there,  at the start of the tasting.  Old champagne corks pose their own unique challenges,  there being only the relatively small head to grip.  Corks become cemented in,  over decades.  The relatively recent invention of the perforated rubber-like grip-cloth is a boon,  in this task.  But I had taken in quite a toolkit to deal with emergencies,  when that aid was insufficient.  And when all else fails,  one can cut the cork off flush with a strong knife,  and use a strong double-acting mechanical and all-metal corkscrew on the stub.

The other challenge with old champagnes is cork taint,  and associated musty odours.  Because of the mushroom shape of the cork,  with the head above the neck of the bottle,  not within in it,  there is much more scope for dust particles to accumulate under the head,  foil notwithstanding,  and over decades gradually become the locus for mould spores to establish.  From there fungal mycelia can and do creep down the shaft of the cork.  One of the bottles showed threshold TCA mustiness,  and sadly,  the 50-year old bottle,  the 1966 Bollinger,  had to be rejected due to more overt,  but still not crippling TCA.  I had it as the second to last wine,  the wines being arranged to hopefully build in depth of flavour,  so unfortunately this upset the sequence,  the replacement 'in reserve' bottle being a relatively light wine.  The tasting was not presented blind,  both for the above timing of opening reason,  and also because at least one bottle had a very distinctive shape.

The Invitation:
In titling this tasting,  why would I say a ‘definitive’ tasting ?  Presumptuous surely.  It simply is,  that for any person whose appreciation of wine is not set by snob values or advertising / PR criteria,  any tasting including Pol Roger’s Cuvée Winston Churchill tells us all that needs to be known about the beauty of the champagne style.  And the more so,  if the example is from a great year,  as ours is.  Cork permitting,  this wine should be sensational.

But we could also hope that any tasting that includes a wine which wine-searcher values at $NZ1408 (at the moment of writing) is also worth tasting.  Even if it is 1976 Bollinger RD (Recently Disgorged) in fact disgorged in 1987.  Frankly … the valuation seems nuts.  And then there is Bollinger vintage.  This wonderful bolder style of champagne is now so rare in NZ,  it currently is not available anywhere in the country.  The tasting includes THREE vintages from 1966 to 1990,  all well-rated vintages.  Who has tasted a 50-year old champagne ?  And there is the nv Bollinger bought at the same time as the 1982,  to answer the question:  how well do non-vintage champagnes keep ?

The tasting also includes two examples of the beautiful 1996 vintage,  the second best vintage of the last 40 years,  according to Wine Spectator,  whose vintage charts are arguably the most thoughtful around.  The exquisite 1996 Pol Roger Chardonnay (Blanc de Blancs) will be set against the 1975 of the same label,  to further illuminate the question:  how does champagne age.  And we have Bollinger Vintage from 1990,  the best vintage of them all,  according to that source.

So study the list,  and ask how such a tasting could be assembled today (in New Zealand).  Then ask,  how on earth does one value the tasting,  and the tasting fee ?  A single bottle of vintage Bollinger is approx. $NZ210 today.  A single bottle of Taittinger Comtes or Bollinger RD is over $400 today,  for the current vintage.  The total wine-searcher valuation for the set is $5780.

This is a unique opportunity to compare some of the great labels of (the less pretentious side of) the Champagne world,  and see how they age.  Provided the 1966 has a sound cork,  and just trace pressure,  it should at the least be a lovely old (loosely speaking) grand cru Chablis style.  And Lechere was famous in his day.  The Ayala should serve as a foil to some of the better-known labels.

Please note that in sharing in this tasting,  tasters accept the risk of corked bottles.  That is just the same as if you had cellared the wine yourself.  There are no back-up bottles.  If a wine is profoundly corked (for it can happen even with compound champagne corks) one of the reserve wines above will be substituted.  So 12 wines,  but maybe not a key one.

