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Champagne Vintage Guide

See Decanter's vintage ratings for Champagne, with vintages back to 199 revised and updated by leading Champagne expert and author Michael Edwards in 2018...

2013

The reverse of the Champagne 2012 vintage, a Chardonnay year par excellence; Ay Pinot Noir was also successful.

Weather Conditions

One of the latest harvests since 1988, caused by delayed flowering into July. A warm rainless September saved the day. The reverse of 2012, a Chardonnay year par excellence; Ay Pinot Noir was also successful.

Best Champagnes

Krug Clos du Mesnil: Pierre Péters Cuvée Spéciale Le Mesnil; Roger Brun La Pelle Ay Grand Cru.


2012

Keep

An outstanding but small crop of Pinot Noir; Chardonnays big & foursquare are not in same league.

Weather conditions

A brilliant August and warm September made for an outstanding but small crop of Pinot Noir, best since 1952. Chardonnays big & foursquare are not in same league. Aube badly hit by hail.

Best Champagnes

Roederer Cristal; La Grande Dame; Gosset Brabant Noirs d’Ay; Vilmart Grand Cellier d’Or


2011

Drink Soon

Hollow mid palate even from top growers.

Weather Conditions

An even weaker year, rain at wrong moment. Hollow mid-palate even from top growers.


2010

Keep

Not vintage quality but Chardonnay is stalwart of NV blends.

Weather Conditions

Intense mid August rainfall damaged prospects for black grapes. Not vintage quality but Chardonnay is stalwart of NV blends.


2009

Drink soon

Generous elegant fruit expression in all three varieties.

Weather Conditions

Dry winter led to a deficit in the water table.

Fresh showers in spring put the vegetative cycle to rights. Flowering was fine but a chaotic stormy July saw landfalls in Ay. August was warm and sunny, with cool nights. Not a drop of rain in the harvest from mid September. Generous elegant fruit expression in all three varieties.

Best Champagnes

Fourny Monts de Vertus; Marie Lancelot, Cramant; Armand Margaine Club, Villers Marmery; Drappier Millésime d’Exception.


2008

Keep

Something special: powerful fruit and scintillating acidity.

Weather Conditions

After an icy December (07) January was cold and raw temperatures continued in spring when there was some frost damage.May was warm, flowering satisfactory.

Summer outbreaks of oidium and mildew were quickly mastered. August was overcast and cool. Settled harvest from mid September, the health of the grapes perfect. Something special: powerful fruit and scintillating acidity.Real keepers.

Best Champagnes

Agrapart Avize ‘Vénus’; M-N Ledru Cuvée du Goulté


Champagne brands to buy: Over 100 vintage & non-vintage bottles rated


2007

Keep

Most producers say it is too early to determine whether vintage Champagnes will be made from the 2007 harvest. Management of individual vineyards is likely to prove the deciding factor.

Weather Conditions

The season kicked off hot. April saw unusually high temperatures and flowering arrived a month early, in May. But it was far from homogenous, with differences arising even between parcels. Rain followed, and then a cold, wet summer which continued the vintage’s ‘uneven’ theme. Ripening was patchy, and the high humidity made rot a constant threat.

On 24 August, good weather returned, together with a drying east wind, and most houses began picking soon after, earlier than normal. Despite the cloudiest summer since records began, the mild winter end and early flowering shifted the whole season – and harvest – forward.

Hail decimated some localised areas in the run-up to picking in the southern Aube area, driving down quantities still further after unripe and rotten fruit was removed.

Chardonnay was the least affected by the chaotic weather and uneven ripening and is the most consistent in terms of ripeness. The maturity of both Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir is more varied as the varieties suffered from attacks of mildew and botrytis in several spots. Potential alcohol is slightly below the average since 2002, yet acidity is higher than normal, but not alarmingly so.

Growers who held their nerve and picked later because of uneven ripeness in the vineyard are likely to be rewarded with better quality and maturity.

2007 is the first year under Champagne’s newly installed maximum yield of 15,500kg/ha, but most growers will not have attained that level.


