This week has demonstrated that summer is definitely here and for me nothing cools me down better than a great glass of Champagne. At this point, I would like to explain that I am not being a snob, simply referring to actual Champagne. I understand that many people are now just exhorting under their breath, “It‘s just sparkling wine from France” but this isn’t true. When the word Champagne, not by the way “California Champagne” such as Korbel or Andre, is on the label you are getting some guarantees about the product you are drinking.
First off, yes, Champagne is a sparkling wine from France, but even in France not all sparkling wine can be designated Champagne. There are very specific rules by which champagne must be made that govern everything from the grape type to the amount of pressure used in the press all the way through how long it must be aged. It is these rules that guarantee the product in the bottle. While there is no argument that there are innumerable great sparkling wines made elsewhere, none of them come with the same promise as Champagne.
The grapes of Champagne are mainly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Munier. There are 4 other grapes allowed, but they are very seldom used. Most Champagne is a blend of at least two if not all three of these grapes. My favorite style of Champagne is the “Blanc de Blanc” variety which means the wine is made from 100% Chardonnay. Other styles include Blanc de Noir, which is a Champagne made from just the red grapes Pinot noir and Munier, and Rosé.
The one word people most associate with Champagne is Brut. This word confuses a lot of people as they don’t know what it means, but their wife told them to get a brut. Well, in Champagne Brut is a guarantee of a dry style wine. Elsewhere this isn’t necessarily true as many other sparkling wine producing areas haven’t the same regulations as Champagne. On a related note, if you thought you liked a wine dryer than Brut because that Extra Dry bubbly you had was so good, you were bamboozled. Extra Dry is actually a little sweeter than a Brut. Dryer than Brut would be Extra Brut, Brut Zero, Brut Sauvage, and Ultra Brut.
Another, very important guarantee, from Champagne is that the wine is going to have a minimum ageing period of at least 15 months before release. What this means is that even though it has blazing high acidity, the extended contact with the lees (the dead yeast cells left from fermentation) soften the wine and lend a creamier mouthfeel and a slight bready or biscuity note that is the hallmark of Champagne.
Whichever style you decide to try or you have picked as your favorite, please keep in mind when someone asks if you want Champagne or another type of bubbly, they aren’t being pretentious, they are just trying to get you what you want. Try one of these new great arrivals:
Marc Hebrart Premier Cru Champagne, A very elegant Champagne that has a fine mousse, with a lovely, fine and biscuity character on the nose and palate which lasts through to the finish. This delicious Champagne should be chilled, not iced and is perfect for celebrating great occasions. 43.99!!
Geoffroy Expression Premier Cru Champagne, 92 Points Wine Advocate, “...totally alive in the glass. Vibrant and delineated, the Expression bursts from glass with dried pears, flowers, almonds and Chamomile. ...the Expression is all about texture and volume from the red grapes, which give tons of richness without detracting from the wine’s essential energy, tension and pure drive. A crystalline, layered finish rounds things out beautifully. This is a great showing from a wine loaded with class.” 45.99!!
Pierre Peters Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Champagne, This is blow-your mind Champagne! Crystalline, jewel-like firmness and immense depth gives this 100% Chardonnay Champagne a Krug-like profile nearly unique among Blanc de Blancs. Naked, perfectly formed flavors of fresh cream, ginger and the pale, mineral intensity of chalk. With flavors that last for minutes, the terroir expression is stunning. Sale 59.99!!
~ Randy Freeland ~
Prices good through 7/8/15.