Champagne has a well-established reputation as a wine that is drunk and enjoyed young. Yet the champagne houses are marketing vintage champagnes that are older and older, 5 years is a minimum, while for prestige vintages we talk about ten years at least.
A choice in no way dictated by obligations, since the champagne appellation simply requires a minimum aging of 36 months for a vintage cuvée against 15 months for a champagne without a year.
Charles Heidsieck's 1995 vintage
Thus at Charles Heidsieck it is the 1995 vintage of Blanc des Millénaires which is still sold, at Pol Roger the excellent vintage Sir Winston Churchill has just passed to the 2000 vintage, while at Dom Pérignon we taste the 2003 vintage.
The aging "on slats" of champagne is an essential moment in the development of a cuvée. During this period, which precedes disgorgement, the yeasts which allowed the second fermentation of the champagne continue their work and participate in the complexification of the aromas. It is these yeasts that transform the sugar naturally present in champagne into carbon dioxide and therefore change the precious beverage from still wine to sparkling wine.
Champagne has two ways of aging
Unlike still wines, champagne undergoes two types of aging, the first therefore taking place in the bottle, when the champagne rests on the fermentation yeasts, before disgorging. While the second stage of aging begins after disgorging, once the champagne has been dosed. Two cuvées from the same vintage but disgorged on different dates will offer significantly different results. If each taster will have his preference for one or the other type of aging, and if it is impossible to establish absolute truths about the aging of the wine, it can however be noted that a champagne aged on slats for a long time will have a rich aromatic range and a relatively recent disgorgement allows to obtain a wine of greater freshness. But we must not neglect the shock felt by the wine during disgorging and the time necessary for the integration of this dosage. While a champagne that has been disgorged for a long time will present more coated and mature aromas.
Long aging of champagne
So yes, champagne is a wine to keep, a wine that like all wines from great terroirs gains in purity and complexity over the years. If young champagnes are easy to understand, immediately delighting the taste buds with their fruity and lively aromas, with old champagnes it is a plunge into a universe of complexity that the taster begins. And if this taste adventure is not without risk, with sometimes a few bottles that evolve differently or even get lost along the way due to a cork or bad luck, the discovery of this new continent of champagne is well worth this risk and patience.
Bollinger and Dom Pérignon, the art of aging well
Two of the most famous Champagne houses offer a range of old champagnes. Dom Perignon and Bollinger through their Oenothèque and R.D. range invite you to a memorable dive in time.
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