"A vintage for winemakers" was the description of Champagne's 2003 vintage by Bertrand Verduzier, house ambassador for Champagne Henriot.
Speaking at the UK launch of the Henriot 2003 vintage, Verduzier defended the decision to release a vintage in a year when most houses held back. Of the major Champagne houses, Moët & Chandon and Bollinger are so far the only others to release 2003 as a vintage.
“The philosophy of Henriot with vintages is to show what the vintage is typically about, rather than the style of Henriot,” observed Verduzier, adding: “The category of vintage has shrunk in Champagne during the last 10 years, so we make vintage for fun.”
Such was the nature of this notoriously hot vintage that Verduzier noted: “In 2003 the Chardonnay literally boiled on the vine so you didn’t have many choices.” He explained that Henriot balanced the lack of acidity by using Chardonnay from grand cru sites on the Côte des Blancs.
Even so, at 4,000kg per hectare, the Henriot Chardonnay yield was three times below its average from the last 10 years, while total production in 2003 was 10 times below average.
It is partly this limited quantity of the 2003 which means that the vintage will only be launched in selected markets, and not France. The last Henriot vintage to be released in the UK was the 1998 (gold medal and trophy winner in the major wine competitions), five years ago, which was part of the reason for releasing the 2003 in this market first of all.
“It’s an unusual wine, but it’s an unusual vintage,” noted Verduzier, explaining: “It’s nice to do something very specialist for smaller markets like the UK.”
Gabriel Savage, The drinks business
Here are my notes from the tasting launch at Les Deux Salons:
"Mid gold, fine mousse. On the nose notes of apples and a little citrus. The palate is well structured, with classic Henriot form; obviously less acidity than usual but not unbalanced. A great match for the comte cheese we were offered alongside."