By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer
Champagne for the Cellar
Nothing compares to mature wine, and Champagne is one of the greatest wines in the world for lasting and gaining complexity over the passage time. However, information on how to age Champagne--and even the question of whether one should--is often contradictory and confusing. Many of you have been to Champagne and undoubtedly been told from the big houses that the ageing has been done for you at the winery, and the wine meant to be drunk as soon as it is released. Well, in this week's Champagne Friday video, I hope to debunk these and other myths and contradictions related to Champagne ageing and storage. Along the way, you'll be taken on a tour of my home walk-in cellar and wine locker, and be given the run down on several different wine cabinet storage options.
Is your cellar is in need of a Champagne boost? Here are some of my favorite cellar candidates that are in stock now:
Ariston Aspasie "Carte Blanche" Brut Champagne $27.99: Non vintage Champagne in the cellar? Are you crazy? We put a bottle of this in the K&L cellar for 5 years as an experiment, and served it next to the current release at a staff tasting. The verdict was unanimous, the older bottle was just better, with absolutely no lack of freshness. The time had allowed the wine to integrate beautifully, extra complexity to develop and the texture to fill out: all without sacrificing zip. This doesn’t just apply to this bottle- try putting down half a case of your favorite non-vintage and compare it to the current release next year, then the year after that etc. You will be impressed!
2005 Michel Loriot Vintage Brut Champagne $44.99: Traditionally, vintage Champagne is the stuff to put in your cave for the future, and this effortless, elegant Meunier based Champagne will repay keeping for a decade with lacey complexity. Many of the big houses say that Meunier doesn’t age- except for Krug, who use a lot… This wine will prove them right in five years, I bet you it needs 10 to start to toast up!
2002 Launois "Special Club" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne $59.99: After drinking 1964 with Bernard Launois on my last trip, and 1995 earlier this week, no producer excites me more for keeping than Launois. This Champagne, like the 2002 Paillard that is listed next is the ultimate open ended proposition for the cellar: Drink tomorrow or in 30 years! Powerful Blanc de Blancs that gets its richness from old vines and a delayed harvest. It might seem strange that the top bottling is offered younger than the regular vintage, but Mr. Bernard Launois is adamant that extensive sur-lee ageing is reductive and shortens the ultimate life span of the wine. He goes against almost every other producer in Champagne with this iconoclastic opinion, but for anyone who has tasted perfectly stored, great Champagne that has aged on cork, we know it can work! Made from two plots of 65-year-old vines, one in the Grand Cru of Oger called the Chenys and one in Mesnil called the Derriere Maison, this is one of the ultimate expressions of Chardonnay that we have to offer.
2002 Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Vintage Champagne $59.99: This even blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir comes from very old plots in the Grand Cru of Bouzy. It is an intense, concentrated Champagne with a lot of black cherry Pinot character. Like the Launois, you can enjoy it now at 10 years old, or sock it away for your children.
2004 Louis Roederer "Cristal" Brut Champagne $189: This all estate Champagne is nearly always drunk to young. I did not understand the wine for many years, until I was able to taste older bottles and then I got it- this is great stuff. I think the 2004 is very much like the great 1988, which is just now starting to show its stuff. If you have the budget and the patience, it will not disappoint.
A toast to you!
Check out more educational wine & spirits videos from Gary and the experts at K&L on YouTube!