Are we living in the golden age of Champagne?

Our regular wine columnist Harry Eyres rounds up the best of a miracle decade and tells us why we should be drinking vintage bubbles.

Regular readers of Country Life magazine will know of my predilection for vintage Champagne. So far, no cure for this condition has been discovered, apart from the regular replenishment of exhausted stocks of older vintages with younger replacements. Fortunately, we seem to be living in a golden age of vintage Champagne, with much more regularity of good vintages than was the case in the past. The price differential between vintage and non-vintage remains relatively modest and doesn’t really reflect the vastly increased sharpness of focus you obtain when you look through the lens of a single year.

Ancient Champagne families can draw on their own supplies of vintages when the circumstance arises (the Cattier cellars have a virtual mausoleum of bottles which date all the way back to 1937) but for those of us without the benefit of a long-standing investment in the vineyards of Reims, more recent decades will do nicely.

Why you should be drinking it

The 2000s were something of a miracle decade for vintage Champagne, with one of the greatest of all vintages in 2002, possibly matched by the splendid 2008, with 2004 and 2006 not far behind. I have a soft spot for the overlooked 2007s and the ripe, delicious 2009s. Now, 2012 is showing why some consider it the equal of 2002.

What to buy

Henriot 2008 (£586 per dozen from www.ivvltd.com) impressed me especially, with its crisp, crunchy texture and lovely balance (50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay). More Pinot Noir-dominated and even more complex and magnificent, with ripe, roasted aromas and great mineral freshness, is Billecart-Salmon 2008 (£70 from www.champagnedirect.co.uk). Moving to the newly released 2012s, Pol Roger 2012 (£79.95 from www.thefinestbubble.com) is showing delectably pure, crisp apple and citrus fruit and superb balance.

Moët et Chandon Vinage Blanc 2012 (£54.95 from www.thefinestbubble.com) is pale gold, with some biscuit, brioche notes on the nose. It’s appley crisp and fairly tight and will get better and better as it loosens – I wish that were true of all of us.