At Diebolt-Vallois this weekend, I chatted with Jacques Diebolt while watching him fill barrels of 2008 Fleur de Passion. Diebolt could hardly hide his excitement about the 2008 vintage: “As soon as we brought the grapes in and pressed this juice,” he said, “I knew that this vintage would be something grand.” The grapes for the Fleur de Passion all came in at over 11 degrees of potential alcohol, with an average acidity of around 8.3 grams per liter. The rest of the estate’s harvest wasn’t too far off from those numbers, with an average maturity of over ten degrees, as well as healthily vibrant acidity thanks to these cool, crisp nights.
Out in the vineyards, most of the grapes have already been picked, but there was a beautiful plot of relatively old vines in Cramant Goutte d’Or that had some remarkable chardonnay grapes still hanging, destined for the Cuvée Prestige. The above photo might owe a little to the dramatic light of the late afternoon, with this ridiculously gorgeous weather that we have for the Champagne harvest, but those grapes really do look that golden, and they taste deliciously sweet—I’m sure they’re over 11 degrees, yet they still retain a firm bite of acidity, and even as grapes they still show the chalky undertone typical of Cramant.
The only problem with this year, really, is the quantity. The estate will average only about 10,000 kilograms per hectare, which is low for Champagne, and a lower yield than that of other people I’ve talked to. Yet due to the quality of the vintage, Diebolt says, “We will try to make the maximum amount of vintage wine this year.” He told me that Patrice Noyelle, director of Pol Roger, compared 2008 to “a compromise between 1995 and 1996,” which Diebolt believes is plausible. “It’s a little like 1988,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a great vintage.”