Champagne Vintage Guide by Essi Avellan


Vintage champagne (millésime) is made in better than average years and cellared longer than non-vintage champagnes (36 months minimum). Unlike non-vintage champagnes, vintage champagnes are not meant to be stylistically consistent year after year. Typically, the cellar master composes vintage champagnes from the base wines that best reflect the particular year’s characteristics. Despite the variation between different vintages, champagnes of this category are comfortable for consumers to buy: whenever a champagne house releases a vintage, theoretically it indicates that the year is a good one and, consequently, so should be the champagne.

Moreover, vintage champagnes contain longer-life base wines, and while they are quite enjoyable immediately upon release, they still have significant development potential. Vintage champagne entails a promise of greater tasting pleasure in the years to come.

Below is a Champagne Vintage Guide and their overall ratings according to Essi Avellan MW

  • 2020 Preliminary rating * * * *  stars

    The 2020 growing season and harvest occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. The weather was favourable, even if the sanitary situation was not. A multitude of unique labour and logistical issues required solving to get the vineyard work and grape picking complete. After a wet winter, a warm latter half of March prompted the vines to start their growth cycle well in advance of a typical year. Budburst took place in early April and warm conditions ensured rapid growth. The weather in May was largely satisfactory, with flowering taking place early at the end of the month. June and July were cooler than average with some cloud-covered skies and rains. Due to the heatwave in early August, ripening advanced quickly but decelerated towards the end of the month.

    The 2020 season ended up having one of the shortest ripening periods ever, with notable heterogeneity in reaching ripeness. In 2020, the sugar levels were slightly below those of 2019 and 2018 but acidity levels remained fresher than for 2018, the lowest of this promising trilogy of vintages. Judgement is reserved for the time being.

  • 2019 Preliminary rating * * * * *

    The 2019 growing period posed many challenges following budbreak in early April, which brought severe spring frosts that took their toll on the vineyards. Early summer was variable, with powdery mildew becoming a serious threat. The summer season saw two heatwaves in June and July, with a record-breaking temperature of 42.9°C measured on July 25th. As a consequence, scalding destroyed some 10% of the expected harvest. The warm and sunny weather continued throughout August and September, bringing concentration and richness. Cool nights were crucial in helping the grapes retain their fresh acidity. Chardonnay was more problematic in 2019, due to its susceptibility to powdery mildew. A slightly smaller crop was picked, commencing September 2nd. On paper, the potential alcohol level was slightly up from 2019 and the acidity a little higher (average total acidity was 6.8 g/l), thus the balance looks excellent. Initial tasting confirms good tension and fine purity in the wines. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tasting of the 2019 base wines on a larger scale has not been possible. Thus, judgement is reserved for the time being.

  • 2018 * * * * 

    With record-breaking rainfall in the winter, ample sunshine hours in the spring and summer and the earliest harvest on record, the 2018 harvest in Champagne was truly unique. Its prematurity, abundant volume, ripeness and healthiness left many producers singing its praises upon harvest. Following a wet winter, budbreak occurred in April, from which moment onwards growth was accelerated. The outstanding conditions led to vigorous vegetative growth and an abundance of healthy bunches. The hot summer continued throughout July and August, and the harvest officially began on August 20th (though the first grapes were actually picked on August 17th by André Beaufort in Ambonnay – the earliest harvest on record).

    An average of 12,361 kg/ha was produced but the agronomic yield was actually much higher, varying largely between 16,000-19,000 kg/ha. Wineries all over the region were full to the brim, with the greatest difficulty facing most producers being locating containers for all the wines. Consequently, the 2018 harvest was also used to replace less impressive wines in the reserves, which was especially welcome due to the disastrous results from 2017. Even if the year was extraordinary for the vinegrower and winemaker, the jury is still out regarding its quality. The wines are perfectly clean and plush but notably low on acidity (average total acidity 5.9 g/l), thus there is a distinct softness to them. However, some producers (such as Louis Roederer) were able to produce wines with laudably low pHs (an average of 2.8 for Roederer) and such wines are certainly not lacking drive or vivacity.

    Some small producers/ grower champagnes have released their 2018 vintages such as Dhondt-Grellet Dans Un Premier Temps Extra Brut Base 2018 and Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier d’OR 2018.

