Too early to open 1996 Champagnes?

Probably impossible to answer–depends on which Chamapgne and at what stage one prefers theirs, but generally is it still too early to open 96s?

Have several–Gosset, Billecart, Pol Roger Churchill, Bollinger R.D.

Has anyone tried any of these lately?

I’ve had '96 Billecart, and it was quite beautiful with some air. I find that Ambonnay fruit is really quite nice right now (in the '96 vintage). I’m sure they can go far longer, but I don’t find them tight like nearly all '02’s (which are obviously much younger, granted)

I think the above is PARTICULARLY true of 1996. Many are drinking great now, however, including especially the Bollinger Grande Annee, although the R.D.s I’ve had recently are still showing very youthful (though promising). Billecart also showing well…The last Winston Churchill I had was extremely underwhelming, and it really didn’t seem to be “too young”, just not that impressive, but possibly it was an off bottle…and that was over a year ago. Dom P. has been impressive from release, and a bottle about six months ago was terrific and enjoyable now, although it is also clearly youthful and would benefit from lots more bottle time.

I guess it all depends on how you like your champagne. I recently had my last bottle of 96 Pol Roger and it was awesome.

IMO there is no '96 that is still too youthful to drink and enjoy. While many of the better ones have years of positive evolution ahead of them, even the longest lived and most structured Champagnes from the vintage - Krug, Krug CdM, Salon etc - can give plenty of enjoyment currently. Don’t be afraid to open them a few hours ahead of time and don’t listen to the nonsense that the effervescence will dissipate. And don’t use a flute.

Amen, sister.

Wut evah, grrrlfriend.

I know the Champagne Warrior won’t want to disagree with KA, cause that would mean never tasting a 1900 Champ again :smiley:

But Brad uses a flute, so do I, so does Robert Bohr and JK (well, modified kinda, the Riedel Somm Sauternes).

Richard Juhlin thinks any good Champ should be drunk only after 30-40yrs. and that Champs aren’t fragile.

The risk of buying a bad > c> hampagne is minimal, unless it has been mishandled

He couldn’t possibly be more wrong—hey, he’s not even French; Champagne is one of the most fragile wines there is. “mishandled”? More like needs to be treated with kid-gloves…or else! I’ve had so many massively oxidized & cooked older Champagnes it’s not funny…it would make you cry unless you are a pure masochist! Champagne stored at room temp will almost invariably age far too quickly and disappoint, always keep as cold as possible, preferably 52F or less.

fourth place was my own number two, 1964 Dom Pérignon. “The clocks stopped! This was perhaps the most enjoyable wine tasted. A fabulous essence of all that is great wrapped in a buttery, vanilla-tasting cocoon. Incredible length.”
The fifth, 1961 Dom Pérignon, is a legendary wine that Serena Sutcliffe and Michael Broadbent maintain is history’s greatest champagne. “Recklessly youthful and magnificently toasted.”
If you want to buy champagnes that approach the greatness of these giants, you will have to search for a very well-stocked store, or perhaps visit my and Christie’s big champagne auction in New York in October.
First of all, look for an older vintage. > As a rule champagne tastes best after it has been kept for 30-40 years.> It is almost impossible to get hold of wines from 1947, 59 or 66, > but look for ones from 85, 88, 89 and 90. > Drinking younger vintages is cradle-snatching!
The best value for money can be had from small growers with access to Chardonnay from Grand Cru vineyards. Be on the look-out for Selosse, Peters, Charlemagne, Diebolt and Legras

^actually the next Acker auction has all of those…but unless you have Big Boy’s size of bank acct. probably aren’t going to prevail in any bidding war. And yes, I’ll admit it, I’m a cradle robber and quite pleased to be so <hmm, that is quite French :stuck_out_tongue:

too early to open 1996 champagnes? Nope, any time after 7 am is fine.



I am hoping that you will eventually stop posting what my friends think or say- many times incorrectly I might add.

I don’t consider Riedel’s Sommelier Sauternes glass a flute. I don’t own that glass but agree it is a fine choice for drinking Champagne, aged or not.
I am not sure that is their glass of choice - neither seemed to mind that a couple of weeks ago I poured some '64 DP and '85 late released Krug in white stems for them, but I will ask both of them over dinner in a couple of days.
While I have great respect for both of their palates, I am relatively sure they don’t drink nearly as much Champagne as I have/do and would be quite surprised if they have tasted the same bottle of Champagne in various glasses side by side as many times as I have.
Since your mention RJ in your next post, why not mention that he likes to drink out of a bowl glass, not a flute.
Brad Baker is free to disagree with me - we have disagreed on several topics in the past - and I will still gladly open any Champagne I have in my cellar for him.
Since you like to drop names, I will play too - whenever I dine and drink Champagne with Olivier Krug, Richard Geoffroy, Frederic Panaiotis, Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger, etc, etc, which is regularly, we always drink Champagne from white wine stems.
Do you really drink wine and/or Champagne? All I ever read from you are quotes from other people’s emails and blogs. If you do, have you experimented with drinking the same Champagne from various flutes and glasses?

