Cubans

Published on November 2nd, 2018 | by Ken Gargett

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Louis Roederer Cristal 2008/Partagas D4 (Vintage Collection – 2004) (SEU NOV04)

Doing what I do – call it a job or not (and for anyone at the ATO, it most certainly is) – one gets to see a wide range of wines. Some good, some less so and some occasionally spectacular. Sadly, not that many of the latter.

I had been keen to look at the latest release of Louis Roederer Cristal, the 2008, for ages (it has only just been released here but the pre-release hype for it has been more than I have ever seen for a champagne, at least since the 1996 Krug), but was under no illusion that given the demand, a sample was unlikely – I should add that the Roederer people are usually very good with samples.

The local LR bloke is an old mate and he had a novel solution. He’d front up on the balcony with a bottle and we could have a look together (under cross-examination, he confessed that he’d already seen it five or six times, but he was not going to miss any opportunity). Not traditional and normally one looks at these things on the bench, blind if possible, and certainly not so much in a convivial setting. But, needs must.

We had a good old yack, and a good look at this fabulous fizz, but he had to shuffle off and left me with nearly a half bottle of this extraordinary champers. And it really is spectacular. Young, certainly, but glorious now and destined to be one of the great legends of champagne. At around A$400 a bottle, one expects something special and this more than delivers.

For those interested in such things (and who isn’t?), 2008 is a special vintage in Champagne. This is from something I have done for elsewhere, “a dry, cool summer, the type the Champenois categorise as “continental”. The wines are considered ‘dense, powerful and very concentrated’. Those cool summer temperatures contributed to the intensity of the wines and what they term, a ‘saline freshness’. It is the best vintage since 2002 and possibly as far back as classics such as 1996, 1990 and 1988 (chef de cave, Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, notes the comparison of the 2008 Cristal to those from 1996 and 1988). The next in line for great vintages of champagnes will be the 2012s. And that will be the next Cristal.”

For the first time in its history, Louis Roederer swapped the order of release from the usual chronological progression. 2009, a warmer and more forward year, was released before the 2008, which has really benefited from the extra ageing. There will be no 2010 or 2011 Cristal. After 2012, look for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. There will be no 2017. Although no decision as yet, 2018 is considered such a brilliant year that there will undoubtedly be a release.

Production is around 400,000 bottles, which may seem like a lot, but when one considers that the 2008 will be eked out over possibly three years for the entire world, demand will far exceed supply.

The 2008 is a wine of supreme elegance and ethereal grace. Notes of cumquat and nectarine, spices, glacéd lemon and already showing wonderful complexity. Flavours explode on the palate, with a minerally undertow and some bracing oyster shell acidity, but they always remain in balance and refined. It is a complete champagne, beautifully structured with great length and certain to age magnificently.

So what cigar to match with it?

I have mentioned before that a number of years ago, I had a meeting with Richard Geoffroy, the magician behind Dom Perignon, at the Abbey at Hautvilliers, which was a bit exciting. Richard, who sadly will retire at the end of the year, loves his subject and chats can go way over schedule. This one certainly did. At one stage, we got on to the 1964 (one of the all-time great champagnes) and Richard immediately called for a bottle from the Abbey cellars (told you it was a bit exciting). It more than deserves its reputation but later, as we left the hallowed grounds, I asked Richard what he would serve with it (for me, I’d have had it solo, nothing to interfere).

His reply stunned me – there had been no mention of cigars at all by this stage.

“A Partagas D4”.

Turns out that Richard is a big cigar fan and has actually done extensive testing to work out which cigar goes best with each vintage of Dom (yes, that is also a job, but what a job!).

So I thought I’d pull out one of the very last D4s from a box from the Vintage Collection series, specifically from 2004. The cigar itself was a cracker. Nuts, forest notes, honey. Richness supreme. Raisin toast. Very smooth and balanced. Complex. Even a hint of lovely caramel notes. This one was more powerful and fuller bodied than most from this box. For a score, 94.

As a match, very good but not perfect. I do think fizz works so much better with cigars than say reds, in general, and this was fine. There was enough intensity in the champagne to handle the cigar but the extra concentration that this D4 had, and which was not really expected, meant they perhaps did not meld perfectly. But individually, each was so good that it was impossible not to enjoy them. And while they may not have lifted the other, they certainly did not detract from each other.

And the cherry on top? Enjoyed them while re-watching the Lord of the Rings movies. Great movie, fabulous cigar and brilliant champers. Does it get better?

KBG


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