#  For my Library Tastings the presentation is based on 12 wines all out at once,  so comparisons can be made.  Note however the pours are small (30 ml),  both to enable more to share sometimes rare bottles,  and to lower the entry price.  Please come prepared to sniff and sip and savour rather more than initially drinking.  Such a small volume can very easily be consumed,  without thinking.   On this occasion,  it is too hard to present the wines blind,  when coupled with the complications old champagne corks may provide,  and the impracticability of decanting bubbly.

References:
Broadbent,  Michael,  2002:  Michael Broadbent's Vintage Wine.  Harcourt,  560 p.
Stelzer,  Tyson,  2013:  The Champagne Guide 2014 – 2015.  Hardie Grant Books,  360 p.
Stevenson,  Tom,  199:  Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine,  335 p.
www.erobertparker.com = wine reviews,  various authors (subscription needed)
www.jancisrobinson.com  =  wine reviews,  Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW (subscription needed)
www.winespectator.com  = wine reviews,  various authors (subscription needed)
www.winespectator.com/vintagecharts/search  = Vintage Charts





THE WINES REVIEWED:

In the following notes,  the dollar values given are today's,  per 750ml bottle,  from wine-searcher.  Only vintage wines are listed there.

1982  Champagne Ayala Brut
1990  Champagne Bollinger Grande Année Brut
1982  Champagne Bollinger Grande Année Brut
1976  Champagne Bollinger RD Extra Brut
   nv  Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut
1966  Champagne Bollinger Vintage Brut
1996  Champagne Deutz Blanc de Blancs Brut
  1980  Champagne Lechere Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru
   nv  Champagne Lechere Premier Cru Venice Simplon Orient-Express Cuvée Spéciale Brut
1975  Champagne Pol Roger Chardonnay Cuvée de Reserve
1996  Champagne Pol Roger Chardonnay Extra Cuvée de Reserve Brut
1996  Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut
1975  Champagne Taittinger Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne


1996  Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut   19 ½ +  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $533   [ traditional compound champagne cork;  Broadbent rating for vintage:  ***** (tentatively,  not tasted at point of publication);  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  96 [ second only to 1990 ],  Drink or hold. Ripe and intense, firmly structured and potentially long-lived.  Cepage not revealed,  but Stevenson estimates PN 70 – 80%,  balance chardonnay,  all old-vine grand cru wines;  all MLF,  no oak use known but not impossible,  en tirage c.10 years;  in a previous tasting I thought the dosage around 8 g/L;  Robinson,  2006:  Still pale gold. Very deep and sumptuous on the nose. Smells like a cross between red and white Côte de Beaune. Lots of lemon cream sensation and very fine bead. Explosive. Still tight and there’s lots yet to come but certainly capable of giving great pleasure now. You almost feel it needs decanting there is so much there! Not especially long. More Pinot than in the past,  18.5 +;  Galloni (in R. Parker),  2009:  The 1996 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill is an immensely rewarding, complete Champagne that is drinking well today but that also has the potential to continue to improve in bottle. Nothing in particular stands out here, but as is often the case with this cuvee, I am struck by the wine’s awesome balance and supreme harmony. Simply put, this is a strikingly beautiful wine from Pol Roger,  95.;  www.champagne-bollinger.com ]
Glowing straw,  the third lightest / freshest.  Bouquet shows a total integration of berry and autolysis that approaches perfection.  The hint of red-fruit aromatics is obvious alongside the 1996 Pol Roger Chardonnay,  but nowhere near as apparent as the 1990 Bollinger.  One could not ask for more perfect autolysis,  crust of perfect fragrant baguette.  The wine sits exactly between the 1996 Pol Roger Chardonnay and the 1990 Bollinger,  more substantial and more pinot noir than the former,  yet so elegant and subtle (yet rich) alongside the latter.  In mouth the wine is firm,  almost austere,  astonishingly youthful,  the quality of the autolysis substituting for suggestions of oak backbone,  as seen for example in the Bollinger wines.  The flavour lasts and lasts,  yet though rich in one sense,  the wine is also almost ethereal.  Dosage seems around the 6 – 7 g/L mark,  in today's company.  An absolutely compelling example of the methode champenoise winestyle,  to cellar for decades.  The top wine of the tasting,  by a wide margin.  GK 05/16