I think Ray’s Sabre is bigger…

I have 3 96 salons and Im not likely to buy more. Open one now or hold all three? I guess Im asking what the delta is between how good it is now compared to what it can become.

This might sound like I am speaking out of both sides of my mouth, but I think my choice of stemware is well documented. When tasting I try to use a Riedel Restaurant Champagne glass (ever so slightly larger than a Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige). Now, while I would call this a flute, it isn’t a narrow bowled glass like those of yesteryear. It has a nice tulip shape and does a reasonable job with all sparkling wines. The main reason I use it is because it is affordable and it is a good representation of what I think my readership uses. It is an “average glass” meaning it doesn’t excel, but doesn’t detract either.

My favorite glass is a Zalto Champagne glass and I would use it all the time if I thought everyone owned one, but since it is still a bit “out there” and can give a different experience to the wine, I won’t use it for evaluating wines (though I do use it for drinking them). I tend to err on the side of caution and will use an average glass so that if a reader of mine chooses to use a “better” glass and has a greater experience that is better than a reader using a “lesser” glass and having a worse experience.

End result is that you should use a glass you are comfortable with. I have friends and wine makers who like Riedel Bordeaux, Zalto Burgundy, Les Impitoyables, Ridel Riesling, etc… glasses best. You should use what you are comfortable with though I would not recommend anything narrow or with a capacity less than around 7 oz. To me, you need some type of bowl that rises/increases outward. It can also come in and narrow at the top although any type of extreme narrow at the top isn’t good for all wine types and can exaggerate certain elements IMO. If you really get down to it, every Champagne made probably has an optimum glass for it at various stages of its life. This means that every wine probably has at least a dozen glasses that would suit it over its life.

End result - use the glass you like… especially if it is the navel of the one you love.

As for the 96 wines - some are early developers and some will age and age; it is a great vintage, but one of supreme ups and a few disappointments. Of the ones you mention, I would open the Pol Roger SWC and Bollinger RD rather soon - they aren’t going to improve. The Gosset is still improving, but isn’t a real long ager in my book. You didn’t mention which Billecart you have, but most Billecarts are not going to get better either. Bottom line is that if you have more than 1 of a particular wine then open one up and see what you think. If you only have one then timing may be important.

Berry - pop a 96 Salon. It is still tight, but it is also very yummy and if you like it you will still be able to buy more at a reasonable price.

I’m with Alan…7 PM or even 6 PM isn’t too early.


I think your comments are all over the place and oddly characterize people you don’t actually know in person. It is bizarre to me.

As to Mr. Juhlin:

Not sure your comments about Juhlin fairly characterize him either. I’ve never met him, but read his books. If the article you linked is accurate and he wrote:

" In June this year I organised a tasting to select the champagne of the century. A highly qualified jury spent three days testing 150 of the best champagnes. In some cases I had managed to persuade the makers to send the last bottle of their best vintage."

… then he ain’t no Lumber. I cannot imagine asking a producer to ever open a bottle. Asking them to deliver a bottle which was the last in their cellars? Perhaps that is hyperbole, but if done I’d consider it an incomprehensible imposition and a historical sacrilege.

Lumbers bring the Champagne BACK to Champagne and drink it on the holy ground with those whose families made it. The honor is ours to drink with them, it is not their honor to serve us.

If you haven’t tried them, I would not hesitate to open all those bottles. Too many things can happen, try them now, enjoy. Try some later as well and buy more of what you love.


Well said. Unfortunately, you and others are the exception rather than the norm. I have left a number of producers a bit confused when I would not ask for older bottles and when asked what I would like to try, I always reply - “whatever you feel like drinking/tasting”. They normally can push me to commit by asking for my birth year, but I cannot imagine walking in to a place and asking for an old/rare bottle although it is a fairly common practice among some folks. That said, a number of producers have told me they secretly long for those moments as it gives them a reason to open the bottle and try it. That clouds the situation a little. Still, I won’t do it unless I were to buy the bottle - just doesn’t seem right.

Oh yeah, the best thing in the world is seeing a face light up when you bring over an old bottle they have little or no stock of. The ultimate sign of respect and admiration (on each side) in my book.

I’m finding the discussion of Riedel Somm Sauternes stems fascinating. How does that stem compare to a standard Riedel white wine stem? I’ve generally had good experiences with well designed (ie not too narrow) flutes and white wine stems, but I’ve never thought to try it out of my sauternes stems.

Thank you all!!

Educational answers and great laughs!

Don’t worry guys. Gordon won’t reply. He leaves his verbal diarrhea and gets called out. His crap just stays here and he doesn’t come to clean it up.