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Discovering the Effects of Post Disgorgement Maturation

There has been a lot of debate on whether champagne labels should carry disgorgement dates. Some critics favor the idea while others do not. The fact that more and more producers are adding this information to labels seems to show precedence in favor of the practice. Why is this? Because wine disgorged six months ago will taste quite different from the same wine disgorged four years ago. [What is disgorgement?] Some retailers are against labeling this information because they believe most consumers think the most recent disgorgement is the best bottle. Personally, if I have a choice, I will go for the older disgorgement, and I think many consumers would too if they understood the effects of post-disgorgement maturation.

Prior to my visit to Reims, I certainly would not know enough about the topic to care one way or another. Who cares about disgorgement dates anyway? Champagne is Champagne.  There are good reasons why disgorgement dates are so important and my opinion changed with a visit to the area, talking in depth amid three forward thinking producers.

Bruno Paillard, Charles Philipponnat, and Pierre Gimonnet are at the forefront of this matter. They all have interesting remarks about disgorgement and ageing potential. Probably the most important takeaway during this trip was when I sat down with Bruno to conduct an experiment. Bruno produces brut champagnes, all of which have particularly low residual sugar. I do not recall the exact sugar levels used for the experiment, but it was around 4g/L.  “I want you to taste the difference…,” exclaimed Bruno, as he pulled out four identical base wines of the same year that had undergone different post-disgorgement ageing.  “Many people think champagne does not age simply because that has been the dominant message for decades. But when a consumer gets a chance to discover the effects of post-disgorgement maturation, it changes their opinions.”

The evolution of post-disgorgement maturation is what Bruno calls ‘life after dégorgement’ where the wine passes through five or six ‘lives.’ Each life builds upon its last as the wine takes on different personalities in the bottle. The younger the disgorgement, the fruiter—the older the disgorgement, the toastier it gets.

Life After Disgorgement

This graphic is my interpretation from a conversation I had with Bruno Paillard on post-disgorgement ageing. I give him full credit for the content and hope that this information is useful as a quick reference guide for educational purposes.

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Discovering the Effects of Post Disgorgement Maturation by Enobytes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Citrus and red fruits dominate the first life with lively acidity. The second evolution goes into a white flower and rose’s stage, or ‘age of the flower. The third accentuates spiced notes, nuts, almonds and hazelnuts—also known as the age of spices, which moves to baked bread notes known as the age of toasted. On its final journey, the wine evolves towards candied fruit, gingerbread, honey and roasted aromas, the stage of fullness.

One of the biggest revelations was to taste the ten-year old disgorgement. I expected it to be undrinkable but on the contrary, it was quite interesting. There were no oxidized flavors. Rather, it attributed notes of toasted bread, orange marmalade, ginger bread and bees wax notes. I questioned Bruno why there was no oxidation. He attributes it to the high acidity and 22% barrel fermentation.

“According to the conditions of conservation, this maturity – fruit-floral-spice-toast-candied-roasted can be short or long. It will still take a minimum of four to five years after disgorging to obtain the first spiced notes and even decades to attain full maturity. Only the greatest champagnes can offer this path of evolution that real aficionados look for, as they have pleasure in keeping these wines in their cellar among other grands crus.” ~ Bruno Paillard

I also talked with Charles Philipponnat who is an advocate for declaring the disgorgement date on bottles. “All houses should do it unless they are too ashamed of their short ageing time” and went on to say that dosages have reduced considerably over the last ten years. His ‘1522 and Clos des Goisses are around 4-5g/L, and he ferments a portion of the wine in barrels.  I tasted an older disgorged ‘1522’ and Clos des Goisses—both were wonderful wines with no oxidation.

My last stop was at Pierre Gimonnet.  He poured me a seven year disgorged 2002 Fils Cuvée Millésime de Collection (5g/L). This stuff was simply magical—creamy with an unbelievable full-mouth feel. I can’t even begin to describe its superior qualities. I also tried one of his older Extra Brut Oenophile 1er Cru, Non dosé, which Pierre likes to depict as, “A wine without dosage is like a woman without makeup” – simply delicious, lively, vibrant and inviting.

Coming back full circle, I believe labels should include disgorgement dates because nuggets of information such as this construct a picture of what is inside the bottle. Those that argue consumers only want to seek out the freshest (and in turn pass up champagnes with older disgorgement dates) are only accurate for those in quest of fresher, livelier styles. For those in search of discovering and experiencing older disgorgements, seek them out through a reputable retailer as they will not disappoint.  I might also point out my advocacy for including base wine dates to non-vintage labeling but that is a debate for another post. Until then, experiment with older disgorgements and find a few favorites.

