Sunday, February 23, 2014

Champagne - A choice of styles

Bruce Sanderson
Issue: January 31, 2005

When most people think of Champagne, they think of non-vintage brut. These ready-to-drink sparkling wines are the bread and butter of the region. Made from blends of grapes and vintages, they represent their respective producer's distinctive house style.

Most of the non-vintage Champagnes in current release are based largely on the challenging vintages of 2000 and 2001. Yet through skillful blending and the addition of reserve wines from previous years, these sparkling wines are generally light, fresh and balanced—perfect as aperitifs or for festive gatherings.

In the best years, Champagne growers and houses also make wines from a single vintage. These reflect the character of that particular year and are typically aged longer before being shipped to market. When from a particularly successful vintage, they are capable of aging for a decade or more after release. They are also excellent matches for many dishes. The best vintage Champagnes in current release are from 1995 and 1996.

Both vintage and non-vintage Champagnes are available in three distinctive expressions: blanc de blancs, brut and rosé. Blanc de blancs Champagnes contain 100 percent Chardonnay. The brut category is the most common; it blends Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and often Pinot Meunier, the three main grapes grown in the region. Rosés also rely on these three grapes, but may contain still red wine or undergo skin contact to achieve their color.


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