2006

Keep

Producers are hesitant to declare a vintage Champagne will be made in 2006, but most are pleased with the quality so far. Wines are showing clean aromas, rich fruit and promise finesse and balance.

Weather Conditions

The 2006 vintage was distinguished by an unusually dry and sunny June and July – promoting excellent flowering and good, steady ripening – followed by a rainy and humid August which threatened to obliterate the early-summer promise; growers suddenly feared mildew and botrytis.

But September brought more sun and heat, and a protracted harvest unfolded under ideal conditions – sunny days and cool nights – from 8 September (Chardonnay in Sézanne) to 2 October in Mailly.

A few thunderstorms at the start of July resulted in isolated hail damage, but since there was none of the variable ripening of Bordeaux nor the rot of Burgundy in 2006, the appellation brought in its maximum allowed yields of 13,000 kilos/hectare.

Grapes attained optimal physiological maturity and thanks to cool September nights retained a good balance between ripeness and acidity.

The Chardonnays combine richness with freshness, and both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were picked with minimal botrytis – any affected grapes were sorted out.

Acidity levels are a little down on normal, averaging around 7g per litre. It’s possible winemakers will ncrease Chardonnay percentages to balance the richer style of the year’s Pinot.


2005

Keep

As we write, we believe the 2005 harvest will provide the opportunity of making some superlative blends… and probably vintage champagne

Weather Conditions

Following a cold dry winter, bud break began in April. Moderate temperatures and rainfall from April to June supported good growth with flowering in mid-June. Fruit set quickly due to the extremely fine weather.
Without being an especially hot summer in general, July 2005 was quite warm but wet, while August was dry but cooler than usual. These conditions helped steady healthy vine development and then a very hot period from the 26th of August led to acelerated ripening. Harvesting in September took place in ideal conditions with sunny days and cool nights.

Initial tasting sessions have confirmed that the Chardonnays are indeed excellent wines with very. The Pinot Noirs are and are particularly first-rate from the grand cru vineyards where they were able to ripen perfectly.


2004

Keep

Outstanding quality with excellent balance of fruit and acidity

Weather Conditions

Budburst began on 10 April followed by flowering towards the middle of June. Berry set started soon after flowering and was unaffected by any incidence of shatter (poor or non-setting of fruit). Crop thinning occurred in many vineyards to reduce high yields of the bumper crop which was evident.

The drought in 2003 followed by low rainfall in the winter and spring of 2004 meant low ground-water levels throughout the Champagne area that promoted ripening and helped reduce fungal infection, limited to a few cases of powdery mildew among some of the Chardonnay plantings.

August by contrast was exceptionally wet and cool but returned to sunshine by the end of the month, ripening berries and enhancing sugar concentrations. Low rainfall and cool nights made for ideal weather conditions for September, when harvest ensued.


2003

Keep

A very ripe year for Champagne with good aromas and fruit concentration

Weather Conditions

After a cold winter, March was warm and budburst began in April. After this bright start, heavy frosts struck the week of 7-11 April with snow on the evening of 10 April. Widespread bud destruction occurred. Fortunately, the weather that ensued helped base buds develop which, although less fruitful, compensated for some of the lost crop. May and June were warm and flowering took place early and quickly – by 9 June.

June was one of the hottest ever recorded in Champagne and saw some hail storms but some vineyards were spared hail damage. July and August remained very hot and dry causing rise in sugar and drop in grape acidity.

Picking thus began late August in ideal weather (sunny days and cool nights) and was carried out very quickly (ten days or so instead of the usual two weeks) since the outstanding condition and ripeness of the grapes meant that no sorting was necessary.


2002

Keep

Excellent quality wines with a relatively ripe character for Champagne

Weather Conditions

This year was generally a dry, warm year. Though August began with bursts of rain followed by high temperatures then thunderstorms at the end of the month. Rain continued though early September followed by clear skies that lasted throughout the harvest with the exception of light drizzle from 22 to 23 September.

Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, winemaker at Champagne Louis Roederer describes the vintage as ‘an early-maturing year brought about by dry soil conditions that accelerated ripening.’


