Wines of the Week: Veuve Clicquot and Tedeschi

Veuve Clicquot 1990 Champagne La Grande Dame            95
Tedeschi 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella Marne 180            94
Scored by Ian D’Agata

Veuve Clicquot 1990 Champagne La Grande Dame            95

Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron, this Champagne house gained fame and fortune thanks to his daughter-in-law, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, whom his son François married in 1798. By all accounts, Barbe-Nicole was an extraordinary lady: a woman, like Coco Chanel and Marie Curie, far ahead of her time. Widowed in 1805, she took over the reins of the company at only 27 years of age, something which was essentially unheard of at the time, a world where women were not supposed, even allowed, to play a similar role. And yet she turned her estate into one of the world’s best Champagne companies. La Grande Dame is Veuve Clicquot’s prestige cuvée: created in 1962 and first launched on world markets in 1972, it was quite rightly named after her, “the great lady” herself. The Veuve Clicquot 1990 Champagne La Grande Dame is one of the best Veuve Clicquot Champagnes ever made, a 61%/39% Pinot Noir blend (completely different from the roughly 92%Pinot Noir and 8% Chardonnay blend of recent years) that is not just rich and complex, but also, at the ripe old age of thirty-one years, lively and fresh. The grapes were sourced from the eight historical grand crus of the Maison (but that too has since changed, with at times as few as only six grand crus used in recent vintages): the Pinot Noir from Aÿ (in the Grande Vallée de la Marne), Verzenay, Verzy, Ambonnay and Bouzy (in the Montagne de Reims), and the Chardonnay from Avize, Oger and Mesnil-sur-Oger (in the Côte des Blancs). The 1990 vintage will be remembered as one of the greatest all-time vintages in Champagne, characterized by a then record of 2100 Growth Degree Days (or GDD), never recorded in the thirty years prior (not to mention also the most temperate winter since 1966). Two hail episodes on April 5 and April 19 helped reduce yields; and cool weather during flowering (which took place in the first two weeks of June) further reduced yields, making for more concentration and density, the hallmark of the greatest 1990 Champagnes. In two short words? A beauty. Drinking window: now-2035.

Tedeschi 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella Marne 180            94

You won’t find a nicer family in all Italian wine than (in alphabetic order) Antonietta, Lorenzo, Riccardo and Sabrina Tedeschi, four people who should have a monument made to them given how well they carry the name of Amarone and Valpolicella around Italy and the world, a denomination that needs all the help it can get (a real shame, given the beauty of the region and the undeniable potential of its wines, why so many sorry wines are allowed to carry the name of Valpolicella and Amarone on the label I will never understand. Or actually, I do: but that’s a story for another time). Fortunately for everyone, then along comes a wine like the Tedeschi’s 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella Marne 180, which is just about the best possible ambassador for the region and the wine (the wine’s name is a reference to marly soil, or marne in Italian, and the southeast through southwest exposure, or in other words, 180 degrees), because it’s not just delicious, but clock in at a very affordable price, compared to iconic wines from Quintarelli and Dal Forno. Truly a thing of beauty, this gorgeous bright dark red beauty offers complex, inviting aromas of red and black fruit, sweet spices, a bright violet top note, plus hints of raisins, aromatic herbs and quinine. And it’s even better in the mouth, where a satiny mouthfeel lingers long on the sultry, ripely fruity and sweetly herbal aftertaste that showcases truly uncommon refinement. A slight mineral nuance on the long back end and juicy, harmonious acidity just add to this wine’s infinite charms. Made from air-dried grapes (reportedly for roughly four months, but tastes like it was less) picked in the vineyards of Mezzane and Tregnago, and aged three years in large Slavonian oak barrels. A smashing Amarone that won’t make you feel like you need to pour it into a thimble or a (very small) liqueur glass, never mind a wine goblet. Bravissimi! Drinking window: 2024-2036.

Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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  • Great ‘Wines of the Week’ this week. And from my albeit limited engagement with the Tedeschi family, will have to wholeheartedly agree as to their personal niceness and quality production (alas, those two traits don’t often align). Am a big believer in Tedeschi as a quality Amarone producer and will now have to hunt down the Marne 180 (not always so easy here in Canada but where there is a will, there is a way).

    • I totally agree, the Tedeschi family is both super nice and talented. But I must admit that this latest Amarone really blew me away, as well as the friends I shared it with at dinner. Silky and smooth, not at all too raisiny or over the top, it is a remarkably suave and refined Amarone… quite an eye opener for all those wine lovers who find very powerful, rich and at times high in alcohol and residual sugar Amarone types a bit too much. This Tedeschi Marne 180 from the 2016 vintage is an absolute beauty.

Ian D'Agata