  • 2017 * 

    A disastrous year in many ways. First, severe April frosts caused significant crop loss. After a scorching hot summer, unexpected rain in July and August caused a riot of botrytis and sour rot in the vineyards. Overall, a fifth of the crop suffered from rot, with Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir hit the worst. A normal-sized harvest (10,057 kg/ha) was picked from August 26th onwards. Despite attempts at intense selection in the vineyards, the quality was simply not there. The vintage was variable and even if it will not be widely declared, some individual successes may be found. For example, several iconic prestige cuvée blanc de blancs were made, including Taittinger Comtes de Champagne and Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc. The off-aromas of the 2017 season were notable, forcing producers to reject fruit at the press and regularly discard batches. Still, the prix constaté was increased to 6.10€. Fortunately, the following 2018 vintage was a success in both quantity and quality, enabling winemakers to discard unwanted reserve wines from 2017.
  • 2016 * * *

    This year trialled the growers with many climatic hazards from excessive rainfalls to frosts, downy mildew, hail, draught and, finally, sunburn. A cool spring saw late-April frost, which cut volumes early on. Mildew was an issue throughout the region (especially in the Côte des Bar), equally diminishing volumes. July and August were then hot and very dry months and the resultant sunburn reduced the yields further. Ripening was uneven, and Chardonnay especially needed time and was thus considered the most difficult variety for the vintage. Overall volumes were down to 9,163 kg/ha, offering balanced wines with an average potential alcohol of 9.9% and total acidity of 7.4g/l. Fruit-forward, lush wines with vibrant acidity. Again, most cuvees are yet to be released but for those that have include, Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV Base 2016, Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier d’OR 2016, Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2016 and Herniot L’inattendue Blanc de Blancs 2016.
  • 2015 * * *

    A wet winter and mild spring gave way to an exceptionally dry summer from mid-May onwards. Hot weather prevailed until mid-August, when the skies opened again. Rains gave way to fine, cool, yet sunny weather for the first two weeks of harvest, which commenced on August 29th. The 2015 vintage has a lot of common denominators with the 2003 vintage but the 2015s are showing a better balance of weight and freshness with their average potential alcohol level of 10.5% and total acidity of 6.9 g/l. The quality and ageing capacity of the vintage has been questioned because of the low acidity, but to me the structure of the wine is not the problem; the aromatics are. Initially as vins clairs, I found the wines to come with ample, attractive fruitiness. The vegetal, particularly ash-like aromatics were subdued but have since then become amplified, especially in the vintage bottlings. Drought issues are considered to be the culprit to these widely spread aromatic issues of the year. I have come notably down from my initial assessment. However, most vintage and prestige cuvées are yet to surface from the cellars and their quality will make or break the vintage. Some of the Champagnes that have been released are; Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Extra Brut 2015, Palmer & Co Grands Terroirs 2015, Leclerc Briant Abyss Brut Zero 2015, Louis Roederer Cristal 2015 and Pierre Peters Les Montjolys Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2015.
  • 2014 * * *  stars

    This year was all about alternating weather patterns, 2014 was characterised by mild temperatures and frequent rainfall and a few weeks of high temperatures, a very solid vintage with good ripeness and acidity. Flowering began in June and summer was a combination of dry, wet and cold spells. Some regions saw some disease and Meunier in the Marne Valley didn’t have a great year and some of the Pinot Noir with its thinner skin made it more difficult for the red grapes. A large crop (11,553 kg/ha) was picked from 8th to 20th September. A year where it was necessary to select the red grapes carefully to maintain high quality. In general Chardonnay is the star of the vintage. The year was especially demanding for Pinot Meunier from the Vallée de la Marne, which received a lot of rainfall and was troubled by both mildew and sour rot. With an average potential alcohol of 10.0% and total acidity of 8.3 g/l, 2014 looks good on paper and so too in the glass, despite its challenges. The successful wines come with attractive fruit, lovely vibrant acidity and an overt easiness to them. The greatest releases so far include Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2014, Bollinger La Grande Annee 2014 and Louis Roederer Cristal 2014.
  • 2013 * * * * 

