Disgorgement dates ‘reduce winemaking to numbers’

The recent obsession for including the disgorgement date on Champagne bottles is “reducing winemaking to insignificant numbers” according to one producer.

Brother and sister duo Anne and Antoine Malassagne of AR Lenoble

Antoine Malassagne, co-owner and winemaker at AR Lenoble has made the deliberate decision not to include disgorgement dates on the back labels of his Champagnes.

“The recent obsession with disgorgement dates is reducing the winemaking process in Champagne to insignificant numbers, which are not understood by most of the people talking about them.

“These false dichotomies of ‘either/or’ rarely do much except to intellectually compromise multi-layered ideas and processes,” he said.

“There is no ideal disgorgement date. It depends on the specific wine in question. For non-vintages, it depends on the year of the base wines, the quantity and age of the reserve wines and the amount of time spent in the cellars.

“For vintages, there is no unique golden rule. Each vintage is different and must be cellared and aged differently,” he added.

Rather than jumping on the disgorgement date bandwagon, Malassagne said he would prefer to “enlarge the conversation” by expressing a different point of view.

“People who have never made a bottle of Champagne are dictating what they think the right amount of post-disgorgement time is supposed to be. It’s different for every producer, for every village, for every vintage, for every wine,” he said.

AR Lenoble was founded in 1920 by Malassagne’s great-grandfather Armand-Raphaël Graser. Malassagne has run the estate with his sister Anne since 1993.

The pair are committed to transparency in both the vineyard and the winery. This isn’t the first time Malassagne has spoken out against common practice in Champagne.

Last September he told db that the vintage Champagne category is being exploited by certain houses that are upping production to raise their prices.

One Response to “Disgorgement dates ‘reduce winemaking to numbers’”

  1. Kent Benson says:

    I don’t know who these people are who Malassagne says are “dictating…the right amount of post-disgorgement time.” In all his comments, I can’t find one reason given for his decision not to include disgorgement dates. Is he afraid that this ideal recommended drinking timeframe will hurt the sale of his wines beyond the ideal time? If so, I guess that’s a reasonable fear, but I think he attributes far too much influence to such “people.”

    This Champagne lover would pay no attention to such post-disgorgement timing advice. Besides, what are the chances of ever finding a disgorgement date that matches the recommended timeframe at the time one wants to drink it?

    A disgorgement date plays much the same role as a vintage date: it gives the consumer an indication of the relative condition of the wine. Knowing one wine on the shelf was disgorged five years ago while another was disgorged one year ago might very well influence the buying decision of the savvy buyer. One buyer may prefer the former, while another may choose the latter. Adding the vintage and proportion of the base wine would add even more valuable input for the selection process.

    To the buyer, disgorgement dates are anything but “insignificant.” To those of us who love Champagne it is an enhancement to the tasting experience. Whether or not we fully understand the implications of disgorgement timing decisions, it remains an intriguing point of interest to those of us who “have never made a bottle of Champagne” and is nevertheless instructive with regard to how these timing issues influence wine character.

    In this instance, Malassagne’s position doesn’t seem to reflect a commitment to transparency.

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