Friday, December 5, 2008

Wine of the Week: Diebolt-Vallois Fleur de Passion Brut Blanc de Blancs 1999

Upon arriving home from Burgundy yesterday, I stopped by at Diebolt-Vallois to say hello. I had originally made an appointment with Diebolt for Thursday afternoon with the sole purpose of bringing brooklynguy to the estate, and as I was now suddenly all by myself, I was on the verge of canceling. But I quickly came to my senses—it’s Diebolt, after all. What could I possibly have been thinking?

The last time I saw Jacques Diebolt, at dinner several weeks ago, he had mentioned that the 2008s in barrel were starting to show unusually well for such a young, high-acid vintage. It’s still a bit early to taste vin clair—January or February would be more ideal—but that wasn’t going to stop me from allowing him to take me on a tour of the different Cramant parcels that will eventually make up the 2008 Fleur de Passion. The wines are indeed stunning, with a crystalline purity and clarity of expression that is sure to promise amazing things for the future. Afterwards, he and his daughter Isabelle asked me what I would like to taste, and attempting to be polite, I feebly protested (not very convincingly, I admit). In the end, I requested the 1999 Fleur de Passion.

I’ve long been wrestling with the issue of which vintage of Fleur de Passion is the most ready to drink at the moment. My first inclination, which I believe is a very reasonable one, is to say that none of them are—he only began making it in the 1995 vintage, after all, and having tasted that wine twice recently, I can confirm that even that vintage is far from maturity. I can also vouch that the 1996 is as painful as it sounds at the moment, and the 1998 is not far behind, coming from a vintage that is also highly structured. Both the 1997 and 2000 have always been much more backwards than their overall vintage characters might indicate, which is curious, and of course the 2002 is a mere adolescent. So by this quick and dirty process of deduction, the only possibility is 1999.

Isabelle was a bit skeptical, as last week in Stockholm she had opened the 1999 for a Swedish journalist who found it completely backwards and unyielding. But Jacques, being Jacques, insisted that it would be fine. He turned out to be right—the wine was absolutely gorgeous, showing a creamy, marzipan-like richness on the nose and feeling open and generous on the palate. It’s by no means mature, but it’s surprisingly accessible, combining a tense freshness of fruit with a mocha and praline complexity. It has an unusually taut character for the vintage, thanks in part to its absence of malolactic, and while the fruit feels rich and ripe, it remains impeccably focused and controlled. It’s delicious to drink now, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t also be so in ten years, or even twenty. I only hope that I will have the chance to verify that.

I would have happily kept drinking the rest of the bottle, but Jacques had other ideas: we ended up comparing the Fleur with the standard 1999 millésime (released only in the Swedish market, unfortunately), and then that made him think about how the 1996 millésime might contrast with it, then we had to also open the 1997 just to be decadent. Of course, after tasting all of these, he pointed out that they would all be showing better the next day, so he insisted that I take them all home, which is why I ended up sitting at my kitchen table last night, Riedel Sommelier glass in hand, staring at a veritable assault of Diebolt-Vallois. But it goes without saying that I am up to the challenge.

8 comments:

werner.j said...

I agree that most of the times, an opened bottle
gets a better taste next day. Most people think of this as shameful or a wasted bottle. With a good quality stopper, only a mild number of bubbles might get lost, but the taste on the contrary doesn't.

Are the Fleur de Passion wines that age slowly?
I thought 2002 for BDB was a year with already
a well developed taste? Far from mature yet, but approachable?

Frank H Herfjord said...

I served Fleur de Passion 02 in a 2002 comparative blind tasting a few weeks ago. Most thought it was the ringer cremant du jura, and there was much disappointment and shock upon seeing the label. But when I tasted the leftover 3-4 cl a day later, it had completely opened up and showed lots of depth, complexity and (perhaps most surprisingly) concentration. I'll be sure to decant my next bottle of D-V!

Peter Liem said...

Many 2002s are shutting down right now, and going through an unusually awkward phase. The 2002 Fleur de Passion was showing beautifully up until about a year ago, when it began to close up and get downright sulky. Today, I wouldn't even bother to open a bottle -- it's undoubtedly a great wine, but it's not showing well at all, and needs another decade in the cellar at least.

werner.j said...

I have heard the same thing about the 1988 Salon, that now, is going trough a 'bad' phase. Indeed, upon drinking it a couple of months ago, I was very disappointed because of a rather dull taste. I was not aware of phases in which wine goes from good to bad and back.

Marshall Manning said...

L & E had a Champagne tasting including the '02 Fleur de Passion on Friday night. I was a bit disappointed by the Fleur, as it seemed to have an oxidative, burnt sugar quality that made the wine seem a bit more mature than it should be. The texture and intensity were there for sure, but the fruit seemed to be hidden and the wine came across as a bit oxidized to me, which seemed odd. That night (and with the remants of the bottles the next day) I preferred the Henri Billiot 2002 Brut.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter
How was the 1997 tasting?
Cheers, Ian

Anonymous said...

I am happy to have 12 bottles of the 99 FdP. I agree that it is a wonderful wine today with a lot of potential for further ageing. I have quite a lot of 1996 from Diebolt, Guy Charlemagne Mesnillesime, Peters Cuvee Speciale, Larmandier-Bernier Special Club etc. My problem is with the corks, why in the name of higher power do Champagne producers use corks that destroys a wine in 15 years. Many of the above mentioned bottles is tasting Madeira because the corks already let air into the bottles. 50 years ago Champagne corks was twice as long as today, and made of only real cork.

Ted Demop said...

I've only tried my first Diebolt-Vallois wines a few weeks ago, and although the basic Traditional Brut, despite being well made, doesn't excite me that much. That said, the others I've tried certainly do, and a Prestige last night was fantastic! Have not yet tried the Fleur de Passion, but I do have a vintage Bdb I'll be exploring later this week.