    In 2013, the growth cycle was delayed, with the vines flowering as late as July in some places due to the long winter and cool spring. Winter was cold with little sunshine; it was marked by frequent frosts and several incidences of nowfall. The onset of springlike weather was delayed, and the month of May saw a return of unseasonably low temperatures and high rainfall. June saw a return of normal temperatures. July and August were hot, sunny and dry. A spell of rain at the beginning of September allowed the grapes to swell. Thankfully drier weather encouraged full maturation of the vines, albeit a fortnight late compared to the average of the last ten years. Harvesting started on 24th September and lasted until 9th October. However, most of the picking of the abundant yield (12,0008 kg/ha) took place in cool conditions in October thus contributing to a classic cool and linear style of Champagne. Taking into consideration the challenging season, the wines have positively surprised with their pure fruitiness, racy palates and stylish restraint. There is heterogeneity in the results, but the best belong to the Champagne elite such as Rare Brut MIllesime 2013, Louis Roederer Cristal 2013 and Henri Giraud Argonne 2013. This vintage is greatly underrated and will likely become better appreciated over time, when the region’s most iconic wines are released.
  • 2012 * * * * *

    The next most exceptional vintage since 2008. The 2012 weather has been hallmarked by many as very challenging but has created some stunning Champagne. Relatively low yields due to various weather conditions throughout the year. The winter months brought some frosts and hail which damaged the early stages of bud burst. August and September were very warm and this helped rescue and give the grapes a stunning maturity. An August heatwave resulted in a rapid accumulation of sugar, but fortunately the nights remained cool, which helped to preserve acidity. Although yields were low (averaging at 9,210 kg/ha) due to frost, hail and disease early in the season, the 2012 harvest was exemplary in its maturity, acidity and grape health. A rare high acid, high sugar September harvest with impeccable concentration of flavour and refreshing vibrancy.

    Pinot Noir is the king of the vintage, though Meunier excelled too. A vintage that promises great longevity for the finest cuvées, it was widely declared by producers. However, Krug decided to invest in its reserve wines on this great year, and no Vintage was produced. The quality of 2012 is universally high, with the greatest releases so far including Louis Roederer Cristal 2012 and Cristal Rosé, Bollinger La Grande Année 2012 and La Grande Année Rosé 2012, as well as Charles Heidsieck Brut Millesime 2012.

  • 2011 * 

    The 2011 vintage was a continental, sunny year with a real winter that was very cold and dry followed by a glorious sun-filled summer and almost no rain in August and September. The harvest was incomparable in terms of quality and produced consistent, fresh and crunchy grapes. One of the earliest harvests in history, following a warm, early spring and a cool, damp summer season. Patience and fierce selection at harvest time were the winning recipes. Not many vintage Champagnes were produced but the few successful cuvées include Louis Roederer Vintage Rose 2011 and Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2011, Pierre Péters Cuvée Spéciale Les Chétillons and Vilmart & Cie Coeur de Cuvée.
  • 2010 * * 

    The 2010 harvest was marked by a very cold winter with heavy frost patches. Weather improved in the spring and early summer months with cool and consistent temperatures. During August and September storms and humid conditions complicated the ripening process and much of the Pinot Noir being thin skinned largely succumbed to rot. Dom Perignon’s vineyards in the Grand Cru village of Verzenay produced some outstanding Pinot Noir, but there weren’t many examples of great PN from 2010. By contrast Chardonnay was super high quality, one of the best Chardonnay years within the last ten years. As a combined consequence of the challenges of the growing season, the global financial crisis and the cellars bursting with fine 2008 and 2009 vintage bottles, few houses declared 2010 a vintage. The ones who did, must have done so for a reason and there are indeed fine examples, such as Dom Pérignon vintage 2010, Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2010 and Louis Roederer Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2010.
  • 2009 * * * * 

    The 2009 vintage was a continental, sunny year with a real winter that was very cold and dry followed by a glorious sun-filled summer and almost no rain in August and September. The harvest was incomparable in terms of quality and produced consistent, fresh and crunchy grapes. Pinot Noir especially excelled. Grape harvest, of generally high sugar content yet soft acidity, started on September 8th. 2009 is a year of generous wines that showed well early. An apt example of a vintage of the recent era, in which retaining freshness poses more problems than attaining ripeness. The vintage’s finest include Louis Roederer Cristal 2009, Dom Pérignon vintage 2009, Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Extra Brut 2009 and the rare Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises 2009.
  • 2008 * * * * *

    Initially a mild, rainy winter, followed by an unpredictable and dreary spring, expectations for 2008 were low. And then, a miracle of nature: the ominous and extremely rainy weather changed radically to become sunny and dry with warm days and cold nights, lasting throughout the harvest in mid-September. Harvest began on September 15th and it quickly became known as an outstanding year, due to the finesse brought about by the fine, saline freshness and purity of fruit.

