1998 in Champagne, like, say, 2004 in Spain, is a vintage that has continued to grow in reputation with the passage of time. For some its putative progress has been the reverse of that of vintage1996, so lauded in the early days and now causing a little concern as some of the wines appear to lack inherent balance, some still with searing acidity and yet others oxidising quickly………..not all I hasten to add.
Anyway, 1998 is the vintage for which one takes out and polishes either the cliché helter-skelter or the cliché roller-coaster. Both are equally apt to describe this extraordinary year; a sunny winter, then a very rainy April, then an early summer which alternated between extremes of temperature ( there was even frost late in May) and then a heat wave in August to threaten yields. Rainstorms in early September and sunshine at harvest time complete the picture. Empiricism and patience have been the only way to judge, although the matching high levels of both sugar and acidity from the outset were good omens. Now the wines seem to get better and better. Outstanding examples were made by Billecart Salmon, Mailly and Dom Ruinart.