A Love Wine Guide to Vintage Champagne
While most Champagne has the letters NV for non-Vintage, if your bottle has a year on it prepare for something very special. Vintage Champagne is growing in popularity thanks to its rich notes and variety of flavours. Perfect for a special celebration, or a little treat, here’s how to make the most of every bottle.
Vintage vs Non-Vintage
Champagne houses only declare vintages in years with the best harvests, creating blends which offer a different taste experience to their non-vintage bottles. Unlike non-vintage (NV) champagnes, vintage fizz can only be made from grapes from that year. It also has to be aged for at least three years after the second fermentation, unlike the standard 15 months for NV. Brands like Dom Pérignon (owned by Möet) or Salon (Ruinart), only exist as vintages.
Buying Vintage Champagne
Vintage champagne is more expensive because it costs the houses more to make, and supply is of course, more limited. You can pick up vintage champagnes from larger brands from under £50 a bottle, while more exclusive brands retail for up to £300 a bottle. One good area to watch is champagne from independent growers’ clubs. This is high quality champagne chosen by a consortium of wine-growers. Champagne Vazart Special Club 2006, £44.95, only uses chardonnay grapes to create a cuvee with brioche and honeysuckle notes. Produced in a traditional way, with oak corks held in place by clips, this vintage has been matured for at least six years.
How to drink Vintage Champagne
You get more flavour from the grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) if you serve the wine at 12-14°C rather than the typical 6-8°C for NV. Allow bottles to breathe for up to 30 minutes first to release maximum aromas. The right glasses help the experience too. Vintage champagne flutes have rounded sides to concentrate the bubbles, unlike standard champagne flutes where straight sides send the bubbles out too quickly.
What to drink
The quality of the harvest varies across the Champagne region each year, and depending on the weather, some grape varieties perform better than others. 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006 are generally considered excellent vintages. Champagne Duval Leroy Femme Vintage 2000, £95.00, is made from grapes grown on select vineyard plots owned by the House of Duval-Leroy. Made mostly from chardonnay grapes, with a touch of pinot noir, this deep golden champagne has mature wood notes, enhanced by still lively notes of lemon and mandarin.
- Will Berresford