    The 2008 vintage (yielding 14,231 kg/ha) favoured all three varieties, particularly Pinot Meunier. A dream-come true vintage in many aspects, 2008 is especially celebrated for the prospected longevity of its best Champagnes. Due to the slow ageing of the cuvées many houses, such as Louis Roederer and Dom Pérignon, decided to launch their 2009 prestige cuvées before the 2008s. Launches of the year’s most iconic cuvées were received with great hype, causing shortages and rapidly rising prices. Furthermore, production volumes for some cuvées were restricted due to the difficult economic climate in the months following the 2008 financial crisis. From the released cuvees, Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 and Cristal Rosé 2008, Dom Pérignon vintage 2008, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 and Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2008 have been particularly impressive.

  • 2007 * * * 

    The year 2007 was anachronistic in its wine profile: it was reminiscent of the profile of the great Blanc de Blancs of the 1980s and 1990s, with restrained maturity and biting acidity. The vintage caused concern to begin with because everything was so early. Spring and bud break occurred before their usual time. Flowering started on May 25th. Poor weather made it difficult to care for the vineyard, but, at the same time, preserved a good acidity. A rather cool summer, combined with heavy rains just before harvest, was out of character from the very warm summers of preceding years. An unusual vintage that was befitting of Chardonnay, with yields exceeding usual Appellation standards and bunches that displayed a good sugar and acid balance. The harvest began early, on August 24th, and was abundant in volume averaging 14,242 kg/ha. Pinot Meunier posed the biggest problems and Chardonnay clearly outperformed the rest. Many of the iconic prestige cuvée blanc de blancs were successfully produced, such as Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007, Ruinart Dom Ruinart Rose 2007, Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis 2007 and Salon Le Mesnil 2007. Some blended prestige cuvées such as Louis Roederer Cristal 2007 and Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2007 were also made. Champagnes from 2007 are typically high in acidity and restrainedly classic in style.
  • 2006 * * * 

    The 2006 vintage was a year of mixed weather. A cold winter and springtime frosts laid the foundations for this vintage of abundant yields (12,997 kg/ha). Uneventful flowering was followed by exceptionally hot and sunny weather, which lasted until August. Early summer was positive, with the months of June and July creating perfect conditions for flowering. Although there were some storms in late-July, the overall health of the vines was great since the weather remained hot through to the harvest with spells of rain in August promoting even healthier grapes. Harvest commenced on September 9th, producing grapes high in sugar level but notably low on acidity. Overt and welcoming upon launch, the best come with excellent capacity for ageing. Winey, and richly fruity characters, most Champagnes regrettably miss some tension and finesse. Wines of the vintage include Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2006, Krug Vintage 2006, Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2006 and Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2006.
  • 2005 * *

    In general, 2005 was warm and dry with flowering occurring in June. An overall warm year, however hot and wet weather at the turn of July led to rot and mildew outbreaks. Picking of the abundant harvest (12,991 kg/ha) started on September 9th with high hopes. The result is a mixed harvest with variable conditions. However, the wines have not turned out nearly as good as expected, producing rich yet singular and heavy Champagnes, often with overripe or rot characteristics. These aromatics must have gone largely unnoticed at the time of blending, but have become amplified over time in the bottle. Even some of the very best wines are starting to show negative evolution, which does not promise much for the future. Some of the better champagnes are Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2005, Louis Roederer Cristal 2005 and Dom Perignon Rose 2005.
  • 2004 * * * *  stars

    Overall many experts believe that 2004 is one of the greatest vintages of the last two decades. A great example of how large yields do not necessarily mean poor quality in Champagne. As a reaction to the previous year’s low yields, the vines produced one of the largest crops on record. August brought about cooler weather and some rains, increasing the risk of rot. The massive crop, averaging 13,990 kg/ha, was picked from September 18th onwards. The quality was a pleasant surprise; vibrant wines with appropriate intensity, refined charm and refreshing lightness. This vintage comes with a rare balance of freshness, lightness, yet fine aromatic intensity. Post-release, this vintage has proven to be slow to age, and elegant wines are likely to keep on ageing gracefully. Dom Pérignon 2004, Louis Roederer Cristal 2004 and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2004 all excelled. See our blind tasting 2002 vs 2004 with Jancis Robinson MW and Richard Bampfield MW.
  • 2003 * * 

