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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I noticed that the 2006 Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne La Grande Dame was recently reviewed again in the Insider newsletter and rated 94 points (again). How often does Wine Spectator review the same wine twice?
Good catch! You’re correct that Wine Spectator’s policy is to typically only review a wine once, upon release, but Champagnes and other sparkling wines often present an exception. Senior editor and lead taster for Champagne Alison Napjus explains:
“Although vintage conditions in the past 15 to 20 years in Champagne allow houses to make vintage-dated bottlings more frequently than ever before, it is still relatively rare for most of the large houses to release a new vintage each year. Most will release a certain amount—but not all—of their new vintage one year, then more the next year, and so on, spreading the total production out until the time they anticipate the next vintage will be ready for release.”
In traditional Champagne production, the final stage is known as disgorgement, when the yeasty sediment is quickly removed, and the bubbly is topped off with the liqueur d'expedition, or dosage. Champagne houses can pull inventory from their caves and disgorge at any point, and if they do so again after the initial release, it’s considered a late disgorgement, or LD.
In the case of the wine you’re asking about, the review in the Dec. 15, 2016, issue, was of the initial release of the 2006 vintage, and that bottle was disgorged in January 2014 (this info is sometimes on the back label or included in Wine Spectator reviews). The more recent review in the Insider newsletter was of a subsequent allotment of the 2006, disgorged in February 2016.
As Napjus points out, “The scores are the same here, and actually, the notes are fairly similar as well. But for Champagne, spending more time on the lees, with a later disgorgement, can make a big difference in the overall perception of the wine. Which is why Champagne is an exception to the rule and we review the same vintage, but different disgorgements, multiple times.” You'll also find plenty of reviews for the same non-vintage Champagnes and other sparkling wines, as we typically review each new release of those wines as well.
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