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The battle between the 2002 and 2004 Champagne vintages

Has 2004 taken pole position in the prestige cuvée stakes against one-time favourite 2002? Abigail Bennington reports.

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The 2002 versus 2004 vintage of champagnes has perhaps been one of the most contentious battles of two great years in the last couple of decades.

The former vintage was widely regarded as ‘near perfect’ while the latter produced both quantity and quality.

Looking back on both years, meteorologically, they were polls apart. For some time, it’s been the perceived wisdom that conditions in 2002, a cold winter, healthy flowering in June and sunny, dry conditions until September made for a practically ‘perfect’ year. 2004 saw a mild winter with scattered storms. A warm and sunny spring into summer led to one of the largest harvests of high-quality fruit, particularly Pinot Noir.

But a recent Bordeaux Index tasting, 20 years on, revealed a different version of events.

With 25 wines from 2004 on show from some of the biggest names in the business the excitement about the quality in the glass was palpable. Like the old fable of the tortoise versus the hare, could it be that the 2002 hare has been pipped at the post by the slow burner of 2004?

A question that deserved a response from Charles Philipponnatt, President and CEO of Champagne Philipponnat.

He said: “2002 is, of course, a great vintage… it’s always been my feeling that’s drawn from experience that many times in the long run, it’s the purest and somewhat lightest vintages (2004) that last longer and that age. In the more homogeneous, in the finer way.”


The prestige cuvée tasting line up at Bordeaux Index HQ bolstered this supposition.

Both standard and large style formats of 25 vintage champagnes were tasted from producers such as Bollinger including their R.D labels and Vielles Vignes Françaises offerings.

Charles Heidsieck, Dom Perignon’s 2004 and P2 series plus their rosé champagne also featured. Dom Ruinart, Krug, Laurent Perrier and Cristal were showing very well. Moët & Chandon, Pol Roger, Salon and Taittinger Comtes together with Vilmart formed part of a long list of the great and the good.

It was widely regarded by those who attended that there was not one disappointment among them.

Heidsieck said: “The bigger vintages, the riper vintages, are sometimes too big, too powerful, and they tend to become too heavy.  It’s been the case with 2002 to some
extent, although it remains a great vintage.”

But for those who fancy a flutter on the investment market or wish to bolster their Champagne rack, what value does the 2004 vintage offer consumers?

Lower scores and prices

Financially it would seem, a great deal. 2004 scores just slightly less than 2002 but is close to 25% cheaper on average, making it a relative steal at this quality level.

Matt O’Connell CEO Live Trade and Head of Investment for Bordeaux Index agreed: “So those wines are fantastic value at the moment. They’re beautiful, elegant, still
with a long-term future. And yet they’re significantly cheaper than they were at the end of 2022.

“At the same time, supply is drying up in them because that’s what happens at this sort of age…The example of a vintage where it’s a fantastic buying opportunity at the moment for collectors or investors.”


The consistency of the quality of the 2004 vintages on show impressed many at the tasting including Charles Philipponnat who believed that these wines are showing better in many ways to 2002.

“Now, if we tasted the 2002 wines from the same houses side by side, I’m pretty sure some of them have already started ageing too much. Are already beyond the hill…the critics, tend to prefer the big boys (referring to 2002) And the personality of the shyer wines are recognized later. So, yes, yes, yes. These are underrated wines.”

And of the 25 wines tasted outside of his own label which did Charles rate as his pick of the best of the rest?

“The Laurent Perrier, Alexandre Rosé in magnum! The star of the tasting, I think. It had the primary aromas from the red fruit. It also had the secondary aromas of the ageing fruit, and it had the tertiary aromas of yeast…All of this was combined in a very lovely way. It was a stunning wine.”

Having tasted all wines, below are six that shone brightly.

Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Francaises Blanc de Noirs 2004


Pale gold in colour with a mele of mixed apples golden, bramley and dried honeyed orchard fruits. Toasted almonds and burnt butter with candied notes of baking spices.

Full palate with a persistent mousse and dried wild flowers.

Krug 2004

Stop the press, golden fruits and candied ginger meets caramelised almond croissant and toasted hazelnuts. Perisitent, long finish of honeysuckle and fresh baked sable biscuits.

Described by some as better than its older sister (2002).

Laurent Perrier Alexandra Rosé Magnum

Perhaps showing as one of the best wines of the tasting with creamy strawberries and tart Washington red apples on the nose and palate. Summer berries and a silky
palate ends with exotic flowers on the finish.

Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2004

Evening walks through English gardens permeate the nose with strawberry, orange blossom and hints of white pepper also on the palate. Spiced fruits together with honey and oven fresh pastries cut through with a salinity on the finish. A weighty wine packed with finesse.

Philipponat Clos des Goisses 2004


Rich and ripe with ginger biscuits and cooked apples on the nose gives way to stone fruits and hazelnuts on the palate. Packed with finesse there is still some evolution to take place with more savoury notes peaking through. Delicious.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2004

An elegant tension between citrus oil and toasted notes shine through. Whispers of floral aromas from across the blossom spectrum give way to toasted almonds on the finish. So much potential yet to be fulfilled but drinking beautifully now and offers great value at this price point.

Abbie attended the “20 Years On Vintage Champagne Tasting” in central London and tasted all 25 vintage samples alongside other industry professionals last month at Bordeaux Index.

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