Thursday, April 1, 2010

Aging NV

As you might have read in previous posts, we like both sake and sparkling with sushi, but typically when we get sushi at home we have bubbly with it. One of our go-to's is Roederer Estate NV Brut. Its a cuvee, with the current notes citing a 60% Chardonnay / 40% Pinot blend. Typically it can be found at Sams Club for around $16, although you can also find it at most wine shops for around $21-23. I happened to luck out and run across 4 bottles on a closeout deal at Sams Club for $9.91, so that was choice last night. Its really a great deal for $16; crisp, a bit fruity, but nothing close to sweet, not too yeasty, overall a nice pairing with sushi.

A few months ago I happen to run across that deal, as well as some Veuve Clicquot for under $30 (normally $45+), I found myself wondering how long NV (non vintage**) bubbly should be kept, particularly ones from California. Typically NV Champagne (from France) can be kept for many years, although do be careful, since its non vintage you might forget which NV bottle you bought in 2005 and which you bought in 2010. So, should you be wondering as well, I'll share my results with you.

After a bit of research, which of course included a ton of caveats that aging potential is based on quality (duh), I found a safe estimate is a California NV sparkling should be drank within 2-3 yrs from the release date and Franch NV Champagne could be 5-10 yrs (or longer). I'm assuming my Sams Club was clearancing out stuff they got last year, so being extra careful, lets say the bottle we drank yesterday was officially released in late 2008. I'll need to drink my Cali bubbly by the end of this year to mid next year and the VC by 2015.

Now, the Lush Wine Cellar isn't big enough to store so much that I would worry about being able to drink our stock of bubbly within a year, muchless 5 years, however, it does relax my mind that I don't need to unload (or drink) the good bubbly deals. Because really, who doesn't LOVE a good deal and who doesn't HATE opening a bottle that's past its prime??

**Non-vintage: typically wineries show the year in which most of the grapes were grown on the bottle; ie a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon means the grapes were grown during the 2005 growing season.  A "non-vintage" wine is one where the grapes might be from 2 or more years; often sparkling wine makers will blend aging wine with newer wine to have a consistent-tasting product.


Todd said...

I was scrolling down your posts when I came across this one and immediately stopped. As a huge bubbly fan (no offense, but mostly for Champagne, not any other place's), I've always been bewildered by the lack of emphasis placed on aging these magnificent wines. It's probably because most consumers don't think of Champagne as a proper wine. But for me, there's nothing more interesting than a well-made Champagne with some bottle age on it, and it annoys me that most producers in Champagne (and practically ALL sparkling makers elsewhere) don't bother putting the disgorgement date on the labels. There is usually a tiny date on the front labels but it's impossible to read. Nothing ages like Champagne. The oldest I've had was Clicquot's '49 (I think that's what it was; it was about ten years ago), and though I'm not a big Clicquot fan, this thing was unbelievably fresh and nuanced.

And I agree with your default choice of the Roederer Estate NV; I suggest it (and Domaine Carneros and Schramsberg) all the time as more than suitable Champagne substitutes. Although I would argue that the windows you suggested are too conservative, as long as the bottle is in good shape, that is.

WineLush said...

Todd-thanks for stopping by! I also think my estimates for aging Champagne are conservative, but I've also had the unfortunate experience of having a couple of bottles of Champagne that were past their prime, and I'd rather drink them too early than too late. (as with any wine) Plus, its not like I bought them at the Champagne house-they've since travelled across the ocean, from the coast to the midwest, then to a Sams Club. I can't assume the travel time and temps were perfect, so I'm assuming a few years of potential aging have been taken off already.
However, for those of us that like to age some bubbly, they certainly should put the year on the label-or at least some way to decode what it is. I agree that its probably because many consumers don't think its ageable, so by leaving the date off people assume its "fresh".
*sigh* How annoying we're kept hostage by uninformed wine drinkers!