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Champagne Vintage Guide
2012 - Gold+The next exceptional vintage since 2008. Although yields were low due to frost, hail and disease early in the season, conditions improved dramatically throughout the summer months. A superb August and warm September resulted in exemplary maturity, acidity and grape health at harvest. Louis Roederer Rosé 2012 gives an early indication of just how good this vintage is.
2010 - BronzeA taxing year with dry conditions hindered grape development early in the season. Torrential rain in August caused widespread disease pressure but the return of dry conditions in September helped some producers. As it's a recent vintage, there have been few releases, however Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs proves it was a good year for Chardonnay.
2009 - Silver GiltAfter early complications August was hot and sunny, with virtually no rain until October, creating ideal conditions for the onset of ripening. A superb summer produced a clean high quality crop, with particularly good Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims. Plump and approachable with a balance of acidity, champagnes from 2009 promise good ageing potential.
2008 - Gold+Initially a difficult, damp year with widespread mildew; drier conditions in August and a fine, warm September proved many producers’ saving grace. Classically-styled wines with fresh acidity balanced by sound ripeness achieved by a long and slow ripening. Pol Roger Brut Vintage 2008 shows the prowess of this harvest. The next outstanding vintage to follow 2002 and 1996 - incredible!
2007 - SilverAn unusually warm spring led to early flowering and optimism which soon gave way to disappointment with one of the murkiest summers on record. Conditions improved towards September allowing a fair crop, with Chardonnay outperforming the Pinot’s. Champagnes from 2007 are typically higher than normal in acidity.
2006 - Silver GiltAn exceptionally hot and sunny June and July with grapes in fine fettle but a dank August left producers fearful of under-ripeness. Fortunately, warm, bright conditions in September redressed the balance. Wines are supple and expressive and many brands have made fantastic champagnes. Louis Roederer Cristal 2006 showcases what can be achieved; a complex, powerful and fruit-driven delight.
2005 - BronzeA dry start to the year with flowering occurring in June. July and August struggled with rain and occasional mildew. However, September proved to save the plants ensuring ripeness and maturity. The crop was a good size, around the same volume as 2004, and the natural sugar levels were good if not exceptional. Overall a mixed harvest with variable conditions, some producers have selected very carefully and made very sound champagne. The Dom Pérignon 2005 shows what great champagne can come from a difficult year, its rich and pure fruit seem to contradict the general weather conditions!
2004 - Silver GiltOverall, a mixed harvest with variable conditions. Some producers have selected very carefully and made strong champagnes. Dom Pérignon 2005 shows what can come from a difficult year; its rich and pure fruit seem to contradict the tough weather!
2003 - BronzeA challenging vintage for Champagne in the face of an unprecedented heat wave during the summer months, yet certain producers managed to craft some very good champagnes. Krug have produced an outstanding wine from this difficult vintage.
2002 - Gold+Considered one of the best vintages in 20 years, 2002 has shown magnificent comparisons to the great year of 1996. A cold winter and a mild late spring cued for a perfect June allowing early flowering. Sunshine and dry conditions throughout September created champagne with good levels of acidity and fruit in abundance. Most producers have long since released their wines and these are very highly rated. The recently released Krug 2002 and Salon 2002 are the most awarded from this year, though Louis Roederer Cristal and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne also amaze.
1999 - BronzeA difficult start to the year with damaging hailstorms in early May were rescued by a warm August which gave the grapes a promising outlook for the harvest. A damp September challenged producers although some champagnes are drinking really well today.
1998 - Silver GiltThe 1998 harvest in Champagne has created a vintage that over time has grown in stature and reputation. A sunny winter paved way for a rainy end to the spring and an early summer of extreme temperature ranges resulted in rainstorms and then finally sunshine at harvest in September. Chardonnay dominated many blends and the champagnes have high levels of sugar and acidity, which means they just keep getting better with age. Dom Ruinart, Krug, Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill and Taittinger Comtes are all amazing examples, even more so if you drink them from magnum.
