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Champagne AR Lenoble speaks out against disgorgement dates

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

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.

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