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Battonage – a French term for stirring up the lees

In Champagne there is a very large, and extremely controversial trade in what is called “vins sur lattes”. Sur lattes refers to a bottle of Champagne that is ageing in a cellar, but has not yet been prepared for bottling (disgorged) and labeled.

The controversy is that a Champagne House, including some of the very famous ones, can buy stocks of champagne made by someone else, and then sell it with their own label on it. They are selling a wine as if it were made entirely by them.

So imagine you were the owner of a very successful champagne brand. Demand outstrips supply. Another order arrives – what to do? Simply phone one of the major suppliers of vins sur lattes, purchase however much you need, bring it to your cellars, disgorge, label and sell the wine as if it were your own.

Rumour has it that one quite well known Champagne house never makes a bottle of wine itself! So beware of the claim that there is consistency of “house” style in the non vintage blends…. It’s hard to achieve when you are moving every year to another vintage for your “base” wines, and then it’s a joke if you are buying “sur lattes”!

Expect to see prices of Champagnes come down to more sensible levels in the short-term. My current favorite in the BC market for an authentic aged vintage is the Pol Roger vintage 98. That’s serious stuff. For more picks on fizz and other wines you’ll have to subscribe to JCS