Disgorgement dates: who else will follow?

Is the move to put a date of disgorgement on all quality champagne gathering momentum? Moët has revealed it is going to put disgorgement dates on the 2004 Grand Vintage in white and rosé styles when they are officially launched later this year. Perhaps this is partly to highlight the longer ageing these wines are now getting, and the importance winemaker Benoît Gouez is placing on additional post-disgorgement ageing before release – the white 2004 will get 12 months, we understand, in addition to nearly seven years on its lees. Richard Geoffroy at Dom Pérignon has also been giving longer post-disgorgement ageing to recent releases of DP.

Moët management has always claimed that it would create problems and confuse consumers if they did this with Moët Brut Imperial NV, following the line taken by many other houses, that consumers might think it was a ‘sell by’ or ‘best before’ date. There is no hard evidence that they have changed their minds, but perhaps they have seen that Lanson now puts a date of disgorgement on all its range of champagnes, vintage and non-vintage, and it doesn’t appear to have caused them any such problems.

It can hardly have escaped their notice either that many other small, quality-minded producers are also giving this information now, along with the majority of higher profile growers. Krug too has just started making this detail available for wines bottled since July 2011 via its website, although Olivier Krug doesn’t see it as important. It can’t be long before Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart follow suit, surely? Clicquot already gives this information for its Cave Privée range of vintage re-releases and head winemaker Dominique Demarville is certainly open to the idea. It will be interesting to see what Frédéric Panaiotis, Chef de Cave at Ruinart, has to say on the subject at the release of Dom Ruinart 2002 later this week.

Krug to give disgorgement date on future releases

Krug Grande Cuvée will in future bear an ID code on the label which gives the quarter when each bottle is disgorged and will also enable purchasers to lookup information on the Krug website about the harvest conditions prevailing in the year on which the wine is based. Julie Cavil from the winemaking team also confirms that Krug has been setting aside some extra volumes of Grande Cuvée from each blend since that bottled in June 2009, giving the opportunity for the company to sell a second release of the wine after longer lees ageing in the future (Grande Cuvée is already aged for seven years before release).

In London with Cavil for the launch of Krug Vintage 2000 and Clos du Mesnil 2000, Olivier Krug confirmed that revealing further details about the Krug Grande Cuvée blend, a radical departure from previous practice at the house, was aimed at giving Krug lovers more information about the wines they may have in their own cellars, though both he and chef de Cave Eric Lebel attach little importance to disgorgement dates and he doesn’t think Krug drinkers do either.

“We know however, that Krug lovers are interested in how Grande Cuvée ages and this information will enable those with several different blends in their cellars in five years’ time to see which is the oldest. It’s not so much about revealing the harvest base of each wine, we won’t actually give that. It’s more about conveying the challenge we face every year in making the Grande Cuvée blend from what nature has given us,” says Olivier Krug.

To emphasise the point that he doesn’t see the particular harvest base as important Olivier Krug says that Cavil, Lebel and he recently assessed blind six past consecutive blends of Grande Cuvée that had already been released to see which they thought the best. “We all three picked the blend based on the 2001 harvest as our favourite, despite this being the poorest harvest by some way of the six we tried.” He said that the 2001 based blend was in the middle of the six so we can assume the range ran from 1998 to 2003, a pretty interesting and diverse collection of harvests (see harvest reports on Trade Matters page) The ID codes will be on all bottles leaving the house since the start of July 2011.

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