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September 5, 2023

Gosset 12 Ans de Cave à Minima Rosé: The wine decides

The timetable for this Compte d’Age release may have been unpredictable. But the high quality is far from being a surprise.

By Simon Field MW

Gosset’s long-standing cellar master Jean-Pierre Mareigner initiated the Compte d’Age concept 30 or so years ago, and Gosset has now launched the third wine in this somewhat unpredictable series.

“No need to rush things,” jokes the current chef de cave, Odilon de Varine. Gosset, after all, was founded in 1584, in the age of Ivan the Terrible. The Compte d’Age series is intended to embellish the tapestry of the more conventionally chronological releases, principally the Grand Réserve Non-Vintage, the Vintage itself, and the upmarket Celebris label, also Vintage. A flurry of activity over the past couple of years has seen the release of the 2015 Grand Millésime, together with 2008 Celebris (Brut and Rosé) and a 2012 Blanc de Blancs. Excellent all.

And now the very limited 12 Ans de Cave a Minima, its rather weighty nomenclature at least bearing the virtue of being informative. This third Minima follows two Brut wines, the 15 Ans (base year 1998), released in 2016, and another 12 Ans (base year 2006) released in 2020. Unpredictable in that sense, then, and there are no hints as to when the fourth release may appear. “We like the random nature of this series,” says Odilon. “There is no sequence of releases; there are several similar wines maturing in the cellar that may or may not be selected in the future. Those wines not chosen will be remise en cercle—used as the reserve wines for future cuvées. It is 100 percent about quality and timing of release. The wine decides.” Enfin, it makes perfect sense—and all the more so since there are only 7,000 bottles to sell.

It is best, therefore, not to ask why wines based on 1998, 2006, and now 2009 have made the cut—not the most prestigious of vintages. Indeed, 2006 and 2009 were both warm years, and maybe, in theory, lacking the acidic structure for long-term development. Odilon is unmoved by such an argument; it’s all about the aging on lees, all about the alchemical transformation over time as the wines mature. “There is not much sunshine in our chalk cellars,” he jokes.

Very small amounts of reserve wine (less than 10 percent) have been added, all already multi-Vintage blends. Everything, it seems, is posited with the gustatory profile to the fore: “The reserve wines at Gosset,” explains Odilon, “are not stored by variety, by cru, or by year, but by role and function, by the ‘touch’ that they can offer to the blend. Our prime purpose is to express the radiant character of the chalk.”

The 2009-based Rosé makes the cut thus and has been made by the assemblage method, including a modest 8 percent of Pinot Noir sourced from Cumières. Eight crus have been called upon in total, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Louvois, and Verzy making up the balance of the Pinot Noir, with the 35 percent of Chardonnay sourced in the east-facing villages of Avize, Vertus, and Trépail, the first two in the Côte des Blancs.

The wine was disgorged in November 2022, 12 years after bottling, and was allowed six months of post-disgorgement aging before release. It has a modest dosage of 4.5g/l. Only first pressings (the cuvée) were used, and the wine was aged in 60 vats of differing size, with no oak and no malolactic fermentation. “We want to bring out the natural tannins that are derived from the chalk,” says Odilon, repeating his mantra, “Wine first, bubbles later,” and advocating the use of a carafe. The wine certainly has a vinous character, but the bubbles are definitely not forsaken.

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The 12 Ans de Cave a Minima joins the Celebris, the Petite Doucuer, and the Grande Rosé as the fourth pink wine in the range. All the wines are reassuringly different, this one marked by a savory character that in no way undermines its latent freshness. Odilon says, “Time and maturation are the most important things in Champagne […]. We are all time-poor, but Champagne needs time; with time it gains depth and richness.” And, he might have added, a gourmand character. His pairing ideas are mouthwatering: Peking duck or shrimp risotto; then goat cheese or an old Comté.

Despite the random sequence of releases, Gosset argues that, conceptually, the Compte d’Age series is just as easy to fathom as, say, récemment dégorgé or mis-en-cave. Being able to put a number on the label clearly signals the difference from other Non-Vintage cuvées while at the same time celebrating the essence of blending—for some, the sine qua non of Champagne. The wine decides, it is true, but Gosset has made the right decision here.

Tasting

Gosset 12 Ans de Cave a Minima Rosé
(65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, of which 8% vinified as red; dosage 4.5g/l; disgorged November 2022)

Coppery rose, with gold highlights and a gentle mousse. The aromatics are complex and almost challenging: dried fig, hawthorn, kirsch, and cherry, and a feel of pâtisserie Viennoise. The food-matching potential is highlighted on the palate; beautifully textured, deft, and with a silky purity that parries with the savory depth. Notes of blood orange, frangipane, and white pepper join the descriptors, their vinous potential refusing to gainsay a come-hither accessibility. | 95

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