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Champagne has had ‘too many vintages of the century’

Champagne houses and critics must guard more carefully against heaping praise on a particular vintage too soon, according to Ruinart's cellar master.

Image: Ruinart

Frederic Panaiotis
(pictured) believes the Champagne sector is in danger of becoming a victim of its own hyperbole.

‘There have been too many vintages of the century,’ he told Decanter.com during a visit to London this week.

Champagne producers do not always produce wines from a specific vintage, and Panaiotis cautioned that it can take a decade before the proper quality of a particular year can be judged.

‘One that has been talked up is 1996,’ he said. ‘Winemakers knew it was a good one, but the marketing people and journalists told people what they wanted to hear. There was such a hype, but look at it now. Some of the wines are exceptional, but not the majority of them.’

At the same time, Panaiotis said Champenois must work hard to ‘spread the word’ among consumers worldwide about vintage variation across France.

Too many people, he argued, ‘see the [French] vintage through the prism of Bordeaux’.

This has been especially apparent in 2013, he said, a year that some expect will be remembered as one of the toughest vintages for Bordeaux in at least 20 years.

In contrast, ‘Champagne was one of the most blesssed regions in France’, Panaiotis said. Despite a relatively late start to the harvest, ‘we escaped most of the rain and had a warm summer from 1 July, but not too warm’.

He added, ‘Chardonnay was the winning variety, which is good for Ruinart’.

The house, which is part of French billionaire Bernard Arnault’s LVMH empire, is presenting newly found archive documents in London this week, showing that Ruinart produced a rose Champagne 250 years ago.

Written by Chris Mercer

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