1996 - Silver GiltAn outstanding vintage for Champagne, the best since 1990. A long, dry summer was the key to success with the grapes displaying amazing ripeness. All of the grape varieties have done well, with Pinot Noir excelling. Some 20 years on, these champagnes are showing beautifully, especially if you go down the magnum route! Dom Pérignon’s Oenothèque 1996 is a bundle of purity and lush fruit, still showing incredible youthful vibrancy. A rare combination of weather created grapes with both high sugar and amazing acidity and timeless ageing potential.
1995 - GoldA welcome relief after some difficult years in the region, 1995 produced a large crop of very fine quality, especially for Chardonnay. The champagnes are similar in character to the 1988s, with the best examples possessing marvellous ageing potential. Charles Heidseick Blanc des Millénaires 1995 shows the power of Chardonnay from this vintage; over 20 years old and still amazingly youthful.
1990 - Silver GiltA superb year and one of the top half-dozen vintages of the last century. There was frost damage in April but the vintage was made by the long, hot and dry summer. The crop was the third largest on record and the wines had excellent alcohol and acidity levels. The ripest wines since 1959 are showcased by the depth and finesse of the champagnes. Champagnes from 1990 are now very scarce, Cave Privée in magnum from Veuve Clicquot is exceptional.
1989 - Silver GiltA difficult early season, with frosts damaging a number of vineyards, reducing the potential crop. Warm weather in May was counter-balanced with a cold snap in June which affected flowering. However, hot and sunny conditions interspersed with showers throughout summer produced healthy and mature grapes, which were harvested in early September. The champagnes are rich, luscious and soft, appealing in their youth and possessing the grip to reward extended cellaring - although slightly short acidity means the 1989s are maturing quicker than the 1988s. Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée 1989 and Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime showcase the very best this year has to offer.
1988 - GoldA mild spring saw flowering pass without any issues. July was cloudy but better conditions followed, leading all the way into harvest. September is typically the saviour for most vintages, however plenty of rain in 1988 had many producers panicking. Fortunately, the grapes fared well, and the resulting champagnes are powerful and well-structured, only just now approaching their plateau of maturity. There are some outstanding collections available from this year, including Krug 1988, Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 1988 and Lanson 1988 from magnum.
1985 - GoldSevere winter temperatures destroyed around 10% of all vineyards, leaving many in the region unhopeful of a good year. However, the weather improved drastically in the early autumn and the tiny harvest produced was of excellent quality. Champagnes from 1985 are typically well-balanced with great length and character that is still improving today.
1983 - Silver GiltA harsh winter continued into spring, which was cold and damp, resulting in delayed flowering. However, the vineyards were spoilt by sunny and warm weather throughout much of the summer, with enough rainfall to keep the crop from drying out. A late harvest in September revealed near-perfect grapes - rich and ripe, with great balance and length. The Pinots Noirs were incredibly aromatic and powerful, and the Chardonnays stood out for their finesse and surprising body. Champagnes from 1983 have proven themselves with age and the recently re-released Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères features some exceptional 1983s.
1981 - Silver GiltAdverse climatic variations over the winter as well as springtime frosts destroyed 25% of the harvest. Nevertheless, the grapes were of excellent quality. The Chardonnays were the definite star, although the Pinot Noirs successfully married acidity and generosity, producing intensely aromatic champagnes with promising cellaring potential. The re-release of Charles Heidsieck Cuvée Royale 1981 shows how well this vintage has matured.
1979 - GoldA piercingly cold winter was followed by a decidedly cool spring with extreme frosts in May. As a result, growth was subdued but initial flowering was good. The weather in June and July vastly improved with nice sunshine and gentle heats creating excellent conditions for ripening. Despite rainfall throughout harvest, sugar and acidity levels remained high, producing champagnes of impressive character and length. Lanson Vintage Collection 1979 is a perfect example.
1976 - Silver GiltA drought year with record heat levels across Europe led to a very early harvest, which began on 1st September. Extremely large yields of super ripe fruit produced rich and powerful champagnes, although relatively low in acidity. The very best 1979s have help up remarkably well, through sheer concentration of fruit. Bollinger R.D. 1976 from magnum is something to behold.