View Full Version : Dusty Champagne
So I decided to go with the "good" (as in expensive...) champagne this year for New Years and want to get a bottle of Perrier Jouet (Fleur de Champagne). I saw the gift set at one liquor store and at another they had the same one but it was definitely older as the box was different and it had dust on it. Since they're priced around the same I was wondering if there was any reason not to get the older one. I really know nothing about champagne or how it holds up after bottling, does anyone here know? I'm sure the bottle isn't that old but you never know. Thanks.
It all depends on how it has been stored. Dust on the top of the box may mean it was stored standing up and that would be bad. The cork could have dried out. If the thickest is on the side of the box that is good because wine unlike whiskey should be stored on its side. Is is it a vintage (would have a date on it)?
Champagne, particularly vintage champagne, should age quite well. Vintage champagne can usually age for 10-20 years or more. I have bottles of 1983 Philipponnat and 1989 Krug at home. Even non-vintage champagne can age for several years, and some think there is an improvement after a year or two of aging NV champagne. Many of my NVs end up getting aged in my closet for a year or more and are fine.
Of course, the storage conditions are a factor. I don't know that the cork will dry out just because it's been stored vertically for a short time - maybe even a year - but there is some risk of that, I guess.
Dan, maybe I have had atypical experiences, but I find past 4 or 5 years of bottle age, Champagnes however designated can acquire a "damp mushroom" taste. Is this an index of the flavor of vintage Champagne? If so it is one I cannot accustom to. I enjoy good standard French Champagne (say, Veuve Cliquot - and I don't doubt a year or two in storage can add depth and complexity) but when too aged I find it just puts me off. Or have I not had the best experiences with well-aged/vintage Champagnes?
Gary, although I am no expert, it sounds to me like you may have had some aytpically bad experiences with aged champagne. Were these vintage champagnes? Stored properly? I would not be particularly surprised if some nonvintage champagnes acquired some off-notes if stored for 4-5 years, for a variety of reasons.
Of course, not all bottles turn out well in the end. And some of the more full-bodied champagnes do have a mushroom element, although I don't generally notice it as being particularly strong.
Was this specifically a damp mushroom taste as opposed to mustiness? The latter can indicate cork problems; the former might as well.
Or perhaps it is something that your palate is particularly sensitive too that mine is not. Hard to say. Some people dislike anything but well-aged champagne. Others only like young champagne. I am fortunate to enjoy both.
Thanks for this, I wonder if I have had vintage Champagnes stored in good condition. They all seem to have had a strong earthy/mushroom element when over 5-7 years old (i.e., from vintage date). Although, I haven't had all that many of them, so perhaps I need more experience. As you say too though there are devotees of old Champagne (the taste that comes with maturity in wines meant for laying down), and maybe I just don't have that taste. With New Year's approaching, maybe I can make further investigations!
I will also endeavor to make further investigations for you - cheers!
Thanks a bunch for the input, everyone! I think I'm just going to go with the current bottling. I doubt the old bottle is more than 3 years old but, as I said, you never know. If it's good, as in good as an old champagne should be, I hope some connoisseur gets the bottle I'm leaving!
Vintage Champagne should always be aged. Ask any wine geek and they will tell you that most people drink champagne WAYYYY to early. I'm talking about "Vintage" Champagne. The really pricey stuff. Like the bottle Gothbat is looking at.
Now you should go to CellarTracker.com and search for Perrier-Jouet ( The name of the "flower bottle" is Belle Epoque) and look what the ratings are. As far as which one should you buy. Pick the better vintage. Champagne is exactly like any great wine. The Vintage year means everything. What are the two years on the bottles being offered? The better vintage is the one to choose.
One last thing, Champagne does not need to be stored on its side like most still wines. The pressure of the gas inside the bottle keeps a layer of moisture on the cork and in turn this keeps the cork in perfect condition.
I really recommend going to cellartracker.com and read the reviews on the bottles your looking at.
