- Stocking up on bubbles before the Christmas and New Year festivities (inoculation really), I descended on Maison Deutz in the (seemingly) sleepy Champagne village of Aÿ. There is a family feeling to the house, with its wonderfully ornate Napoleon III salon and dining room and p.d.g. Fabrice Rosset and his team exude a sense of devotion to duty that results in Champagnes of innate quality. After walking through the 'parc' to the cellars, more interesting than having 'fairies at the bottom of the garden', we strolled back to embark upon a vertical tasting of Cuvée William Deutz, named after one of the joint founders of the company.

The 1999 Cuvée William is all silky hazelnuts and flowers, perfect aperitif Champagne. Now launched, we fell upon the 1998 which is classic, rich, nutty and musky, with a fresh finish of mandarin oranges. I think we are all beginning to reckon with the fact that we may have underrated this vintage as it consistently performs to a high level.   The 1996 is full of class and concentration, intensity and opulence – this was the year that combined acidity with ripeness, cold nights with hot days. The buttery, plump, luscious 1995 and the elegant, toasty, citrus fruits 1990 followed, but then came the magnificent 1988, with its coffee bean nose and glorious fruit and breed on the palate. What is it with these ‘8’ vintages – I think our Chinese friends know something that we don’t!

However, I can also vouch for the stunning 1982, a Champagne that caresses the palate, all petals and clementines, and the knock-out 1979 from magnum which was so floral, fragrant and fresh. Fabrice found a tarragon taste in this and who am I to disagree, especially when he then wheeled out the gorgeous William Deutz Rosé 2000 which was utterly amazing with veal and a potato purée with truffle oil. Yes, Maison Deutz has a gifted cook too… sorry about that.