If Champagne were a basketball team (wow we’ve been talking about basketball a lot lately haven’t we???) the 2002 vintage would be a championship banner hoisted into the rafters above the vast rows of Cordon de Royat trained vines of Pinot Noir taking its place alongside such legendary vintages as 1988, 1989, 1990 (threepeat!!!), and 1995 (your humble author’s favorite Champagne vintage). Yes, there was truly something special about the 02 vintage; Ideal weather conditions that included a cold winter, mild spring, and warm but not too hot summer which all combined to create fruit that when put in the hands of the greatest sparkling wine makers ever to convert the vitis vinifera into the magical bubbles that we all know and love, produced a vintage that combines the opulence of Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa with the elegance of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Without question the 02 vintage is the most legendary of our still quite young century when it comes to champagne. In a vintage that produced a staggering number of over achievers it’s easy to miss one here and there, especially one that comes in a tiny piccolo. Such is the case with the latest offering from our friends at Pommery (you remember them…don’t you??? of course you do) a vintage offering of for their line of too cool for words small bottles known simply as POP (see??? NOW you remember them). Packaged in a gold plated bottle reminiscent of the Ace of Spades prestige cuvée by Armand de Brignac this latest addition to the POP series is clearly the coolest in a line that already defines cool.
The first thing that you’ll notice about the 02 POP is it’s beautiful star brightness that makes this wine look something like a tiny shimmering sea of liquid gold in lead crystal. The nose and palate compound the beauty of the experience, as this gorgeous offering bursts with a profile that is not dissimilar to, ironically enough, perhaps the finest non vintage Champagne ever to grace the lips of any creature ever to take a breath of life on this planet; Krug. The 02 POP stops just slightly short of Krug’s legendary complexity, but offers up its own interpretation of a similar experience, like a remix of your favorite song; vinous notes of dried citrus peel, brioche, hazelnut, vanilla, honey, coffee, breadfruit, potpourri, crème brûlée, and star anise combine with a supple texture and fine lacey bubbles to create an experience that can only be described as Krug with training wheels (and that is meant as a compliment of the highest order). The long elegant finish gently brings you back from the rapture that was surely induced by the golden bubbles that just cascaded over your palate and momentarily uplifted your inner self to a higher strata of being.
The pure genius behind the POP line is that it is tailor made for celebration, whether you’re celebrating with a bunch of friends who each have their own super fashionable bottle, or celebrating nothing more than your own awesomeness with your favorite book on a lovely afternoon (rain, rain, go away!!!), POP just always seems to be appropriate.
Easily the greatest vintage offering in its format (perhaps because it is the ONLY vintage offering in its format), the 02 POP is a wine definitely worth experiencing over and over again, unfortunately it might be slightly difficult to do that as Pommery has released a scant 2,000 of these beautiful little bottles worldwide, and generally when you do find them they sell for anywhere between $17 and $20 a piece. Lucky for the budget conscious wine lover, there’s this wine store in San Francisco that goes by the name of K&L Wine Merchants (maybe you’ve heard of them???) and they have a bunch of these marvelous golden celebrations of the greatest vintage of the past decade (up by the counter where you pay). Perhaps the only thing better than the wine inside the bottle is the price tag on the outside of the bottle, because right now, you can experience this fantastic wine for the staggeringly low price of $10 per bottle (that’s cheaper than the non vintage POPs at most other stores!!!). So do yourself a favor and pick up as many bottles of 02 POP that you can carry, because decades from now, when the Champagne experts speak of the legendary 02 vintage, you’ll want to be able to say that you experienced perhaps one of its greatest expressions, and certainly the finest 02 ever to come out of a tiny bottle…cheers!!!