Lamp shade at The Inn at Little Washington

Stellar Champagne from An Off Vintage

by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
March 31, 2008

The Modern
9 W 53rd St
(5th & 6th Aves)
New York, NY 10019

1983 isn’t exactly a champagne vintage I’d rave about, yet I recently rejoiced in a bottle from this off vintage from a solid house. The Alfred Gratien was obviously the work of a great winemaker, namely Jean-Pierrre Jaeger, working with outstanding grapes.

The 1983 Alfred Gratien was fresh as spring. I admired its vibrance and piercing acidity which was balanced but still sang a clear solo. The ageing came through in the layers of roasted nuts and truffle, but not in a dull sense at all. The house of Gratien ages all its wines in 228-liter oak casks for seven months, contributing to the wine’s complexity. It drank like an older white Burgundy, especially the last drop in the glass that had lost some fizz. Older champagne is a style often passed over as most people are unsure of how long a champagne can keep. It’s also harder to come by and more expensive, but the next time you have the occasion to try a champagne from an older vintage, don’t pass it up.

This wine is a blend of 61% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, and and 6% Pinot Meunier. The high percentage of Chard explains the beautiful acidity.

At $525, this isn’t a wine for every day, but for a special meal pairing, I wouldn’t think twice.

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