    A challenging vintage for Champagne in the face of an unprecedented heatwave during the summer months. The vineyard was first touched by severe spring frosts that left a lasting mark on the Champagne region before being struck with an unparalleled heatwave. Harvest was kick-started early on August 21st and yields remained minuscule at 8,100 kg/ha. The total acidity level was notably low, at 5.8 g/l. Only the very best performers were able to avoid heaviness and overripe aromatics. This vintage was not largely declared but some famous names, Krug and Dom Pérignon at the fore, chose to experiment with it. Both produced excellent 2003s and Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave at the time named the vintage as one of the creations he is most proud of. Richard Geoffroy, Chef de Cave at Dom Perignon, had great confidence in his 2003 and he actually regretted releasing it too early Some special cuvées surfaced, such as 2003 by Bollinger, as the house found the year did not stylistically fit into the La Grande Année range. Palmer & Co also took a curious route and made its 2003 only in magnum, releasing it much later than usual as cuvée Grands Terroirs.
  • 2002 * * * * *

    A cold winter and a mild late spring cued for a perfect June allowing early and fast flowering.  The 2002 vintage shaped up magnificently over the spring, with no significant frost and near-perfect flowering. Then followed a summer marked by long, sunny periods interspersed with regular cloudy and rainy spells resulting in an abundant crop of largely healthy fruit (11,930 kg/ha). Dehydration due to wind further aided in achieving perfect ripeness and additional concentration. This, and the cool nights, helped in retaining fresh acidity and, despite the ripeness (10.3% potential alcohol), the wines did not suffer from heaviness or a lack of life. A near-perfect vintage, which produced balanced Champagnes consistently around the region. The best show an impeccable combination of freshness, power, structure and finesse. Generally considered one of the best harvests in the last twenty years. 2002 produced an abundance of spectacular champagnes, such as Dom Pérignon (the entire range), Krug Vintage 2002 and Clos du Mesnil 2002, Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002, Louis Roederer Cristal late release 2002 and Cristal Rosé 2002, Ruinart Dom Ruinart 2002 and Dom Ruinart Rosé 2002, Salon Le Mesnil 2002 and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2002, to name a few.
  • 2001 * 

    There is not much to say of this very poor year. A shamefully gigantic and dilute harvest ruined by last minute rains. Sugar levels remained low and acidity was accentuated in the wines of this year, with botrytis presenting a significant problem. Harvest commenced as late as September 20th. Only a few vintage Champagnes were produced but amongst those that were, there are some rare gems. The wine of the vintage must be Philpponnat’s Clos des Goisses, which was actually very good but has matured much quicker than most other vintages.
  • 2000 * * * 

    Climate conditions for the year 2000 were normal, however annual average temperatures were higher than that of 1999. Flowering occurred in mid June whilst sum- mer weather conditions prevailed. Shortly before picking time, a large part of the harvest still had to ripen amidst considerable rain- fall. However, luckily the grapes continued to ripen quickly, and in the beginning of September the region saw an unanticipated level of maturity. Harvesting took place from 13 to 25 September in dry weather. Overall, it was a warm year that produced voluptuous, ripe Champagnes that were easy to approach in youth. The colours turned deep golden quickly and evolution has been rapid. Fat, ripe and full-bodied, the best are actually very good. It is generally a Chardonnay year and Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne 2000 might very well be the wine of the vintage. I have also been impressed by Krug Vintage 2000, Louis Roederer Cristal Vinotheque Rosé 2000, Charles Heidsieck Vintage 2000, Dom Pérignon P2 2000 and Pommery Cuvée Louise Rosé.
  • 1999 * * * 

    A difficult start to the year led to early budbreak. There were some damaging hailstorms in early May, but the frost ultimately stayed away. The summer was overall warm and thanks to the hot and dry August, the grapes looked promising for the harvest. However, a damp September challenged producers and dilution was an issue for some. The 1999 harvest that started on September 15th produced a large yield (12,989 kg/ha) of sweet grapes that resulted in soft wines, low in acidity. Voluptuous and enjoyable with ripe, fruity, even exotic characters but in most cases for the medium-term only, even if the best seem to be maturing better than initially expected. The red wines of the year were exceptional and resulted in some outstanding prestige cuvée rosés, such as Louis Roederer Cristal Vinotheque Rosé 1999, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé and Charles Heidsieck Rose Millesime 1999.
  • 1998 * * *  stars