2001

Keep

Rather dilute wines lacking strength and vinosity.

Weather Conditions

After a very wet winter, budburst began but was about 15 days later than usual. After this late start, ideal conditions ensured in May and June, which were sunny flowering occurred satisfactorily. Rains and storms in July prompted many growers to green harvest. Then, véraison (ripening – change of colour of the grapes) began beautifully in August but sky high temperatures helped the vines ripen well and vineyards remained quite healthy.

Wet cold weather followed for the first three weeks of September, hindering ripening, diluting the grapes and causing some rot. The harvest started late September and ensued without sunshine. Selective picking was necessary to avoid rotten and under ripe fruit.


2000

Keep

the harvest remained of remarkable quality from beginning to end

Weather Conditions

Spring began well with excellent growth showing by the end of April beginning of May and flowering in early June. Rainfall in July was four times higher than average and a hailstorm hit, destroying many vines but August was sunny and dry.

The wet weather though meant vines were slow to and acidity was low by end of August but good weather throughout September helped ripen the fruit more fully and the sugar and acid levels were registering about 9.5° and 10°, and 7.5 and 8 respectively, so things looked up.

The vintage started in mid-September and the sun shone for the duration of the picking which lasted two weeks, and the harvest remained of remarkable quality from beginning to end


1999

Keep

Straightforward wines with a clear varietal character

Weather Conditions

This year showed higher temperatures and more rainfall than usual throughout the growing season and vineyard conditions remained healthy. After a mild winter, bud burst began well in the spring with growth quickening throughout May with full flowering in June. July and August was hot, allowing for excellent véraison and the harvest began on September 15 under mainly sunny skies.


1998

Keep

Quality and quantity of the harvest surpassed expectations with grapes showing good health, sugar and acid levels

Weather Conditions

First rain and cool temperatures prevailed in July. Rot threatened but never actually materialised. Then, during the first 10 days of August, a heatwave began scalding some of the clusters of grapes. In September, persistent torrential rains caused the grapes to swell to such a degree that excessive sugar dilution and loss of acidity seemed inevitable.

A return to sunny, windy weather around September 15 allowed the ripening process to resume and the vintage began in most parts, shortly thereafter. Staggered picking helped growers select for ripe fruit. Quality and quantity of the harvest surpassed expectations with grapes showing good health, sugar and acid levels.


1997

Keep

Another remarkable year. The third of an excellent trio

Weather Conditions

Frost and hail marred the growing season, and uneven ripening caused further problems. After a wet June, the summer was dry until the end of August, when heavy rain returned. Better weather in September saved the year from complete disaster, but the wines lack acidity and this is unlikely to be a vintage year.


1996

Keep

A vintage of outstanding quality which produced classic wines

Weather Conditions

A dry summer with long bursts of sunshine produced a very high quality harvest of slightly above average size.

As in Burgundy to the south, the grapes combine high levels of ripeness with high levels of acidity. Some cellar masters at major houses are perplexed that the young wines seem to developing quite rapidly, despite their high acidity. Others believe it will be a classic vintage. Only time will tell.


1995

Keep

The first year widely considered good enough for vintage wines since 1990. A large crop

Weather Conditions

Very fine quality, especially for Chardonnay. Many vintage wines have been made, but only a few have been released.


1990

Drink Up

This year saw perfect conditions for vintage champagne. The wines were ripe and flavoursome

Weather Conditions

Almost half of the region was affected by the frosts that came in April, and cool conditions during the latter part of spring affected the flowering, which was prolonged. However, a hot, dry summer saw the development of a bumper crop and notably big grapes. The rain that fell in September was welcome, and helped the ripening process.


1989

drink soon

A hot summer produced rich wines slightly short on acidity. They will mature before the 1988s

Weather Conditions

Mild weather throughout much of spring saw the development of flourishing vegetation. However, the end of April brought with it some frost, which damaged a number of vineyards, reducing the potential crop. Temperatures picked up in May and the sun shone for much of the month, but a cold snap affected the flowering.

