Champagne AR Lenoble has used a re-design of its back labels to make public its strong opposition to printing disgorgement dates on bottles.

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Lenoble said it was committed to transparency and that its new labels would include the period in the year that the Champagne was bottled plus information on base wine vintages used – but it specifically said it would not follow the emerging trend for publishing disgorgement dates.

The move sees Lenoble wade into a public debate in Champagne about the importance of disgorgement dates and whether wine drinkers should have access to them.

The new Champagne Lenoble back label

The new Champagne Lenoble back label.

Disgorgement is the removal of yeast sediment after secondary fermentation, prior to dosage. Its timing is thought by some producers and critics to have a subtle effect on taste.

But, not everyone agrees. ‘My fear is that the recent obsession with disgorgement dates is reducing the winemaking process in Champagne to insignificant numbers which are not understood by most of the people talking about them,’ said Lenoble’s owner, vineyard manager and winemaker, Antoine Malassagne.

‘There is no ideal disgorgement date. It depends wholly on the specific wine in question.’

Christian Holthausen, export director at Lenoble, told Decanter.com, ‘Five different producers from five different villages in Champagne could make the same vintage but the best disgorgement date for one wouldn’t be the best disgorgement date for the other four.

‘The bottling date is actually more important for me than the disgorgement date,’ he said, adding that the bottling date indicated how long a wine had spent on lees.

Dom Ruinart‘s chef de caves, Frederic Panaiotis, previously told Decanter.com that he is against publication of disgorgement dates on non-vintage Champagne.

Some producers, such as Bruno Paillard, print disgorgement dates on labels on the basis that a Champagne’s taste profile can alter significantly in the months after that point. Bollinger has its recently disgorged ‘RD’ label and Krug has begun printing ID codes on bottles to allow consumers to find disgorgement dates.

Decanter.com understands that discussions have been held at the Comité Champagne in recent months on whether to introduce a mandatory minimum resting period following disgorgement.

‘There are a lot of discussions happening in Champagne at the moment and I think that’s an excellent thing,’ said Holthausen.

‘We never release a bottle until it’s had at least four to six months of post-disgorgement time,’ he said. Lenoble produces around 300,000 bottles annually.

  • Jason Lewis

    Champagne — even n.v. Brut cuvées — continues to age *after* being disgorged. Indeed, it is often improved with, not “a few months . . . post disgorgement,” but with YEARS . . . and how can the consumer know how long the wine has been aging without a date?

    Has the retailer properly rotated the inventory? Has the last bottle from the previous case sold, before the stock clerk refilled the shelves? Or, has the new inventory been placed in front of, on top of, the old bottles? How do I know? Perhaps by checking the disgorgement date?

  • disqus_IKhcXxawuV

    I hope a Champagne consumer can rely on a house to wait a few months post bottling and post disgorgement. Geez, the wine is already been held 3 or 5 or 6 years. Give them a break. Not likely to lower the reputation for a the sake of a few months rush to market after a painstaking long process.

  • Jason Lewis

    I, personally, have no problem with knowing ***approximate*** dégorgement dates (e.g.: “1er semestre 2012”). (Almost) everyone knows by now that Champagnes *do* age after release, and I have many bottles of non-vintage Brut Champagne aging in my cellar. For that purpose, knowing a specific bottle was disgorged in early 2012 is as good as knowing that is was disgorged on 12 February 2012.

    HOWEVER, both Mssrs. Malassagne and Holthausen have taken the idea of providing this information and turned it on its head. NO ONE is saying, nor even suggested, there is anything like “an ideal date” for dégorgement. (“Oh, 12 February . . . too bad. If only they’d come into work on the on the 11th, even though it was Sunday. They blew it.”) And Mr. Barquín is absolutely correct (elsewhere in the comments section) that knowing the bottling date — without also knowing the disgorgement date — tells us nothing!

    So much for the producer’s commitment to transparency . . .

  • http://www.jizni-svah.cz Jan Čeřovský (Belcarnen)

    Disgorgement date is here not to tell us if the bottle was disgorged in “ideal” moment, but just to let us know how long it is already ageing after removal of lees. This is clearly something that bottling date won’t tell me. All those arguments seems bit weird to me.

  • Jesús Barquín

    “‘The bottling date is actually more important for me than the disgorgement date,’ he said, adding that the bottling date indicated how long a wine had spent on lees.”
    No, it does not unless you disclose the disgorgement date as well.

  • http://www.mymaninchampagne.com Jiles Halling

    M. Holthausen states that ” We never release a bottle until it’s had at least four to six months’ of post-disgorgement time”. How does the consumer know that unless the date of disgorgement is made known by, for example, printing it on the back label?