Vintage Champagne Highlights

Click on the years below to shop by vintage!

2014  a difficult year in the vineyards, with a variety of challenges presented by a forgettable summer. A dry, warm September saved the vintage, however. The wines lack the concentration or power of the best years, but they are enjoyably fruity and supple, with plenty of acidity for medium-term aging. Cristal is predictably the best of the already-released prestige wines.

2013 – The amplitude of 2012 is nowhere to be seen in the cool, saline year of 2013; the two years are a study in contrasts. 2013 started very late, but was rescued by a warm summer. Harvest extended into October – a throwback to a different era of Champagne. The wines, too, lack the generous fruitiness of recent vintages and instead manifest a chiseled, racy purity and fine delineation of flavor. A more understated, intellectual style perhaps; these are exquisitely fine-boned, energetic wines of huge sophistication, and they show medium to long term aging potential.

2012 – For a variety of meteorological reasons, 2012 suffered from low yields. But what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, and certainly deserves a place on the ledger of excellent recent years. Thanks to a hot August with cool nights, the wines unusually benefit from both excellent ripeness and ample acidity. The style, then, is one of rich fruit concentration allied to zest and energy. Many 2012 vintage wines are ready to drink in 2023, but the density of the year will require another 5-7 years for the prestige cuvées.

2009 – A warm vintage gave rich, fruity, loose-knit wines that drank well from the beginnings of their lives – a stark contrast to 2008. The 2009s probably lack the acidic spine for a long life, but they have always been delicious and remain so today. There is, however, little reason for much further aging for most wines; enjoy them in their fruity generosity of today.

2008 – While 2005, 2006 and 2007 all failed to convince in differing ways, 2008 marks a resplendent return to quality in Champagne. This is a breathtaking vintage of huge concentration and structure, allied to great poise and energy. The wines have a classical profile, but are simply ‘extra’ in every way, especially in their capacity for aging. This manifests negatively in how shut down many of the prestige cuvées remain 15 years after the vintage, although the vintage wines are beginning to drink well now. If I could choose one vintage in the last 30 years to cellar, it would be 2008. These should be some of the great wines from the region for at least another two decades.

2004 – A large crop does not always spell quality, but it did in 2004. These are mid-weight, easy-going wines of excellent freshness and finesse, particularly when Chardonnay-dominant. Approaching their 20th anniversary, their expressive, flattering character means that most should be drunk – with immense pleasure! – over the next five years. Candidates for longer-term drinking include a range of Blanc de Blancs such as Dom Ruinart, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires and Salon.

2002 – The most hyped vintage since 1996, 2002s are excellent, balanced, joyful wines, although in retrospect, lack the absolute concentration and structure that characterized subsequent brilliant vintages such as 2008. At 20 years old, almost all 2002s are drinking wonderfully well, some in fact maturing rather rapidly; probably only the prestige cuvées have time in hand. Now firmly in the modern era of winemaking, the star names could not fail to make great wines: Cristal, Dom Pérignon P2, various Billecart-Salmon cuvées, Dom Ruinart and Krug all succeeded brilliantly.

2000 – The millennium vintage produced some good wines, but never quite lived up to the level the producers may have wished for. Most wines feel quite soft and opulent today, and quite advanced both in color and in flavor terms. In other words, drink up!

1998 – 1998 is a good but not great year, with some excellent prestige wines such as Dom Pérignon P2, Rare and Krug Clos de Mesnil. There is, however, no particular upside in waiting longer to drink these or any other 1998s, most of which are now fully mature.

1996 – Long considered a legendary vintage in Champagne, drinkers have been reassessing that reputation in recent years. The soaring acidity and sometimes unripe, green notes on the finish of the wines have diminished the reputation of 1996. But from the top houses, the 1996s are gloriously complete wines that have simply needed this long to show in full bloom. The radiant quality of the fruit (thanks to that acidity), the concentration and complexity are a sight to behold, and among the best wines, the 1996s should shine for at least another decade.

1995 – 1995 has long lived in the shadow of 1996, but really deserves its own stage: these are elegant, pure, balanced wines, many of which are still drinking beautifully today. It perhaps lacks the concentration of the very best vintages, but that is nit-picking. Any of the top prestige cuvées are drinking well today if well stored, especially the glorious Roederer Cristal Vinothèque releases, Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires and Dom Pérignon P2. Lower down the quality ladder, the 1995s should be drunk now.

Earlier notable vintages: 1982, 1988, 1989, 1990