My passion around this subject lead me to obtain a Champagne Wine Location Specialist certification through the Center for Wine Origins, which collaborates with the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC).  

This post was written by:

- who has written 302 posts on Enobytes Wine Online.

Editor and co-founder of Enobytes.com, Pamela is a former restaurant manager, wine buyer, and sommelier with WSET, CMS & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.

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20 Responses to “Discovering the Effects of Post Disgorgement Maturation”

  1. Sean McReynolds says:

    Even as a retailer, I agree with the labeling of disgorgement date even on non-vintage wines. I recently enjoyed a non-vintage Jean-Charles Milan Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs disgorged 6 years ago…well evolved already (quicker evolution than a vintage, then?). If a customer knows to look for the date, let them be picky; if they ask about it, it allows us to given them a range of choices based on their style preferences.

    • I bet the Jean-Charles was delicious! I’m thrilled to know there are retailers like you who support labeling disgorgement dates…and I agree, give consumers the information–some want it, some might not. But at least the details are there to provide guidance on style if needed.

  2. Daniel says:

    Bravo to Charles Philipponnat who stated,“All houses should do it unless they are too ashamed of their short ageing time.” Great educational post and image.

    • His comment really resonated with me – he is a strong advocate for labeling disgorgement because it is the only way to understand what is in the bottle at any given time. Without it, who knows where the wine is in its evolution. Cheers!

  3. Really great post and graphic. Thank you for making this available to all of us in a clear and easy way to understand. And hooray for transparency with regard to Champagne details!!

    Cheers, Bryan

    • I’m all for transparency :) By the way, do you guys carry older disgorged bottles in stock? I’m thinking out loud here but it might be an opportunity to put together a tasting pack of different disgorgement dates for folks who would like to do a tasting experiment. (Wheels are spinning now) maybe even do a social media blowout/educational seminar on the topic…What do you think?

      Cheers Bryan!

      • Sounds like a wonderful tasting experiment, Pamela!

        We do indeed have some older disgorged bottles, but our producers generally disgorge on demand for us, as we order from them and import their Champagne. So, we don’t really have any verticals of the same bottles, disgorged at different times.

        However, I am always keeping a few bottles from previous shipments so that I can see how they develop under cork. So, I will start keeping a few more around from a classic such as Gimonnet-Oger Blanc de Blancs 2002. And in a few years, we will have a vertical to taste with different disgorgement!

        What we are doing now is asking one of our Blanc de Blancs producers in the far north of Champagne and one in the far south of Champagne to create a 100% Chardonnay from the 2008 vintage. They both disgorged the bottles in June this year, they added zero dosage, and zero sulfates. This way, you can taste a the pure difference of Chardonnay from the north and south, with nothing to get in the way. It is an awesome experience that we just did up here in our tasting room!

        • Gimonnet-Oger Blanc de Blancs 2002 >> I’m envious! And I agree, zero dosage would be a good way to taste the pure difference. Let me know if you have another one of these tastings — I’d love to partake.

  4. Great post Pamela!! I believe that if you add the disgorgement date you should also add info on the base wines and the dosage as it is the interplay of those three I feel which make the wine what is is. Longer aging on leese makes a difference just as the aging after disgorgement does and the exact amount of sugar added in the dosage is another key factor as the wines will taste different. Quite a few younger generation producers such as Tarlant, Geoffroy& Chartogne-Taillet have all this info on their label because they feel it matters as the wines will taste significantly different!!

    I love the visual as well!!!

  5. Clarisse says:

    Ce levant superbe, livraison agile, indulgence indulgence!

  6. Allen Schlender says:

    Danke!

  7. tubepleasure says:

    I love what you guys are up too. Such clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the good works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] if you are a fan of Champagne, go check out this great post by Pamela Heiligenthal at Enobytes on post-disgrogement maturation, which includes the best [...]

  2. [...] Discovering the Effects of Post-Disgorgement Maturation [...]

  3. [...] 出典:http://enobytes.com/2012/11/05/post-disgorgement-maturation/ [...]

  4. [...] 8 g/l Disgorge: 3 months prior to release Ageing: In bottle, 18-30 months Production: 184,478 bottles; 12,836 1/2 [...]

  5. [...] their way from vineyard to bottle—through pressing, fermentation, blending, ageing, riddling, disgorgement and dosage, all while learning about the grapes, soils and regions from the Champagne region of [...]

  6. […] this sparkler. There has been a lot of debate on whether labels should carry this information and this is why I support disgorgement dates on sparklers. This one was disgorged 2013. Rating: Excellent (91) | $35 | 12.5% […]


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