Champagne – 2019
BY ANTONIO GALLONI | DECEMBER 06, 2019
Readers will find a wide range of new releases in the market
this fall, everything from tiny-production Champagnes to the latest from the
grandes marques. The pace of change in Champagne continues to be incredibly
rapid, with new, small domaines popping up left and right while the big brands expand
their ranges and increase quality. All of that makes Champagne an incredibly
exciting and dynamic region to follow.
That’s the good news. But there is also some news that is
worrisome. While the market is very strong for some domaines, that is not the
case across the board. To be sure, many wineries of interest to Vinous readers
could sell their annual production several times over. But those estates only
represent a small cross-section of Champagne as a whole. The reality for most properties is not so rosy, especially in light of continued weak demand in France. One
look at wine lists in top restaurants makes clear that only a subset of
estates have a true share of mind, and that is a shame given the extraordinary diversity
of these wines today.
Moreover, Champagne is one of the regions in the world that
has thus far benefitted from climate change. The last vintage that can be said
to have been truly difficult is 2011. After that, Champagne has experienced a
series of mostly strong vintages. To be sure, each year has its challenges and
weather conditions can be highly localized, but the simple reality is that
winemakers today have more opportunities to make good to great wines than their parents
had just a generation ago.
Cédric Bouchard’s collection of older vintages, Landreville
A much more recent development is the threat of a new round
of tariffs in the United States that could impose a tax of up to 100% on
Champagne. Such a tariff, if enacted, would essentially be a Death Tax for
growers. The large houses have enough volume and the infrastructure to shift
6-12 months of product, maybe more, to the US ahead of tariffs going into
effect. Small houses, of course, don’t have that luxury. All of that would mean
far less choice for the consumer.
I continue to believe that Champagne is one of the last regions in the Old World where readers can find artisan, handmade wines that are still affordable. Many of those domaines are reviewed here. As always, our fall article represents the second half of our annual Champagne coverage. Readers will find many more estates and wines profiled in my article The 2019 Champagne Summer Preview. I tasted all of the wines in this article from July-November 2019. Regrettably, a few estates I follow are missing from this report purely because of logistical reasons. I will add reviews for those wines as soon as possible.
The Do Not Miss Champagnes of 2019
These are some of the most memorable Champagnes I tasted in 2019. They aren't necessarily the highest scoring wines, but those that left the deepest impression. To keep the list manageable, I limited selections to one wine per estate.
The Best Buys of 2019
Champagne does not have to be ultra-expensive to be great. These are my favorite Champagnes under $60. I would be thrilled to drink any of them any day of the week.
Champagne photo courtesy of Michael Rockefeller
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The 2019 Champagne Summer Preview, Antonio Galloni, July 2019
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Champagne: 2017 New Releases, Antonio Galloni, December 2017