Decorked: Champagne Base Vintage & Disgorgement Dates

Welcome to Decorked, Delectable's new wine advice column, where we answer your burning beverage questions! This week, we have a question from Tim Riddle, where we discuss how to find the base vintage and disgorgement date on a bottle of Champagne. Tim Riddle: A customer at the wine shop asked me a question I couldn't answer regarding Champagne: "I know the age of vintage Champagne because the date is right there on the label; but, how do I know when an NV Champagne was bottled?" Decorked: Thanks for reaching out, Tim. The question you and your customer raise is an important, albeit somewhat confusing one, in the world of non-vintage Champagne. As you know, non-vintage (NV) Champagnes can be composed of different wine lots spanning several years. The goal for most houses is to create a consistent profile for NV Champagnes, regardless of the release date. Producers achieve this by backlogging several different vintages to play with when constructing their blend each year. Nonetheless, most non-vintage Champagnes are still built upon a “base vintage” that constitutes the foundation of the blend. Several producers will list the base vintage somewhere on a bottle. To answer your initial question, most Champagnes are first bottled the spring following harvest. Perhaps of greater importance than the initial bottling date, however, is the “disgorgement date.” The disgorgement date indicates the time at which the yeast cells were extracted from the bottle and the dosage was added (for more information on the Champagne Method, read our 10 Essential Facts on Sparkling Wine). While not required by law, a number of Champagne producers choose to print the disgorgement date on each bottle as well – a welcome move that increases transparency for the consumer. Both the duration of time since disgorgement and the time spent ageing in bottle on the dead yeast cells, or “sur lie,” are key indicators to the profile of a Champagne. After the yeasts perform a secondary fermentation in bottle – the procedure that creates the bubbles – they start to break down in a process called “autolysis.” Champagne law mandates that non-vintage Champagnes spend a minimum of 12 months ageing sur lie, but some producers will leave their wines in bottle for years, even decades prior to disgorgement (this holds particularly true for vintage Champagnes as well). A number of Champagne houses even release special “late disgorgement” cuvées. Wines that spend extended periods ageing sur lie are said to develop greater richness and a fuller body, as well as “leesy” or “yeasty” flavors, such as brioche, shortbread biscuits, or bakery shop. In addition, Champagnes typically mature at a more rapid pace post-disgorgement. More recently disgorged wines will often taste fresher than the same NV Champagne disgorged a year earlier. This doesn’t make one better than the other, it just provides a different window into a wine during its ageing process. One caveat to all of this information, however, is that there isn’t a consistent system across Champagne producers as to how to communicate this information on a bottle of wine. Some choose to print the information on the back label, some on the neck. Some will etch the cryptic-looking numbers into the glass, and others still will offer a QR code where you can access that information. To help crack the code, you can search any given producer online to discover their system. Do you have any wine, beer, or spirits questions? Decorked is here to provide the answers! Write us at decorked@delectable.com and you could be featured in an upcoming column!

Pierre Gimonnet & Fils

Cuvée Cuis 1er Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Chardonnay

Since 1750 the Gimonnet family have been vine growers in the village of Cuis, supplying the great Champagne houses with grapes up until the 1930's recession, when sales fell. Today the estate is run by Pierre's sons, Michel and Didier, and in 1987 acquired the house of Larmandier Père et Fils based in Cramant. Classic BdB, light and refreshing, great balance, complex with perfectly ripe fruit, bubbles and mousse. Lingering finish with bright mineral ending. — 2 years ago

Velma, Daniel P. and 2 others liked this

Charles Heidsieck

Brut Réserve Champagne Blend

Andrew Whittle
9.8

BO'S tasting - 60% 07 vintage with 10 further back vintages in blend - no oak treatment - an opulent wine - probably the best NV on the market in Oz - "a clean Krug!" — 4 years ago

jesus liked this

Pol Roger

Réserve Brut Champagne Blend

Tasty biscotti like flavour that has nice great persistence and then layers with lemon curd. A great champagne for those who like power but something a bit more refined. I am a bolli guy who can't afford krug. My old boss at universal wine bar in Adelaide used to drink it every weekend. Classic! — 4 years ago

Louis Roederer

Brut Premier Champagne Blend

This is slightly Pinot noir dominated. It is slightly tart yet also creamier. And toasty. It was like drinking a savory trifle. I’m not sure if that sounds appetizing but trust me, it worked! — a year ago

Eric, Jason and 13 others liked this

Egly-Ouriet

Brut Tradition Grand Cru Champagne Blend

Jessica Tousignant
9.3

75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay from 35- to 40-year-old vines; 100% grand cru.

Rich texture in the wine with a tighter bead. Stone fruit, tea, and a sort of ginger style spice hinting through.
— 5 years ago

Anthony liked this

Taittinger

Réserve Brut Reims Champagne Blend

Medium-bodied with aromas of spiced apple & brioche. Crisp acidity, notes of green apple, nutmeg, biscuit, buttery Chardonnay hints, and citrus. Good length. — 5 years ago

Krug

Grande Cuvée Brut Champagne Blend

Lemon/gold color. M+ intensity. Apple, pear, brioche, yeast, saline, white pepper. M+ delicate acidity and intensity. Pear, apricot, ripe lemon and apples on the palate. Creamy mousse. Long finish. Fabulous. — 4 years ago

Bill and Hermes liked this

Bollinger

Special Cuvée Brut Champagne Blend

Cathy Corison
9.1

Opening wine for The Village Pub Corison dinner tonight. Toasty, nutty, tart goodness. — 2 years ago

Velma, Jill and 30 others liked this
Shawn R

Shawn R Influencer Badge Premium Badge

Nice pull Cathy!
Alex Lallos

Alex Lallos Influencer Badge

Love these with a bit of age