1990  Champagne Bollinger Grande Année Brut   19 ½  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $435   [ Broadbent rating for vintage:  *****,  an exceptional year,  the third largest on  record;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  97 [ the best in the last 40 years ],  Drink or hold, big, powerful and full-flavored;  PN 65%,  Ch 35,  BF and MLF,  base wine matured in all-old oak,  seven years en tirage,  dosage c.8 g/L;  Broadbent,  2002:  … highest mark of 25 top champagnes … in Copenhagen,  a well-nigh perfect wine with another 10 years to go.  *****;  Robinson,  2010:  Pale copper. Rich and mushroomy on the nose. Broad and firm. Quite a bit of evolution but it's much less evolved than Dom P or Krug 1990. This could be the perfect moment to drink this. Wonderful persistence,  19;  Wine Spectator,  1999:  A sense of opulence marks this highly concentrated, creamy-textured 1990 Champagne, with its ripe, generous fruit flavors complementing the toasty, honeyed nuances acquired from aging on the lees. Lingering finish. Drink now through 2004. 20,000 cases made,  95  (NB:  Wine Spectator Top 100,  1999);  www.champagne-bollinger.com ]
Straw,  just above midway in lightness.  Bouquet is much fresher than the other Bollingers,  quite extraordinary,  showing great pinot noir depth and nearly aromatic fruit,  with crust-of-baguette passing to Vogel's Multigrain autolysis,  powerful,  beautiful,  a kind of perfection in the more substantial Bollinger style.  Intentionally placed immediately after the 1996 Pol Roger Chardonnay,  so tasters could contrast a chardonnay wine with a pinot noir-led wine,  this is a much richer,  weightier,  obviously pinot-based and more aromatic wine,  with a depth of autolysis that is powerful.  The contrast is dramatic,  flowers and sunshine versus a veal main-course dinner,  yet both are beautiful.  A wonderful wine in its inimitable way,  but even this near-perfection not pleasing the anti-Bollinger tasters.  The third most favoured wine for the group,  equal with the 1975 Comtes.  GK 05/16

1996  Champagne Pol Roger Chardonnay Extra Cuvée de Reserve Brut   19 ½  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $251   [ traditional compound champagne cork;  Broadbent rating for vintage:  *****  (tentatively,  not tasted at point of publication);  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  96  [ second only to 1990 ],  Drink or hold.  Ripe and intense; firmly structured and potentially long-lived;  Now labelled Blanc de Blancs,  Ch 100%,  MLF,  no oak,  8 – 9 years en tirage,  dosage c.9 g/L;  in my view,  this vintage is benchmark champagne;  Robinson,  2006:  Extremely lively mousse. Wonderful meat and two veg nose – broad and yet dense. A certain creaminess reminiscent of cream soda. Lots of interest here with something reminds me a bit of Dom Pérignon character. Very tight knit underneath too but there is sufficient bouquet already to keep one entranced,  18.5;  Wine Spectator,  2004:  Subtle, with elegance and verve, this firm, lean bubbly has graphite, ginger and candied fruit embedded into its marblelike structure. It appears glacial in its advance, so be patient. Best from 2006 through 2015,  92;  www.polroger.com ]
Straw yet still with a lemon wash,  the lightest wine and a remarkable hue for 20 years age.  On bouquet the wine still shows citrussy chardonnay,  exquisite crust-of-baguette autolysis,  and great purity of mealy chardonnay  fruit.  Palate is succulent yet taut,  perfect chardonnay citrus and only slightly mealy flavours (as yet),   fresh baguette crust notes scarcely deepened to any Vogel's analogy,  not at all biscuitty,  great length.  Tastes a little drier than the given dosage,  on the acid.  A lovely wine which gave great pleasure to many tasters,  being the second most favoured.  GK 05/16

