In Champagne, tradition means that still wines of different years are blended together. Most non-vintage champagne is a blend of wines from the three grape varieties. Every year a proportion of the harvest is kept in reserve to be used in future years' blends. It is with this reserve that the winemaker is able to create the same style every year. This is why a non-vintage wine best shows the house style.
Vintage champagne is produced exclusively from a single harvest.
When a harvest has exceptional character and deserves to be appreciated to the full, the winemaker will produce a vintage wine. These wines will always be the unique expression of a single year.
As soon as you see the year on a bottle of champagne, you know that all the wine inside is from that year. This is vintage champagne. Also known as millésimé. Do not assume it will be better than non-vintage champagne; it may not be. It should, however, be more characterful, more striking, more demanding. It will be at least two years older than a non-vintage.
Only the better years are used for vintage champagne; 1984 and '87, for example, were not vintage years. 1982, '83 and '85 are all good vintages, and 1988, '89 and '90 seem set to follow.
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