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 I had originally made an appointment with Diebolt for Thursday afternoon with the sole purpose of bringing brooklynguy to the estate, and as I was now suddenly all by myself, I was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.