1975  Champagne Pol Roger Chardonnay Cuvée de Reserve   19  ()
Epernay,  Champagne,  France:   – %;  $498   [ www.polroger.com;  Broadbent rating for vintage:  ***,  A popular and stylish vintage … acidic, not that this is a grave disadvantage … with champagne;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  92,   Drink, bold but balanced wines;  now labelled Blanc de Blancs,  Ch 100%,  MLF,  no oak,  8 – 9 years en tirage,  dosage c.9 g/L;  no reviews found.;  www.polroger.com ]
Glowing straw,  remarkable for its age,  the faintest wash of fresh gold,  just a bit deeper than midway,  in depth.  Bouquet is exquisite,  still a hint of citrus,  plus clear baguette character,  buttered wholegrain toast,  cashew,  lovely.  Palate is nearly as good,  the citrus on bouquet now tasting like citrus zest or even candied peel (as in baking) in a positive way,  plus a hint of old aromatic finest barrel-matured Spanish Reserva white (though whether in fact any oak use then at Pol Roger not known),  on still almost-succulent  fruit.  The whole wine is complexed by baguette-quality mealy autolysis with scarcely any deeper / browner Vogel's-type suggestions at all,  yet the wine is not in any way 'fruity'.  It seems not as dry as some,  maybe 9 – 10 g/L.  A lovely mature Blanc de Blancs still with time to go.  I liked this a little more than the group,  the 1975 Comtes being the more popular of the two 1975s.  GK 05/16

1975  Champagne Taittinger Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne   18 ½ +  ()
Reims,  Champagne,  France:   – %;  $694   [ traditional compound champagne cork;  Broadbent rating for vintage:  ***,  a popular and stylish vintage … acidic, not that this is a grave disadvantage … with champagne;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  92,  Drink, bold but balanced wines.  Ch 100%,  MLF,  5% of the base wine is aged for four months only in barrels,  one third new,  8 – 9 years en tirage;  dosage c.9 g/L;  Broadbent,  2002:  slightly minty, lanolin nose, very good flavour, perfect acidity,  *****;  no other reviews found;  www.taittinger.com ]
Colour is scarcely distinguishable from the 1975 Pol Roger,  faintly lighter,  midway in depth.  Bouquet is not quite so astonishingly fresh as the 1975 Pol Roger,  little or no hint of citrus left here,  but wonderful autolysis passing from the baguette stage more to Vogel's Multigrain.  Palate is a little drier than the Pol Roger,  still equally good fruit,  great length,  superb autolysis,  slightly more nutty to the finish,  and a little nearer full maturity.  This is another wonderful old wine,  which the group rated third equal with the 1990 Bollinger.  GK 05/16

1966  Champagne Bollinger Vintage Brut   18 ½  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:   – %;  $628   [ traditional compound champagne cork;  original price $7.75 (i.e. more than 1966 Ch Palmer,  $6.35);  Broadbent rating for vintage:  ****,  … a satisfactory harvest of firm, elegant wines;  Wine Spectator – before their range.  Detail so far back not clear,  but probably as now pinot noir dominant and chardonnay,  BF and MLF,  base wine matured in all-old oak,  c. 7 years en tirage,  dosage may have been a little sweeter then than the c.8 g/L now;  Broadbent,  2002:  [ in 1997 ] ... very fine mousse, buttery, honeyed bouquet; medium-dryness and weight, lovely flavour, very good acidity ... [in 2001] a very good, rich 'old straw' nose; excellent flavour and acidity,  ****;  next bit not strictly relevant,  but interesting,  Robinson 2011,  on the 1966 RD disgorged in 2011 (NB):  A hint of mushrooms. Rich, even a little sweet now. An intellectual pleasure. Honeyed note on the end. Maybe the fruit is giving way to structure now but it is hugely impressive. Not that long but very beautiful. More than a hint of red burgundy about this wine,  18.5;  www.champagne-bollinger.com ]
Straw,  above midway,  clearly in the lighter half of the colours,  astonishing considering its age.  It was initially hard to pinpoint the ratio of fruit versus autolysis in the wine due to TCA,  other than to say it smells rich,  high in pinot noir,  and remarkably youthful in the 'strong' Bollinger style,  for a 50-year-old sparkling.  On palate,  the richness of clearly aromatic pinot noir-dominant fruit is compelling.  A perfect bottle of this would be an absolute delight.  It is fractionally lighter than the warm-year 1982 Bollinger,  but unbelievably,  it is much fresher,  with higher acid  reflecting the difference between the two vintages.  It is fresher than the 1976 RD,  too,  by far.  Dosage seems about 6 g/L,  now.  Totally remarkable,  in a bottle still retaining gentle pressure.  Score initially had to be a guess – yet maybe not:  a sample of the wine later left open to breathe shed its TCA completely.  The group did not see the wine at all.  GK 05/16

