Please forgive the vague and generally inexperienced nature of this question, still plenty to learn about wine.
I’m hoping folks could help me more generally understand the aging curve of vintage Champagne. Are there general changes one expects to see? General time periods where this is thought to happen? Does vintage champagne shut down? I assume (like with all other wine regions) there will be some massive discrepancy as to when these wines are mature, or over the hill, but some thoughts would help.
Take a couple recent(ish) releases that float my boat, namely 2002 Pierre Peters Chétillons or 2002 Dom Perignon, what would you expect to happen to these wines over the coming years? Is asking for a generalization too stupid for words, or can the more experienced help with some idea of what to expect. Am I looking at ten years to prime drinking window, 20, 5? I realize it’s all conjecture until we see what happens to the juice in bottle, but more experienced folks must have some ideas?
There are plenty of Champagnes that will offer mature flavors before age 20, but the two you mentioned are both long agers. The '96 Peters for example is jawdroppingly impressive now but still tastes very youthful. Just depends on what you’re looking for. If you have enough, it’d certainly be worth starting to drink the '02 in 5 or 6 years and then stretching out the rest for the longer term.
Keith is certainly right but I would bet that every time you drink a bottle of the 2 particular champagnes you mentioned from 20-25 years onwards you will look back at the earlier bottles you opened as a waste.
Thanks for that link. I think I actually read that once several years ago, but it clearly went in one ear and out the other…
Sit on it for twenty years… ok. I guess I’m glad I started buying wine in my thirties… But it does make me wonder why the other folks are buying these bottles. Time to friend the old-timers in town!
By this logic (namely buy then don’t touch for 20 years) does this mean the 1990 champagnes are still not in a good drinking window? Still infanticide on the better bottles?
I very much like 20+ year-old Champagne, too; in my opinion, even, the 1990 Krug won’t be ready to drink for another few years.
However, I think some structured or rich Champagnes, even from very good vintages, can be in their primes by age 15. Recent bottles of 1996 Bollinger, Chartogne-Taillet “Fiacre,” Gosset, Pierre Peters, and Pol Roger were mature and excellent. On the other hand, 1996 Krug, Salon, and Taittinger Comtes should be locked away.
Regarding 2002s, I’ve tasted Paul Bara, Bollinger Rose, Chartogne-Taillet “Fiacre,” Dom Perignon, Goutorbe, Lassalle “Cuvee Angeline,” Camille Saves, and Vilmart “Grand Cellier.” The Lassalle was excellent; the Bollinger Rose and Vilmart were good but, I think, have much better days in front of them; drinking all of the others was infanticide.
A very good question without a simple answer - very vintage/cuvee specific. For example, I would argue that '79 Salon at 30+ still hasn’t fully blossomed yet on average (there is a bit of bottle variation). On the other hand, '95 Taittinger CdC was a truly spectacular thing to behold at a dozen years old. Vintages with a profound acidic spine ('88 and '96 for example) will probably not hit optimal stride for 25-30 years (and remain there for decades) while vintages like '90 have been all over the map, with some of the best still babies and others already over the hill.
On average, the best cuvees from very good/great vintages start to hit the zone at age 20-25 but exceptions abound. In any event, I think it’s fascinating and seldom disappointing to pop the great cuvees through the whole evolution.
Both the ageing potential and the aging curve is also influenced by the time the wine has spent on the lees. A 30 year old recent release can taste a lot younger than a 20 year old original release for instance. Because the lees aging happens in a reductive environment while cork aging happens in an oxidative one.
In general, I would say champagne goes through about four stages of aging. The first ten years or so is the primary fruit stage. The next ten is where you’ll see the tertiary aromas start to develop but also the fruit start to recede a little bit.
This is also where you could encounter a “dumb” phase when the fruit is on the decline but the stuffing hasn’t really bloomed yet. Many 99s are like this right now.
20 to 30 years is where the tertiary aromas of dried fruits etc really start to shine and the time frame where I prefer my top wines from good vintages. 1982, 1985 and 1988 is what I would usually prefer for current consumption.
For lesser wines, this is maybe 15 to 25 years, and weaker vintages are already in decline at this point because they don’t have too much interest beyond the initial fruit. Like many 1997s today.
It takes a really good wine and/or vintage to develop gracefully beyond the 30 year mark to next stage of development. This is where the dried fruit character develops further to spicy and ethereal aromas like truffles or dried herbs.
It’s been quite some time since this was discussed. However, as I’m learning from some 2002’s there is a shift in the wine that I’m not enjoying that I would describe as more oxidized than I prefer. That’s not to say I don’t prefer wines with age…but so far the few I’ve had have been 96’s from Krug, Dom, & Taittinger CdC. I’m learning that some TdC’s I prefer in their youth as the 96 Pol Roger SWC was far more to my liking in 2011 than in 2017. So I thought it might be time to talk more about this as I assume others have more experience than I do and there’s a wealth of knowledge here…how old do most of you tend to like your Vintage Champagne?
I’ve had some glorious 20-30 year old champagnes. But I’ve also had quite a few that fall into a more nutty oxidative flavor profile with a limp mousse. While I don’t have the opportunity to drink 20-50 year old champagnes on the reg, based on my somewhat limited experience I have no problem drinking champagne rather young. I’ve had so much pleasure from 10-20 year old bottles that I really don’t have a problem popping a 2006 Comtes or a 2009 Cristal or a 2002 Dom Ruinart. They’re glorious young.