Best Vintage Champagnes

By Dirk Smits

Vintage Champagne, unlike a non-vintage brut, is the reflection of a single year with an exceptional harvest. According to EU regulations, such Champagne must contain at least 85% of the specified vintage. However, this has been tightened to 100% by the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne).

The decision to create this unique cuvée is made by the Champagne House following a tasting of the still wines. Of course, smaller quantities are produced, as reserve wines are not used in the final blend, making vintage Champagnes rarer. Vintage Champagnes should always reflect the characteristics of the year in question and yet maintain a definite House style, but on occasion the conflict between these two stipulations is too great to be resolved.

Finally, although the appellation specifications require only three years’ aging, many Champagne Houses age their vintage Champagnes for a few years longer to help them develop more roundness, richness and structure. Many vintage Champagnes can be aged for years after purchase and will gain in complexity.

The below selection of vintage Champagnes are listed in alphabetical order.

Champagne Deutz, Brut 2014

Origin: Aÿ, France
Varietals: 65% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier
Price: $59.00
ABV: 12%

Champagne Deutz was founded in 1838 in Aÿ, France by two Germans – William Deutz and Pierre-Hubert Geldermann. Both founders believed that the quality of the vineyards was key to making great Champagne and so they acquired top quality plots in the region early on. The combination of their technical prowess, their marketing skills and will to succeed allowed them to expand rapidly and to establish their wine internationally. For generations, the sales of Champagne Deutz were thriving and the business was earning its place among the great Houses of Champagne. In 1882, Champagne Deutz even became a founding member of the Syndicat des Grandes Marques.

But then a series of crises hit: the Champagne riots (wine growers being unhappy about pricing) of April 1911, which destroyed the Deutz headquarters and part of the cellars, followed by the First World War, the Great Depression and the German occupation of Champagne during World War II. Despite no money, no bottles and no men to make the wine during these difficult times, Champagne Deutz survived this challenging period and sustained growth throughout the following decades. Today, it continues to flourish, making an excellent line-up of wines.

A light straw color adorns this wine. Deutz’s 2014 Vintage Brut burst from the glass with aromas of citrus oil, stone fruit, green apple, honey and pastry cream. The mouth feel is elegantly fleshy showing ripe, delicate fruit, good structure, all wrapped in juicy acidity and finishing on a note of chalky minerality. The wine was kept four years on the lees and received 9 grams of sugar per liter after disgorgement.

> For more information, visit the Champagne Deutz official website.

Champagne Deutz, Hommage à William Deutz, La Côte Glacière 2012

Origin: Aÿ, France
Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir
Price: $161.00
ABV: 12%

Deutz Hommage à William Deutz, La Côte Glacière (the frosty hill) is created from an estate vineyard adjacent to the winery itself in Aÿ. The new creation by CEO Fabrice Rosset is a blend of 100% Pinot Noir and is an hommage to the founder of the house, William Deutz. The last time Champagne Deutz created a Blanc de Noirs was in 1975. Usually the wine from this vineyard is blended into Deutz’s other cuvées, but winemaker Michel Davesne was so impressed with it he suggested to put it on its own again. Only a few thousand bottles have been made.

This Blanc de Noirs shows a light golden color with vivid effervescence. It reveals a very expressive nose with floral and ripe fruit aromas. The palate is generous, complex, offering ripe red fruit, slivered almonds and a lightly spicy finish.

> For more information, visit the Champagne Deutz official website.

Champagne Laurent Perrier, Brut 2008

Origin: Tours-sur-Marne, France
Varietals: 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir
Price: $75.00
ABV: 12%

The Laurent-Perrier House was founded in 1812, when André Michel Pierlot settled in Tours-sur-Marne as a négociant of Champagne wines. He purchased the plots within this village that we now know as Laurent-Perrier. His son, Alphonse Pierlot, took over the House but eventually bestowed it upon cellar master Eugène Laurent. In 1887, Mathilde Perrier took the helm after her husband’s accidental death in the cellars. The Champagne House was renamed Veuve Laurent-Perrier combining both her and her late husband’s names. Mathilde had a strong, pioneering character that can be seen in the 1889 launch of the House’s sugar-free “Grand Vin sans Sucre,” a precursor to today’s Brut Nature or Zéro Dosage wine. She brought the business much success, restored its finances and kept the House going throughout the Great War. In 1939, daughter Eugénie Laurent sold the estate to Marie-Louise de Nonancourt whose descendants are still in charge today.

2008 was a long growing season with a slow maturation of the grapes without spikes in the curbs of sugar or acidity, and it has engendered wines of complexity and exceptional length. This was disgorged in July 2018 and given a low dosage of 8 grams per liter.

The wine is pale gold in color and fine bubbles feed a creamy effervescence. The nose shows delicate aromas of white fruits, baked apples, slivered almonds and lemon zest. The mouth feel is creamy and powerful without losing elegance, revealing pear, apple, Asian spices and a touch of minerality all coming together in a penetrating, complex finish.

> For more information, visit the Champagne Laurent-Perrier official website.

Champagne Louis Roederer Brut 2013

Origin: Reims, France
Varietals: 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay
Price: $78.00
ABV: 12%

In 1850, Louis Roederer decided to base its Vintage Brut on the structure and power of the Montagne de Reims Pinot Noirs—specifically in the crus of Verzy and Verzenay. These north-easterly facing vineyards take longer to ripen, producing wines that can sometimes be rough and confined at the start of the maturing process, but whose personality develops remarkably, becoming more intense and complex over time. The Chardonnay is sourced from estate vineyards in the Côte des Blancs cru of Chouilly.

This vintage wine, 39% of which is vinified in oak casks, is aged for four years on the yeast and left for a minimum of six months after disgorging. The dosage is 9 grams per liter.

The wine shows a yellow straw color with very fine and persistent effervescence. The complex bouquet gradually opens up revealing citrus zest, white flowers, fresh bread, slivered almonds and honey. The structure of the Pinot Noir from Verzy shows through the concentrated body accompanied by flavors of white fruit, fresh herbs, Asian spices and a hint of chalky minerality all culminating in a long, creamy finish. This wine is still young and could gain more complexity with a few years of aging in the cellar.

> For more information, visit the Champagne Louis Roederer official website.