Growing old gracefully
By champagnediscovery, Dec 8 2016 03:00PM
Œnothèques and oddities:
Older wine and for that matter champagne can be a delightful tasting experience, albeit one which so often passes us by. A lack of suitable storage and more often than not, a lack of patience can interfere with many an enthusiast’s collection.
Whilst it is possible to purchase older vintages and prestige cuvées; you either have to take a risk via a well-known online auction site where storage conditions may be debatable; or alternatively stump up the high premiums demanded from reputable dealers or auction houses.
Another option is to look out for re-released – late disgorged wines that some producers make available. These can be a more reasonable and less wallet busting introduction to the joys of well-aged champagne and have the advantage of additional ageing in the bottle where the wine remains in contact with the lees.
Bollinger are famous for their late release vintage RD (recently disgorged) cuvée which retails for around €275 per bottle. The excellent Jacquesson et Fils however re-release their numbered non-vintage range (single harvest plus reserve wines) as Dégorgement Tardif, retailing at a very reasonable €78.
Some producers would rather wait for as long as it takes until they feel the vintage has attained the ideal point of maturity before releasing, such was the case with Corbon and their sublime 1996 which has been afforded a mere 20 years. Others, such as Michel Loriot will give you a glimpse of old vintages like the unforgettable tiramisu in a glass that was their 1959 Pinot Meunier, disgorged a couple of days prior to our 2015 tasting. A 1985 Corbon, tasted 30 years later was incredibly fresh, vibrant and just beginning to develop some gorgeous tertiary aromas.
Over the years, we have invested in electronic wine cellars (not having access to a real cellar) so as to protect our treasured collection. My parents on the other hand developed a unique way of aging an old bottle of ‘R’ de Ruinart 1993, purchased during a visit to the house in 1999.
For several years it was stored in the kitchen before being transferred to the garden shed with all the climatic and temperature fluctuations such storage brought about, before spending its later years in an old fridge in the same garden shed. Despite all of this and no doubt testament to the quality of the Ruinart Chef de Cave, when drank at Christmas last year; it showed particularly well. Some oxidative notes to begin with (unsurprisingly), soon gave way to a beautifully rich, honeyed and intense character. It was both a surprise and a real treat. It had led a stressful and completely unorthodox life when compared to bottles stored in ideal conditions but despite this, had still managed to grow old gracefully!
N.B. We do not advise ageing champagne in garden sheds!
Lee and Gita