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Champagne vintages to buy now

On the basis of our 2022 Champagne Report, lovers of fizz have a wealth of years to choose from among the current offerings. But with prices on the up for the most vaunted vintages, best to stock up soon, says Essi Avellan MW

Words by Essi Avellan MW

The Collection

Of the recent, widely available Champagne vintages that comprised the tasting of 350 wines I conducted this August for the first part of Club Oenologique’s 2022 Champagne Report (focused on the major houses; part II, focused on grower Champagnes, will follow in 2023), one sits apart. Wines from the much-hyped 2008 vintage have largely lived up to their billing. Moreover, they can still be found – if money is no object, since prices have risen to unprecedented levels on the secondary market.

These are coolly fruity, classically styled wines with notable acidity, and their ageing has, accordingly, been very slow. Some of the vintage’s final releases have only recently seen the light of day, and there are now some very big guns out there. Witness Krug 2008, Rare Champagne 2008, Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis 2008 and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2008, all of which surely defy time.

louis salmon 2008 champagne
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis won a top-scoring spot among the much-hyped 2008 vintage

In the shadow of the mighty 2008, neither of the fine vintages of 2012 and 2013 have received the attention they deserve. On the plus side, nor have prices jumped quite as high despite the current trend for increases across the board. The 2012 is quite magnificent, a vintage hard not to like in all its powerful, compact fruitiness and energising freshness. It is a vintage that tastes delicious immediately but has all the building blocks of longevity. The year was universally declared and, as a consequence, we are spoiled for choice for both immediate drinking and for cellaring. Now is the time to stock up on the wonderful 2012 Dom Pérignon, which will soon give way to the next vintage. The year also produced the (to my palate) best-ever Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, thanks both to mother nature and the new, bold recipe crafted by the then-chef de cave Dominique Demarville (now at Lallier).

Style-wise, 2013 sits somewhere in between the concentrated 2012 and the acid-lined 2008, being coolly fruity but managing to avoid acidity dominating the wines. Radiantly fruity, crystalline in its purity, this is a vintage for lovers of the classic cool style of champagne. We have seen some magnificent examples of those features in wines like Roederer’s Cristal Rosé, Deutz Amour de Deutz and Amour de Deutz Rosé as well as Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque and Belle Epoque Rosé.

What makes stocking up on these even more appealing is the prospect of the vintages in the pipeline. The forthcoming years are good rather than great vintages. The variable 2014 shows the most promise, with the most successful wines coming with attractive forward fruit, lovely vibrant acidity and a charming easiness to them. Bollinger really nailed the year with its minerally elegant and vivacious La Grande Année.

A limited number of 2016s have arrived on the market to date and the best have come with lovely lushness, vibrancy and freshness. Henriot’s monocru L’Inattendue shows triumphant Chardonnay, which overall struggled to ripen in the year. In our tasting, Leclerc Briant showed a very strong portfolio of 2016s with its Le Clos des Trois Clochers, Blanc de Meuniers and Millésime.

champagne bottles
Leclerc Briant shone in 2016 with its strong portfolio, whereas Roederer’s Cristal and Cristal Rosé were top-of-the-class in 2013 (photo: Xavier Young)

2015 was widely declared, even if the results have proved disappointing. Despite the year’s warm weather, a great wealth of the wines show unripe aromatics characterised by austere vegetal or ashy notes. These aromas escaped many winemakers at the vins clairs stage but with ageing, the rustic aromas are now unmistakable.

Thereafter, there is little to get excited about until the 2018-2019-2020 trilogy comes out, with the 2017 harvest spoiled by rains and rot. Some individual Chardonnay successes can be found, especially amongst the blanc de blancs, and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne and Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs were made, but their success will only be judged in the years to come.

Part One of Club Oenologique’s Champagne Report 2022 can be found here. Tasting notes and scores (featuring only those wines scoring 90 points and above) are available to all registered users of The Collection, the online home of our premium wine and spirits content. To register for free, click here. Part two of the report, focusing on grower Champagnes, will appear in spring 2023.