How to determine if champagne is vintage

Champagne is a luxurious and celebratory beverage, often associated with special occasions and elegance. While non-vintage Champagnes dominate the market, vintage Champagnes hold a special appeal for connoisseurs and enthusiasts. Made from grapes harvested in a single exceptional year, vintage champagnes often showcase the unique characteristics of that particular vintage. Distinguishing vintage champagne from non-vintage champagne can be a fascinating endeavor, and in this article we will explore the key factors to consider when determining if a bottle of champagne is vintage.

1. Examine the label

When assessing whether a bottle of champagne is vintage, the first place to look is the label. Champagne producers are required by law to state the year of the grape harvest on the label. Vintage Champagnes will clearly state the specific year, such as “2008” or “2012”. Non-vintage champagnes, on the other hand, will not have a specific year and are often labeled “NV” or “non-vintage.
In addition to the year, it’s important to look at the champagne house or producer. Reputable and well-established Champagne houses often have a long history of producing vintage Champagnes, and their expertise in making exceptional wines can lend credibility to the authenticity of the bottle.

2. Research the producer

Researching the producer is an important step in determining whether a bottle of champagne is vintage. Respected Champagne producers often have a consistent track record of releasing vintage Champagnes in exceptional years. They invest considerable effort and expertise to ensure that their vintage offerings reflect the unique qualities of the harvest year. By researching the producer’s history and reputation, you can gain valuable insight into their commitment to producing high-quality vintage Champagnes.
In addition, reputable champagne houses often have a wealth of information available on their websites or through other trusted sources. They can provide details about their winemaking practices, vineyard locations, and the specific characteristics of their vintage releases. Taking the time to explore this information can deepen your understanding of the producer’s approach to creating vintage Champagnes and help you make an informed decision.

3. Analyzing Appearance and Color

Examining the Champagne’s appearance and color can provide additional clues to its vintage status. Vintage Champagnes are often aged longer than non-vintage Champagnes, which can result in subtle differences in color and effervescence. Vintage Champagnes tend to have a deeper golden hue, while non-vintage Champagnes tend to have a lighter and fresher color.
When judging appearance, it’s also important to look at the bubbles. Vintage Champagnes tend to have a more refined and persistent effervescence, with smaller and more delicate bubbles. This is due to the longer aging process, during which the bubbles have had more time to develop and integrate into the wine. Non-vintage Champagnes, on the other hand, can have more exuberant and powerful bubbles.

4. Tasting and aromas

The taste and aromas of a Champagne can provide valuable insights into its vintage. Vintage Champagnes often exhibit greater complexity, depth and nuance than their non-vintage counterparts. They showcase the unique characteristics of the vintage, offering a snapshot of the specific climatic conditions and resulting flavors.

When tasting a potential vintage Champagne, look for the intensity and range of flavors. Vintage Champagnes can exhibit a broader range of aromas, including notes of ripe fruit, roasted nuts, honey, brioche and floral undertones. These complex flavors often evolve and develop with extended bottle aging, adding to the overall appeal of the wine.

5. Find expert opinions and reviews

When in doubt, seeking expert opinions and reviews can be an invaluable resource in determining whether a bottle of Champagne is vintage. Wine professionals, sommeliers, and champagne critics often provide comprehensive tasting notes and reviews of various champagnes, including vintage releases.

Consulting respected wine publications, online forums, or working with knowledgeable professionals can provide valuable insight into the authenticity and quality of a potential vintage Champagne. They can help you navigate the vast array of Champagnes available on the market and guide you toward reputable producers and exceptional vintages.

In conclusion, determining whether a bottle of Champagne is vintage requires a combination of careful examination, research and sensory evaluation. By analyzing the label, researching the producer, evaluating the appearance and taste, and seeking expert opinion, you can enhance your understanding and appreciation of vintage champagnes. So the next time you encounter a bottle of Champagne, embark on this delightful journey to uncover the secrets and charms of its vintage nature.


How can you tell if champagne is vintage?

One way to determine if champagne is vintage is by checking the label. Look for the term “Millésime” or “Vintage” on the bottle. This indicates that the champagne was made from grapes harvested in a specific year, rather than being a blend of multiple years.

Are there specific years that are considered exceptional for vintage champagne?

Yes, certain years are renowned for producing exceptional vintage champagne. Champagne houses and experts often designate specific vintages as outstanding due to favorable weather conditions and grape quality. Examples of highly regarded vintage years include 1996, 2002, and 2008.

What is the significance of vintage champagne?

Vintage champagne is considered special because it represents the characteristics of a specific year’s harvest. It allows champagne enthusiasts to experience the unique qualities and flavors that result from the climate, soil, and overall growing conditions of that particular year.

Can you determine the age of champagne by its taste?

While the taste of champagne can provide some clues about its age, it is not a definitive indicator of whether it is vintage or non-vintage. The aging process affects the taste of champagne, so older bottles may exhibit more complex flavors and aromas. However, the only sure way to know if champagne is vintage is by checking the label or consulting the producer.

Are there any visual cues to identify vintage champagne?

Visually, vintage champagne may have a more golden hue compared to non-vintage champagne, which often has a lighter color. However, color alone is not a foolproof method for identifying vintage champagne, as the aging process and storage conditions can also influence the color of the wine.