nv  Champagne Lechere Premier Cru Venice Simplon Orient-Express Cuvée Spéciale Brut   18 +  ()
Avize,  Champagne,  France:  12.5%;  $ –    [ traditional compound champagne cork;  bought at the same time as the 1980 Lechere.  This wine was famous at that time,  since in 1982,  Champagne Lechere won a competition amongst 49 major wineries to be the 'House Champagne' on the legendary luxury train,  Orient Express.  It was Lechere's Tete de Cuvée,  a Blanc de Blancs,  60% grands crus Oger and le-Mesnil-Sur-Oger,  10% grand cru from Avize,  30% premiers crus from the Vertus district.  No making details known,  but MLF assumed,  and the complexity of the wine suggested trace oak.  No reviews found,  and no valuations on wine-searcher,  presumably because non-vintage.  The Lechere label appears to have lapsed ]
Full straw and light tan,  the deepest-coloured wine.  Bouquet however is not the oldest or most biscuitty in the set,  by far,  instead showing rich fruit with clear Vogel's Multigrain and cashew autolysis plus lovely depth,  almost a suggestion of fruit cake,  the wine nearly smelling 'succulent' in its richness.  Palate shows a great depth of oatmeal and cashew autolysis on a remarkably rich chardonnay base,  as rich or richer than the 1982 Bollinger but less aromatic.  A wine at full maturity,  fresher than the 1976 Bollinger RD,  I loved it,  but only fair to say it was a bit old for some tasters.  And like the Bollinger but less so,  you suspect a touch of oak in the wine,  newer here than in the Bollinger.  Dosage is more with the sweeter wines in the bracket,  maybe 9 – 10 g/l.  It seems there are not many bottles of this left in the world now.  In the middle,  by the group ranking.  GK 05/16

1976  Champagne Bollinger RD Extra Brut   18  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $1,408   [ NB:  this bottle disgorged 10 March 1987.  Broadbent rating for vintage:  ****,  … a great favourite of mine, full of flavour and a sheer delight;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  88,  Drink, a ripe, opulent year.  PN 70%,  Ch 30,  BF and MLF,  matured in all-old oak,  10 years en tirage,  dosage c.4 g/L;  Alun Griffiths, MW:  RD is only the Grande Annee with more lees ageing,  but that statement overlooks the dosage differs;  Robinson (2010) has only reported on late-disgorged (2010) bottles,  so they may bear little relation to ours:  Pale bronze. Extremely rich and candified on the nose. Soft and round. Relatively low acid. Toasty, this just washes over you. Really hedonistic. In view of the relatively low acidity, it's amazing how well this has lasted,  19 ]
Deeper straw,  a wash of old-gold and tan,  the third deepest wine.  Bouquet is rich,  so rich it is reminiscent of a medium-hue fruitcake,  showing great autolysis totally Vogel's Multigrain in style plus mushrooms,  cashews and hazelnuts – all smelling like complex muesli with brown sugar.  Palate is deeply mealy,  with biscuitty and softly nutty autolysis components almost dominating pinot noir aromatic 'berry',  yet in a way it still tastes fresh.  But there are also autumnal and brown mushroom components,  plus a hint of pumpkin soup and similar (+ve),  even a touch of Marmite to the aftertaste.  One of the lower dosages,  close to the spec.  A most unusual wine with much to enjoy,  though one rather wished one could see the same base wine disgorged more recently,  and therefore the whole wine fresher.  Two people rated the wine highly,  but rather more were disenchanted with it.  GK 05/16