    The 1998 vintage shows all the hallmarks of a truly outstanding year. A year full of events in the vineyards with cool and warm weather alternating. April frosts were an issue, especially in the Côte des Blancs, destroying some two percent of the potential yield. A large 12,926 kg/ha crop was picked. The features of the vintage were a high natural sugar content in the grapes and an excellent level of acidity, indicating an exceptional overall balance and long ageing potential. The best wines have elegance and freshness, whereas the worst examples are dull and have evolved quickly. Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1998, Piper-Heidsieck Rare magnum 1998 and Laurent-Perrier Alexandra Rosé are amongst the vintage’s very finest.
  • 1997 * * 

    A small harvest (9,402 kg/ha). The mild spring of 1997 brought on an early bud burst and was followed by bitterly cold temperatures in mid-April coupled with severe frosts which damaged the Verzenay and Verzy vineyards. Flowering took place early, on 10th June for the Côte des Blancs and Aÿ and on 13th June for Verzenay, and was immediately followed by a very cold and rainy spell which lasted through until early August and left us fearing the worst for our vines, due to the high threat of mildew and peduncular rot in particular. The return of better weather conditions in August and the warm and sunny weather in September saved a year that did not begin well. The harvests began on 15th September in the Vallée de la Marne, 18th September in the Montagne de Reims and 22nd September in the Côte des Blancs, and took place in bright sunshine! Harvesting from 15th September to 1st October 1997. The 1997 vintage was rather overlooked, following the successful 1995 and 1996 vintages, and many did not produce a vintage even though the year was not particularly weak. Despite the warmth of the year the best wines have sufficient acidic backbone, but many lack intensity and harmony. Most Champagnes are quite developed already, showing no sign of further potential. Its highlights included Laurent-Perrier Vintage Reserve Recently Disgorged 1997, Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, Louis Roederer Cristal Vinotheque 1997 and Salon Le Mesnil.
  • 1996 * * * * *

    This remarkable harvest year was marked by alternating warm and cool spells. Strong winds from the north were responsible for dehydration of the berries, which led to extraordinary concentration, and cool September nights kept the acidity high. A year like no other, 1996 in Champagne married the highest levels of sugar and acidity in living memory; the resulting wines are extraordinary in their concentration, yet perfectly poised in terms of structural definition. The year 1996 is to become a year that will go down in Champagne’s history books. The harvest was spread between September 14th and mid-October and took place largely under clear skies. It resulted in a bumper crop (10,332 kg/ha) of grapes displaying amazing ripeness. Such sugar-to-acid ratio was unforeseen in the region and the wines are marked by an accentuated acidity averaging as high as 10.0 g/l, with potential alcohol levels reaching an average of 10.3%. Red varieties suffered from a degree of rot issues.

    Originally the vintage was very much hyped, but we have since witnessed a number of disappointing Champagnes from the year displaying either premature oxidation or razor-sharp unbalanced acidity – or both. Nevertheless, the majestic character of the most successful bottlings include Deutz Cuvée William Deutz Rosé, Henriot Millesime 1996, Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1996, Louis Roederer Cristal and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne.

  • 1995 * * * *  stars

    A welcome relief after some difficult years in the region. Quantity-wise, it was the seventh high-cropping year in a row. But, in 1995, the quality also excelled, and particularly so for Chardonnay. There were significant frost damages during the spring and the warm but wet weather in the summer ignited mildew and rot problems. The vines cropped heavily and rigorous vineyard work and selection during harvest led to best results. Harvest commenced on September 18th and yielded grapes of a fine balance of sugar and acidity. The vintage has turned out to be much better than first expected and it has emerged from the shadow of the much-hyped 1996. This vintage is marked by elegance of its inviting fruitiness, beautiful balance and slow-building finesse. Its greatest examples include Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 1995, Dom Pérignon Oenotheque 1995, Louis Roederer Cristal and Cristal Rosé, Krug Vintage 1995 and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne.
  • 1993 * * * 

    This promising year deteriorated in September with frequent rains resulting in swollen bunches and increasing rot issues. A regular-sized crop was picked commencing September 8th. On paper, the ripeness and acidity levels achieved are less favourable than those of 1992. Yet the best wines of the year, including Dom Pérignon, Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, Louis Roederer Cristal and Dom Ruinart, have brought about good surprises but have largely peaked except for the P2 versions of Dom Pérignon. They are generally balanced wines with often somewhat weak fruitiness due to dilution. Without doubt better than its reputation, though.
  • 1992 * * * 

