When it comes to bubbly, not all champagne is created equal. It all depends on the blend.
The art of blending in Champagne is all about what the wine consumer will ultimately taste in the glass rather than what sounds good on a piece of paper.
A good Cellar Master will seek out where the greatest fruit is in any given year and sometimes it is in the most unlikely places.
Some of the most famous champagne brands in the world, such as Dom Pérignon, Salon and Cristal, only exist as vintages.
With differences in style, production and taste, vintage champagne is an experience!
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How to tell if Champagne is Vintage
So if you see a year stamped on your bottle of bubbles, then it's a vintage. The year of the vintage is always displayed on the front label of the Champagne bottle.
What is Vintage Champagne?
Some people are unsure as to what makes a Champagne vintage or non-vintage (NV). What makes a champagne ‘vintage’ is that it is made from the grapes of only one year's harvest. Vintage champagne is known for only being made in the years where the grapes ripen perfectly. This means that vintages from different years all have their own individual character. Vintage doesn't mean that the Champagne is old! It just means that it's made from grapes from one single year. Non-vintage Champagne, on the other hand, is a blend of grapes from harvests from different years. So if you see a year stamped on your bottle of bubbles, then it's a vintage.
The French term for vintage champagne is millésimé - when a year of production is considered to be “exceptional” champagne makers assemble various wines produced that year from different villages. Vintage Champagne, also known as millesime, is created from grapes harvested during a specific year. Not all years are deemed “Vintage”, only certain years with exceptional harvests can be declared as vintage and this status is determined by the individual Champagne Houses.
Once vintage Champagne has been blended, legally it must mature for 3 years before it can be sold to the public. Champagne Houses will commonly age their bottles for longer periods.
Legally vintage champagne must be kept in cellars for at least three years before the sediment may be removed, however, most of the top quality producers leave the champagne to be aged for a few years longer than this.
Treat Vintage Champagne Differently to Enjoy Full Flavour
You will get more flavour from the vintage Champagne if you serve the wine at 12-14°C rather than the typical 6-8°C for NV.
Always allow the vintage to breathe for up to 30 minutes first to release maximum aromas.
Vintage champagne flutes have rounded sides to concentrate the bubbles in the middle of the glass. The shape of a glass affects the flavours and bring out aromas and finish. The bowl of a tulip-shaped champagne glass enhances the taste and allows for the aromas to develop to their fullest.
Was yours a vintage year?
Some of the most memorable (good and bad) in recent years
The worst vintage in living memory- highly unlikely to find any vintage
Generally a warm, dry vintage with a period of showers in both August and September. Both of which were followed by warm dry conditions.
Early reports suggested an excellent vintage with a wonderful balance of sugars and acidity. Some very desirable Champagnes have evolved from this year.
An up and down vintage, bright and warm initially, a moderate & cool pattern in August concerned many producers who were happy with a warming shift in September. Some good vintage Champagnes were produced.
Growers were forced to wait on the warming August and September period but a few good vintage Champagnes were produced
A quality summer produced a clean crop of pleasurable Champagnes and many reserves were replenished.
Varied and mixed results for many due to Spring rains
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