1980  Champagne Lechere Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru   18  ()
Avize,  Champagne,  France:   – %;  $ –    [ traditional compound champagne cork;  Broadbent rating for vintage:  *,  cold season, the wines lacked body and were too acid;  Wine Spectator:  not rated.  No info available,  Ch 100%,  MLF assumed,  no oak;  this was an attractive wine in its day,  proving the old adage,  there are always exceptions to vintage generalisations.  Broadbent,  the ultimate arbiter on old champagne,  in effect rates this wine as the best of the vintage:  pale, dry, light, crisp, and refined,  ****.  J. B. Lechere came from an old Champagne family.  He was formerly Marketing Director for Moet & Chandon.  In 1978 he set up his own label,  buying only premier and grand cru fruit,  and had his wines made under his strict control by the famous co-operative Union Champagne,  in Avize. ]
Full straw,  a wash of gold,  midway in depth.  Bouquet shows clean slightly honeyed and mealy / biscuitty  nearly sweet-smelling lightish clearly chardonnay-based wine –  wine biscuits !  Palate is lighter than most,  remarkably dry now as if the dosage has been consumed,  tasting fractionally older than it smells,  just a suggestion of walnut 'bite' on the palate,  building on the cashew component from the bouquet.  Even so,  a  totally remarkable wine for its vintage,  and it would still be a sheer delight with savoury nibbles.  Dosage is to the higher end,  say 9 g/L.  Tasters did not like the wine as much as Steve Bennett MW and I did.  GK 05/16

1982  Champagne Bollinger Grande Année Brut   17 ½  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $785   [ traditional compound champagne cork;  Broadbent rating for vintage:  *****,  a highly successful vintage … well nigh ideal,  biggest crop on record, and of uniformly high quality;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  94,  Drink, rich, complex, with abundant flavor.  PN 60 - 70%,  balance Ch,  full MLF,  barrel fermentation and maturation of base wines,  c.6 – 7 years en tirage,  c.8 g/L dosage;  Robinson,  2013:  Dark brownish gold. Tiny, slightly sluggish bead. Lightly mushroomy nose that is so characteristic of Bollinger. Deep umami savoury flavours. Still tight and youthful. High acidity which came to the fore in the glass but a great glass of wine with real potential still,  18;  Wine Spectator,  1988:  Rich, toasty and very assertive, high in extract and intensity with a heavy toasty flavor that compliments the pear and cherry flavors. Smoky flavors carry the finish. It's a rich style that may be too powerful for some. Drink now,  93  (NB:  Wine Spectator Top 100,  1988);  www.champagne-bollinger.com ]
Full straw with a wash of old-gold / tan,  below midway in depth of colour.  Again there is a high pinot noir / slightly oaky almost suggestions of a red wine bouquet,  plus clear autolysis at the Vogel's Multigrain depth of intensity.  Even on bouquet one suspects a hint of 'bite' will follow on palate,  again like walnuts.  A hard wine to interpret,  on bouquet also even a suggestion of maderisation,  but then on palate a red burgundy richness and mealy / nutty palate length,  all slightly tannic.  The anti-Bollinger tasters mocked it,  but others approved to varying degrees.  Certainly a burly wine.  Dosage tasted to spec.  GK 05/16

