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Sarah Knowles MW Sarah Knowles MW

A very good time to be buying Champagne

I visit Champagne in January to try the vins clairs (or base wines) with our key suppliers. This is the point where the wines have gone through their first fermentation – in barrel or tank – and are about to be blended with each other (as well as with reserve wines in the case of non-vintage blends) before being bottled and rested in the cellar so that the all-important second fermentation – where the bubbles come from – can occur. It is here that I can make my first assessment on the quality of the vintage.

Last year it was tough: not only was it my first year tasting these notoriously acidic base wines, but 2017 was also a particularly cool vintage leading to even lower pH levels. It meant that by lunchtime my teeth were aching!

However, I am relieved to report that the 2018 tasting was significantly more enjoyable. In fact, many of the 2018 vins clairs could have been bottled as wines in their own right. The vintage is much adored by each chef de cave (cellarmaster) I met, as not only was the quality good, but the vintage was moderately warm, and the harvest early and free of rain… and the yields were massive! It's an excellent year to look forward to.

In the meantime, this year we are also still expecting a few final releases of the exceptional 2008 vintage wines, as well as some early glimpses at the much anticipated 2012s.

All in all, a very good time to be buying Champagne!

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