A vote against disgorgement dates: Peter Wasserman

In the ongoing debate about whether champagnes should have disgorgement dates on the labels, discussion has mostly been in favor of the practice. Some critics refuse to review a nonvintage wine without a disgorgement date. (What is disgorgement?)

At the portfolio tasting of Pas Mal Selections in New York last month, Peter Wasserman expressed hesitations about the sole focus on disgorgement dates. Peter works for Becky Wasserman Selection aka Le Serbet (his business card reds “head of anti-marketing and sales prevention”), the Burgundy-based exporter that represents almost 20 Champagnes. He said that the disgorgement date alone doesn’t reveal anything about the base wine, which vintage it is or how long the wine has been on the lees. Nor does it say whether the wine has been aged in the bottle with a cork closure or a bottle cap. He estimates some of his growers disgorge 20 times per wine, so if a critic reviewed only one disgorgement date and consumers sought out only that one, he would be at a “commercial disadvantage.” Thus he has invited critics interested in including disgorgement dates to review a wine from each disgorgement date. “They do it for Jacques Selosse,” he says.

For nonvintage cuvées, Wasserman favors the vintage of the base wine as the most important information for consumers. Thus the champagnes of Le Serbet will have the base wine and the year of disgorgement on the label (though not all of his US distributors were on board with this at the time we spoke). More information will be available about each wine on the Le Serbet web site, a good move to engage the tiny percentage of consumers who care to find out more.

While he prefers more information on the label, he feels that the focus on disgorgement dates can lead consumers to seek out the freshest. That’s unfortunate, since, in his view, many retailers have excellent storage and nonvintage cuvées are complex, often tasting better with one or two years on the cork.

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11 Responses to “A vote against disgorgement dates: Peter Wasserman”

  1. Sorry, there are just too many holes in Mr. Wasserman’s argument.

    Let me just address an obvious one: besides retailers who pull bottles of wine direct from the cellar for the customer at the time of purchase, I have yet to see ANY wine retailer with acceptable display conditions to allow a wine to sit on the shelf for more than 6 months-1 year.

    A wine that has been “bottle-aged” on the retail shelf is sitting upright, blasted with fluorescent light for most of the day, and is exposed to temps generally 15-20 degrees+ above cellar temp. BTW, how many retailers run their heat/AC when the store is closed? How is this a a good thing? A new form of rapid-aging?

    It’s very convenient NOT to list a date on the bottle – imagine how much more milk could be sold if they didn’t list Sell By dates?


  2. Dear Sir,

    I would respectfully suggest you chose your retailer before choosing any wine let alone a champagne. And if we put accurate disgorgement dates as is demanded by many journalists why am I getting so much reticence reviewing each disgorgement? The answer is that it does not fit neatly in to publishing imperatives making part of the debate a publishing one. In other words we are required to do our job whilst large portions of the industry just gets a pass because that is the way it is and there is nothing to do about it?

  3. Dear Mr. Wasserman,

    The consumer demands truth in labeling (i.e. when was this product made/disgorged/ingredient list/etc.). Most consumers could care less about wine journalists and their points.

    Why is alcohol somehow different than any other beverage?


  4. What is more the article though accurately reflecting my position did not state that i am for disgorgement dates on vintage champagnes and as you have read at the bottom of same article we will be putting disgorgement dates + years on the lees which in my opinion is a statement that reflect quality rather than the fact that a bottle was disgorged on monday or wednesday of january 2012. Further we release cuvees that are disgorged a year or so prior simply because they taste better. (This i dare say you will only be able to find out about by contacting us, i doubt they will be reviewed except by View From the Cellar). Last but not least a Champagne disgorged in January versus one disgorged later that year say september for the sake of the argument will have up to 1 gram less dosage.) personally i feel that front of the year disgorgements need an additional few months to balance out than later disgorgements. In my opinion tge disgorgement issue is not as simple as printing a date.

  5. I applaud you for adding disgorgement dates to the bottle, however I feel that the entire industry is complicating the issue.

    The facts are that wine shops are no place to age wine. The consumer needs to know how long it’s been on that shelf. Period.

  6. I’m sorry you feel that way, maybe we should require a retailer and restaurant stock reception date to be stamped on the bottle that would address your concern much more accurately. All the points I made are the reality and champagne is perhaps the most complex wine we deal with.

  7. Great post! So far we’ve overwhelmingly heard only from those favoring disgorgement date on labels, Peter’s credible comments show there are always many sides to an issue.

  8. Peter…bravo! Look, ‘truth in labeling’ is great and ideal. I think that having the base wine dates is certainly MORE important than listing disgorgement dates. That said, disgorgement dates are unquestionably better than nothing at all.

    Often times the traditional reviewer (Galloni & Raynolds do a great job) will list the base wine vintage in the review. That said, I would certainly appreciate it as a consumer to have it on the bottle as well.

    That being said, what keeps a producer from not accurately keeping this?

    Jose Dhondt for me please! 🙂

  9. […] York, Peter Wasserman of Le Serbet expressed hesitations about the focus on disgorgement dates. Tyler Colman has the scoop. Some great […]

  10. “anti marketing and sales prevention”? Now there’s a formula for success. The lucky sperm club must be a fun place to hang out.

  11. […] back label is possibly the most informative back label out there, with base wine, dosage level, AND disgorgement date, all perfectly understandable in plain English, with no need to go to web sites to look up codes. […]


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