I do pretty much everything online but for some reason there are certain things that I'll wonder about and never think to google, this is one of them. Thanks for the link, Joe, if I can get by the store that has the old bottle in time I'll check the year on it and go with the higher rated one since the prices are about the same. That's weird about the name, they have Belle Epoque listed on that site with vintages to 1999 and also one called Cuvée Fleur de Champagne with vintages to 2000 but when you go to the Perrier Jouet page it lists only a 1996 and 1995 vintage Cuvée Fleur de Champagne however the bottle in the tiny pictures they show looks like it says Belle Epoque. I wonder what the older bottle says on it, the store that has it just had the box out with a note saying to see them at the counter for the bottle.
It was not clear to me that gothbat was looking at vintage champagne as no dates were listed.
I do second the recommendation of cellartracker, which is an excellent reference and tool.
Joeluka, what is the source of your info on storing champagne vertically? I've never heard this and all of the resources I'm familiar with say to store it on its side.
He did say he was looking at gift sets so you are correct that it would be the non-vintage.
As to storage, here is an old thread on Mark Squire's message board/Robert Parker's web site that has information from a Moet representative:
As to drinking older vintage champagne, I think it is much like bourbon. Aging definitely changes the charater. I've found I prefer my champange the same as my bourbon....not extremely aged. Just as I prefer PVW 15 over PVW23, give me a good NV champange or a 96 Vintage Grand Dame or Krug over a 1990 or 1985. While I can understand some people prefer the earthiness of the aged champagne, it does not appeal to my taste just like I don't care for the heavy woodiness of the PVW23 on a regular basis.
I'm with Tom on this but of course it is a question of taste. There are some unusual flavors that I would call analagous to that of old Champagne (even well-cellared I think although I cannot be 100% sure). Take, for example, that of certain mushrooms, or of course truffles. The Chinese are known to like certain preparations of eggs which are aged for a long time. Certain fish preparations, e.g., in Scandinavia (although those are rather extreme), can be cited. So I think the taste for old Champers may be one of those specialist tastes and indeed one that can recommend itself to a fine palate - just not mine. (Ditto the truffles, never been a fan of that penetrating taste).
As for storage, I've kept NV Champagne iced in the fridge, warm at apartment temperature, standing, on its side, in fact every which way that will ensure it won't break.
It's always been great but I think that's because it does not stay long in the Gillman Champagne bunker, which always seems to be empty or nearly. :)
Thanks for the link Tom. There are some great threads on that site.
I have seen plenty of Belle Epoque gift sets with vintage BE. I don't think I've seen NV BE to be honest. Is it normal for gift sets to come with NV bottles. Right now with New Years coming all the liquor stores have loads of them. The gift sets with Dom P, La Grande Dame, Pol's Churchill, and Bollinger's RD all are vintage dated. Maybe the different area's get different wines.
As far as aged Champagne. To each his own. I enjoy great wines, from great vintages with some age on them. I just bought 3 1996 Salons @ $320 each. IMHO they would be way to young to open them now. I think the vintage plays more of a role in the aging than anything else. My 1996 Dom's are put way in the back, while I am opening 1999's for NE.
I was wrong....I was assuming that the Perrier-Jouet in the gift set was NV based on the fact that at a recent tasting it was on the table with the other NVs and not with the Vintages. Table locations must have been based on the distributor. Just checked the price list and it was a 2000.
Well, I didn't get back to that store with the older bottle so tonight I picked up the newer one. It's a 1999 bottle. Got a deal on it, they put the price for the non gift set bottle (same bottle just in a smaller box without the glasses), which was ~$25 less, and I said something when it came up and they let me have the set for the price of just the bottle. :)
As for the gift sets, Perrier Joeut has has 2 that I know of, the vintage Fleur De Champagne set with hand painted glasses and the non-vintage Grand Brut gift set with (I assume) non hand painted glasses.
Thanks much for the link on vertical storage of champagne - very interesting info.
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