1996  Champagne Deutz Blanc de Blancs Brut   17 ½  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $312   [ Or 17.5 + ???  traditional compound champagne cork;  Broadbent rating for vintage:  ***** (tentatively,  not tasted at point of publication);  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  96 [ second only to 1990 ],  Drink or hold. Ripe and intense; firmly structured and potentially long-lived.  Little winemaking detail available,  all MLF,  no oak,  9 – 10 g/L dosage;  Wine Spectator,  2003:  Shows yeast, honey and nut flavors, then the acidity sweeps in, leaving a firm, tactile sensation on the palate. Great density and superfine texture and class. A taut impression today; just needs time. Best from 2006 through 2020,  92;  www.champagne-deutz.com ]
Straw with a hint of lemon,  the second lightest colour.  In the set,  the bouquet seems light in both fruit and autolysis,  but it is beautifully pure,  with hints of baguette.  This wine was out of sequence in my desired line-up,  being a substitute for the TCA-affected 1966 Bollinger.  Palate is more the weight of the Ayala 1982,  though contrasting by being clearly a chardonnay-based wine,  much softer,  lower phenolics,  showing baguette crumb as well as crust flavours.  Dosage seemed to be 7 – 8 g/L,  a little drier than the Lecheres.  A lovely wine but not as 'serious' as most in the tasting.  In the lesser half,  for the group.  GK 05/16

1982  Champagne Ayala Brut   17  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $160   [ traditional compound champagne cork;  Broadbent rating for vintage:  *****,  a highly successful vintage … well nigh ideal, biggest crop on record, and of uniformly high quality;  Wine Spectator rating for vintage:  94,  Drink, rich, complex, with abundant flavor.  Now that Ayala is owned by Bollinger,  there is not much info easily accessible on the previous wines,  other than they did not enjoy a prestige reputation.  PN 75%,  Ch 25,  MLF,  no oak,  dosage tending commercial;  Ayala however was one of the first to introduce zero-dosage champagnes;  Wine Spectator,  1988:  Full and nicely mature in style. Shows mature appley, slightly butterscotchy flavors and a smooth, mouth-filling texture. Very well made,  86;  www.champagne-ayala.fr ]
Full straw,  towards the lighter end in freshness and depth.   A quite perfumed bouquet as if higher in pinot noir,  possibly even some meunier (now tired),  clean,  fragrant,  not such a depth of autolysis in the company,  clear hazelnut suggestions.  Palate combines some pinot noir aromatics with a hint of cider apples,  just a touch more phenolic than the other wines.  The long flavour is very biscuitty,  not the fruit and body of the other wines,  yet a little sweeter,  giving the impression of being at full stretch.  Dosage probably in the 9 – 10 g/L range.  The wine did not register with the group,  but it would still be very acceptable,  in a dinner / social setting.  GK 05/16

nv  Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut   16 ½ +  ()
Ay,  Champagne,  France:  12%;  $ –    [ traditional compound champagne cork;  bought at the same time as the 1982 vintage,  to check the question:  how does nv champagne age ?  Approximately PN 60,  CH 25,  PM 15;  full MLF,  c.10% reserve wines including barrel-fermented,  c. 3 years en tirage,  c.8 g/L dosage;  wine-searcher mostly does not have values for non-vintage wines;  www.champagne-bollinger.com ]
Full straw,  a wash of old-gold / tan,  the second darkest wine.  Bouquet is more toasted Vogel's Multigrain and biscuitty,  and less red winey,  than the 1982 Bollinger purchased at the same time,  but still unmistakably in the Bollinger burly style.  Six of 21 tasters found trace TCA impaired their appreciation of the wine.  Palate is shorter,  nuttier,  and slightly older and softer than the 1982,  but nonetheless still clearly suggests a good bottle would be pretty good – which is not bad for a non-vintage wine at 30 years since purchase,  since 'everybody' knows non-vintage champagne is not for cellaring.  It is clearly richer than the 1982 Ayala,  but differs in the oak component being tastable.  The dosage seems greater than the 1982 vintage Bollinger,  say 9 – 10 g/L,  contra the info available.  A good bottle would score more.  Two days later the TCA had breathed off completely,  confirming the low concentration.  GK 05/16