    The 1992 season experienced a very long and extremely hot summer with isolated hail storms. However, the grapes had superb levels of ripeness and a high total acidity level. Growing season led to a sizable harvest of 11,844 kg/ha. Picking started on September 8th and in general the standard was better for Chardonnay. and champagnes from this vintage have very good ageing potential. The finest examples are still going strong. Recommendable cuvees include Dom Pérignon Rosé P2 1992 and Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Collection Late Disgorged 1992.
  • 1990 * * * * 

    Originally hailed as the best of the 1988/1989/1990 trilogy, the wines have developed quicker than anticipated with premature oxidation having crept in early on. The 1990 vintage experienced some frost damage early in the year, particularly during April. However, a superb summer helped the grapes thrive in their growth. Due to the long days and summer sun combined with cool nights, the grapes had excellent alcohol and acidity levels. The crop was the third largest on record (11,963 kg/ha) and 1990 produced the ripest wines since 1959. A fantastic vintage. The cuvées still drinking impeccably include the whole range of Charles Heidsieck La Collection Crayeres 1990, Veuve Clicquot Cave Privee 1990 and Lanson Gold Label 1990.
  • 1989 * * * * 

    The weather conditions in 1989 were good; mild weather throughout much of spring with spells of frost damaging some vineyards. However, during the beginning of the summer months the weather improved and sunny days fostered good growing conditions. The harvest began early in the first and second week of September and the harvest was a good size. Wines from 1989 generally have incredible ageing potential. The window of reaching ripeness was vast for the different varieties and locations due to the impact of the early season frost. The 11,619 kg/ha crop picked was a record level at the time, surpassed only by 1983 and 1982. The wines that had instant charm were rich, luscious and soft. The slightly lazy acidity and plump fruitiness has meant that the 1989s have matured much earlier than the 1988s. Memorable cuvées include Henriot Millesime 1989 Jeroboam, Krug Vintage 1989 and Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée 1989.
  • 1988 * * * * *

    The 1988 vintage was a late, rainy season with a good yield and perfect acidity. Generally considered a very good vintage, champagnes from this year are typically full-bodied and will remain in a condition of wonderful balance for a long time to come. Harvesting began relatively late: September 26th for the Pinot Noir and Meunier and September 27th for the Chardonnay. An average 9.3 alcohol level and 9.6 g/L acidity at harvest time resulted in a balance that can be characterised as taut. Its finest examples include Bollinger R.D. 1988, Krug Collection 1988, Piper-Heidsieck Rare 1988,and Dom Ruinart Rosé 1988.
  • 1985 * * * * *

    Severe winter temperatures and spring frosts did great damage, leaving many in the region unhopeful of a good year. The destruction was excessive especially in the northern Montagne de Reims, in the hillside vineyards west of Reims and in the Aube. The success of 1985 in Champagne was first and foremost due to the perfect health of the grapes (the cold winter helped). Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier displayed high degrees of ripeness, boding well for the birth of a great vintage. The grapes were full of finesse and elegance. All signs pointed to the fact that several years of ageing would result in a stunningly opulent wine. Yields ended up being better than feared (albeit tiny, 6,827 kg/ha) when picking commenced on September 30th. Champagnes from 1985 are typically beautifully balanced and intense with great length and character that is still improving today. Dom Pérignon, Charles Heidsieck Champagne Charlie 1985, Krug Vintage and Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque excelled, to name a few.
  • 1983 * * * * 

    A harsh winter continued into spring, which was cold and damp, resulting in delayed flowering. The vineyards were spoilt with sunny and warm weather throughout much of the summer, with enough rainfall to keep the crop from drying out. 1983 bestowed the Champagne region with an abundant harvest, despite a very wet winter and awful spring. A late harvest commencing on September 26th produced a huge crop (15,012 kg/ha) of near-perfect grapes – rich and ripe, with great balance and length. The Pinots Noirs were incredibly aromatic and powerful. The Chardonnays stood out for their nesse and surprising body. The wines were extremely high quality, and worthy of long cellaring. It is an underrated vintage whose wine’s have a classically lean structure and beautiful freshness. Most 1983s peaked a while ago but many late-disgorged cuvées such as Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères 1983 and Palmer & Co Collection 1983 magnums may bring significant pleasure today.
  • 1982 * * * * *