Hot and sunny conditions, interspersed by welcome showers, followed for the duration of summer, and the harvest began early (first/second week of September) on the Cote des Blancs and for the Pinot Noir. Due to the uneven flowering earlier in the year, there was a second harvest from mid-October until the start of November.


1988

keep

Classically structured, concentrated wines with sufficient acidity for long ageing

Weather Conditions

The spring was mild and flowering was completed without problems. July was cloudy but better conditions followed, although there was some heavy rain in mid-September.

Nonetheless quality proved excellent, and almost all producers released vintage wines. These are classic wines, characterised by their backbone and slight austerity. They will take longer to mature than the more opulent 1989s.


1986

keep

A number of vintage wines were released but quality was very variable

Weather Conditions

The weather this year was unpredictable and dramatic, to say the least. The winter was cold and the spring poor, yet the weather improved in June, and flowering was normal. The summer was warm and sunny, but rain in August and September marred the quality of the fruit, and induced some rot.

Many producers released vintage wines, but the wines have never had the allure of the 1985s, and have aged quite rapidly.


1983

drink soon

A good and reliable year rather overshadowed by the success of 1982

Weather Conditions

Winter was harsh, and conditions did not improve much in spring, which was cold and damp. As a result, flowering was late, although when it did take place it did so under ideal conditions. The sunny, warm weather continued throughout much of the summer, although enough rain fell to prevent the crop from drying out.

Rain – and the temperature – fell at the start of September, but conditions picked up in time for the harvest at the end of the month/beginning of October.


1982

drink soon

An exceptionally fine, rich vintage

Weather Conditions

Ideal weather conditions in 1982 led to a good vintage, a relief after a disappointing run. A cold and frosty winter gave way to a coolish spring, but temperatures picked up later in the season. The flowering conditions in June were ideal, and summer was sunny and dry. The grapes were ripe by relatively early on in September, and showers mid-month helped them achieve near-perfection. The crop was one of the largest on record.


1979

drink now

A vintage marked by impressive balance and longevity

Weather Conditions

A harsh winter was followed by a decidedly cool spring, with extreme frosts in May. Although these conditions slowed growth, flowering was good. The summer months saw a reasonable supply of sunshine and warmth, resulting in adequate ripening. The harvest took place fairly late in the season.


1978

drink now

The wines were lean and high in acidity

Weather Conditions

Flowering was uneven, and the growing season not helped by a cool summer. Conditions improved in September.

The wines were lean and high in acidity and are now in decline from their dubious best.


1976

drink soon

A very hot year produced soft, ripe wines, some of which have developed remarkable finesse

Weather Conditions

A long hot summer led to very early harvest that began right at the beginning of September.

The wine are very rich and low in acidity, and despite initial fears that they would become flabby with age and soon deteriorate, this has not happened with the best wines, which are still delicious. Krug is exceptional.


1975

drink soon

A classic vintage with wonderfully stylish and refined wines

Weather Conditions

Conditions during the early part of the year were unpredictable. Winter was damp and March saw snowfalls in the area. Temperatures picked up towards the end of April, and summer continued mainly warm and dry. Towards the end of September, however, the skies became overcast and rain fell quite heavily. The harvest was delayed until the start of October.


1973

drink now

Enormous crop, some well-balanced champagnes produced

Weather Conditions

The summer was hot and dry, but September rains, which caused some rot, marred a potentially great year.

The crop was enormous, and some vintage champagnes were produced, but they were medium-bodied and well balanced. Although most are probably past their best, Krug is still drinking well.


1971

drink now

A large vintage but the finest wines were marked by an elegance and delicacy of texture

Weather Conditions

Conditions unsettled throughout much of the year. An uneventful spring was followed by storms during May. June was cold and damp and much of August was stormy. By the end of summer, however, the temperatures had risen and most of September was sunny and hot.


1970

drink now

A classic year which produced finely structured wines with great depth of flavour

Weather Conditions

Flowering was late this year, due to a cold spring, but conditions improved until heavy rains fell during June. Summer was ideal: warm, sunny periods, punctuated by enough rain to keep the crop from drying out too much, lasted until the harvest.

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