Served at society’s most elegant events and affairs, vintage champagne — known as millésime — is the epitome of decadence.
The sumptuous wine can only be made when nature surpasses itself and produces a truly outstanding harvest. Only then can champagne houses around the world create and declare a champagne vintage when using just that year’s grapes.
In response to recent rising popularity of millésime, sophisticated fine-wine merchants, restaurants and wine clubs now offer an audacious way of appreciating it, known as a “vertical tasting”. Devotees are offered a series of vintages from a single champagne house, which allows them to savour the distinct characters of each one.
Nick Baker, Founder and Managing Director of The Finest Bubble, a prestige champagne retailer, organises legendary vertical tastings in London attended by avid collectors.
“A vintage champagne by definition is a ‘representation of a single year’ interpreted by the chef de cave/winemaker. And one of the reasons vertical tastings exist is to highlight the vintage characteristics,” he stated.
Vertical tastings can also be used to showcase the “magnum effect” — how champagne in a magnum is subtly more complex and ages more slowly. The effect is so sublime that Nick recommends buying magnums from select outstanding years — such as 1996, 2002 and 2008 — as they are the perfectly-sized bottle suited to age vintage champagne.
Rare and precious, truly exceptional vintage champagnes are fetching exceedingly high prices at auction. One of the highlights of Sotheby’s 2012 sale of Krug — a champagne known for its astonishing purity and precision — was a six-magnum vertical of Krug Clos du Mesnil. It sold for $42,875 — more than twice its highest estimate.
“Usually collectors are champagne lovers,” stated Stephen Mould, Sotheby’s Head of Wine, Europe. “They tend to be quite wealthy. They might be entrepreneurs; they might even be in the wine business themselves. Buyers come from throughout the world and are attracted to things that they can’t get easily elsewhere. Champagne is made in quite large quantities, but some vintages are not readily available, even from the 80s, 70s and 60s. When you get older than that they can be quite rare.”
These extraordinary wines — the result of an exquisite fusion of nature and science — are the ultimate in luxury. Each sip is a transcendental experience for the senses. Inspired by this world of rarefied indulgence, La Prairie has produced a limited edition of Skin Caviar Luxe Cream Millésime, infused with a special blend of caviar in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Skin Caviar Collection.
vintage champagne, Krug, Sotheby’s, La Prairie, Millésime