Reductive changes in champagne aged on lees begin to slow down after five years or so. Introduction of some oxygen at disgorgement together with the dosage is the commencement of the oxidative changes in the wine which is said to evolve through several stages for many years. According to Bruno Paillard, they pass through The Age of Fruit, Age of flowers, Age of Spice, Age of Toast and finally, the Age of Fullness. The components of the wine age at different rates and produce different flavours. Chardonnay ages slowly and Pinot Meunier the fastest.
The date of disgorgement on the back label of a bottle of champagne, if present, makes it possible for the consumer to enjoy the wine at different stages of ageing on the cork.
To illustrate the variations that occur in champagne during post-disgorgement ageing, Bruno Paillard has created a limited edition Old Degorgements Case containing wines disgorged six months, three years, six years, eight years and ten years before bottling, going back to 1999. The wine used is the House’s signature NV champagne, the Brut Premiere Cuvee with the same assemblage (55% Pinot Noir, 23% Pinot Meunier and 22% Chardonnay) and the same dosage (7gms.).
Last November, I visited Champagne Bruno Paillard just outside Reims, met Alice Paillard and purchased an ‘Old Degorgements Case’ for Euro 300. On Sunday 27 May, with a handful of members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society, I tasted the champagnes.
The wines were pale yellow in colour and there was only a small colour gradient with advancing age of wine. All had an autolytic nose, most marked in the six years post-disgorgement wine. The ten year old had a hint of madarization on the nose. All the wines had good acidity and were a pleasure to drink. As suggested, the youngest wines had predominant fresh fruit flavours and the oldest – flavours of candied fruit. The three-year-old wine was flowery and the six year old was beginning to show spicy flavours. This is where the flavours made a ‘definite change in a different direction.’ The eight year old showed features of aged Chardonnay – bread, nuts and honey.
It was a most rewarding experience. One taster said, “It would be hard now to drink young champagne.” In fact, a bottle of Mumm NV Brut at the end tasted pretty ordinary!
Tasting Late Disgorged Champagne with Mr. Bruno Paillard in Reims
Champagne Bruno Paillard usually do not have visits or tastings. However, they could agree to conduct a tasting of their late disgorged champagnes tutored by Mr. Bruno Paillard himself at their winery near Reims. He is conducting such a tasting for the Harrogate Medical Wine Society in November 2013. It is limited to 12 members.