Wine testers and obviously wine dealers are not averse to using hyperbole when describing vintages and wines. Vintages in the meantime are being called even before the grapes are harvested as everyone is trying to be the first to call the vintage. With champagne, we have a real advantage as the wines are not released on to the market immediately and nobody has to prove themselves.
2008 was not a nice year in the champagne, during the course of the summer there was little sunshine and temperatures were average. September brought the conditions which proved to be a gamechanger, dry, sunny days with no rain and cold nights. The grapes had a chance to reach maturity slowly over the course of three to four weeks. The fruit was healthy and most interestingly the acidity levels averaged at about 8g/l which is perfect for long ageing.
A number of producrs have said how difficult it was to taste the 2008, the acidity was so intense and overpowering that it was very difficult to detect any fruit, in fact in some cases it took about two years for the first glimpses of fruit to emerge. Most houses were at the time reluctant to say if they were going to release a vintage champagne, as due to the cold summer there was very little fruit to speak of and when they became aware of the potential of the vintage, the wines were treated with extreme respect. Perhaps the biggest advantage of this being from the onset such a closed vintage, was the need to keep the the champagnes on the lees for a long time until they started to open up.
2008 is certainly a vintage that justifies the hype, perhaps even better than the legendary 1998 vintage.
Considering the prices of Grand Cru white Burgundy and their track record for ageing, 2008 Champagne is firstly dirt cheap in comparison and has a mixture of vibrant fruit and effervescent acidity which Burgundy has seemed to have lost due to the changeing climate. These Champagnes can be drunk now but have massive ageing potential.