Today marks the long-awaited release of Comte de Champagne 2008, offered at the first tranche allocation price of £535 per case of six under bond. It is now widely accepted that the 2008 vintage is truly magnificent, stylistically classical, resonating back in time while manifesting modernity to achieve the status as the finest modern vintage. It abounds with stunning, fresh acidity, powerful fruit, towering aromatics and complexity. It is made to stand the test of time and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the great vintages of the 20th century such as the 1985, 1952 and even 1928.
It comes as no surprise therefore that the 2008 Comte has been venerated with full force, receiving 98+ points from Antonio Galloni who calls it ‘simply breathtaking…The 2008 Comtes represents the purest essence of the Côtes des Blancs in a great, historic vintage. Readers who can find the 2008 should not hesitate, as it is a truly brilliant epic Champagne that no one who loves the very best in Champagne will want to be without.’ William Kelley of The Wine Advocate follows suit, awarding it 98 points, saying ‘it will be worth a special effort to track down…the finest Comtes de Champagne since the brilliant 2002.’ Richard Juhlin awards it 96 points declaring ‘I can’t remember being more impressed with a newly released Comtes than this time’ and James Suckling rounds things off with a score of 99 points.
The 2008 is therefore the successor to the equally scoring 2002, though a wine it will surely surpass in the fullness of time. The 2002 trades at £950 per case of six, making the release price of £535 today look exceptional. The extraordinary 1996 trades today at £2,100, the 1985 £3,600, though it is worth noting as below prices rise above £900 once stocks dwindle. Like all other marquee champagne releases from the 2008 vintage this will sell out within hours at the first tranche release price. Please do express your interest as soon as possible.
Since their respective releases, the 2008 vintages of Cristal and Bollinger Grand Annee have all seen price appreciation. Bollinger Grand Annee has shifted upwards from its £402 release price to £525, a 30.60% shift. Cristal 2008 has leapt from its original release price of £730 to a current market price of £950, a 30.14% appreciation! Dom Perignon 2008 has started slower increasing 3.23% from £620 to £640. The differential here is production, with Dom Perignon boasting large volume. Comte de Champagne is an order of magnitude less, making only 12,500 to 25,000 cases a vintage, almost identical to Cristal. What makes 08 Champagne particularly exciting is that they have not yet entered the period, prior to and in their respective drinking windows, where we tend to see the largest price appreciation and money is certainly left on the table for these wines at their current market prices.
Comtes de Champagne was the vanguard of Blanc de Blancs ‘prestige cuvees’ putting it on the world map when they first released their 1952 vintage in 1958. The other two truly great examples of this, Salon Le Mensil and Krug Clos du Mensil start at £300 per bottle. This reflects the fact that great Chardonnay vines are rare in Champagne; most major houses prefer to use their best Chardonnay grapes blended with Pinot Noir in their grand cuvees. Comtes de Champagne is produced in the cellars of the former Saint-Nicaise abbey (13th Century) in Reims and receives extraordinary care and profligation, with the strict production made entirely of Chardonnay selected from only the best vines from six Grand Cru plots in the prestigious Cote des Blancs, where the chalkiest soils are found. The wines are then aged for 8-10 years in the Saint-Nicaise chalk pits (Crayeres) before being released to market.
Comtes de Champagne use only Chardonnay, a stylistic choice, which results in a beautifully aromatic and refined nose, with a rich and creamy palate, displaying the elegant and delicate characteristics of Blanc de Blancs at its very best.