    The 1982 vintage was near perfect, with an ideal growing season and probably one of the most generous yield in the history of Champagne with very little climatic trouble producing a bumper crop of 14,054 kg/ha. Heat in June, July, August and September with sufficient rain at the right moments over vines which had rested well after the previous small crops, gave wines of excellent ripeness and fairly full character despite a record size crop. Picking began on September 17th and the weather stayed favourable until early October, with the last picked grapes showing some deterioration. All three varieties were successful but the Chardonnays were particularly fine. A consistently great harvest of rich yet elegant and finely balanced Champagnes of great longevity. In terms of releases, Krug Collection 1982, Bollinger R.D., Charles Heidsieck Champagne Charlie 1982 and Piper-Heidsieck Hors-Serie 1982 have impressed.
  • 1981 * * * * 

    There were adverse climatic variations over the winter and as a result of an early budbreak, April brought vicious frosts ended up destroying 20-25% of the potential harvest. With only 4,353 kg/ha being picked from September 28th onwards. This tiny yield came at a time when Champagne was already suffering from the low crop levels of 1978 and 1980, hence not many vintage wines were made. Conditions remained until August and September when hot, dry weather rescued the vintage to some extent. It was a warm and bright October harvest that was exceptionally small, but grapes were nonetheless healthy with a good balance of maturity and freshness. The Chardonnays were the definite stars, although the Pinot Noirs successfully married acidity and generosity, producing intensely aromatic Champagnes with promising cellaring potential. The best wines defy time and stand out with their finesse. They include Louis Roederer Cristal, Charles Heidsieck La Collection Crayeres 1981, Krug Vintage and collectors item Taittinger Collection Arman Vintage 1981.
  • 1979 * * * * *

    An extremely cold winter delayed the start of the growing season and was followed by a cool spring with some frosts in May. As a result, growth was subdued but initial flowering was good. The weather improved in June and July with sunshine and gentle heat creating excellent conditions for ripening. Despite rainfall during harvest, sugar and acidity levels remained high and disease pressure didn’t mount too much of an assault, producing Champagnes of impressive character and length. On top of quality, great quantity was also achieved, with an average crop of 11,061 kg/ha being picked between October 3rd and 31st. The Chardonnays were particularly successful, offering up bunches of shimmering golden Chardonnay grapes. Krug Clos du Mesnil is sheer perfection, going from strength to strength over the years. There are plenty of great Champagnes still in outstanding form. They include Charles Heidsieck La Collection Crayeres 1979, Palmer & Co Collection 1979, as well as Lanson Vintage Collection 1979.
  • 1976 * * * * *

    This sunny and hot drought year with record heat levels across Europe led to flowering in early June and a very early harvest, which began on September 1st. Large yields (averaging 10,359 kg/ha) of super ripe fruit produced rich and powerful champagnes, although relatively low in acidity (averaging 7.2 g/l). The acidity levels made some winemakers doubt the wines’ longevity but this has since been proven wrong by a multitude of majestic 1976 Champagnes defying time. Champagnes from this vintage are rich, vinous and soft with heaps of character without overbearing strength. Bollinger R.D. 1976 from magnum for example, is something to behold. Other magnificent cuvées include Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, , Palmer & Co Collection 1976, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne and Lanson Vintage Collection 1976.

 

Manual riddling Taittinger Comtes

 

Taittinger Vineyards

Taittinger Vineyards

 

Bollinger’s Master Cooper Gaël Chaunut

 

 

Herniot L’inattendue Blanc de Blancs 2016

 

A highlight from 2014, Bollinger La Grande Annee 2014

 

Louis Roederer Cristal

 

Charles Heidsieck Brut Millesime 2012

 

Veuve La Grande Dame 2008

 

Chardonnay clearly saved the 2007 vintage

 

Taittinger Comtes 2005

 

Jancis Robinson

 

 

 

Dom Perignon P2 2000

 

Louis Roederer Cristal Vinotheque 1999

 

Krug Clos du Mesnil

 

Vineyards at Dom Perignon

 

Moet Grand Vintage trilogy 1992, 2002 and 2012

 

Piper Heidsieck Rare 1988

 

 

Piper-Heidsieck Hors Serie 1982