Champagne tasting organized by the Institute of Masters of Wine is my most favorite tasting event in San Francisco. This is held annually and this year marked the 14th anniversary.
This year, in addition to the walk-around tasting, there were two seated tasting of prestigious cuvees, that were led by Charles Curtis MW and Tim Mason MW.
I attended both sessions. Selection of prestigious Champagne was fantastic, as was the previous years. It is a great and rare opportunity to taste the prestigious cuvees from representative producers side by side.
This year, the seated tasting focused on the 2008 vintage, while some of the flights included other vintages. (The last year's focus was 2006 vintage.)
The vintage 2008 in Champagne is considered as a great one, that produced one of the best and legendary Champagne such as Cristal 2008 (literally perfect one with 100 scores from several major critics) that was released earlier this year.
In 2008, spring was wet with rainfalls followed by dry and cold summer (30% less rainfalls). The vines grew slowly and the growing cycle was long. The producers needed to wait and harvest late if they would like phenolic ripeness. The resulting grapes (of producers who were patient to wait) were of great quality with concentration of fruit and high acidity.
At the walk-around tasting, almost 100 items were prepared and grouped into a category such as Brut Nature, Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Rose, and demi-sec, etc.
Cristal 2008: Best of the best and has everything that I would expect in the finest Champagne --- pure, delicate, finesse, concentration, precise, depth & caressing texture. I have tasted this masterpiece multiple times at Louis Roederer in Reims. The bottle at this tasting was as great as those tasted in Reims. I am amazed by the 2008 Cristal which was open and generous from the beginning, while it has a great potential for long aging.
Krug 2004 gets better and better every time I tasted since its launch. Expressive, serious and integration.
Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2006: I always find balance and finesse in this wine. Reductive with some flintiness at the beginning. Body and weight from the mid-palate.
Bollinger La Grande Année 2005: red fruits, creamy, toasty, powerful yet elegant. Tasted great now but would need more time to show its best.