Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine
December 10, 2019
What Makes Champagne Special?
Champagne is unlike any other wine! It is a consistent house style that makes it so unique. About ninety percent of Champagne is Non-Vintage. This means that various lots of still wine from different vineyards, varietals, and vintages are blended so that each “batch” of Champagne is consistent with the house style. This is the most important part of making Champagne. Once the blend is decided upon, then the bottle fermentation and aging process begins. For Champagne, Non-Vintage is a minimum of 15-months aging on the lees and for vintage, it’s a minimum of three years. Champagne is like a designer wine; people stick to their favorite producers as a sort of prestige. For example, when you go to Costco and buy that yellow label Veuve Cliquot, it’s the same every time. Often these big houses like Cliquot blend hundreds of different lots of wine together to create consistency. Most producers are Négociants, meaning that they purchase fruit and existing still wine to create the consistency and volume that the market demands. Vintage Champagne is rare and quite expensive because Champagne houses can only produce vintage Champagne in a declared vintage year. They also must keep at least twenty percent of the harvest back for the Non-Vintage programs.
There is a pronounced movement in Champagne to support grower-producers which account for less than two percent of all Champagne. On each bottle of Champagne there are two letters followed by a series of numbers. As stated above most of them are NM (negotiant manipulant) or CM (cooperative manipulant). Grower producers are designated on the label as RM (rocolte manipulant). Below is a great quote from importer Terry Theiss about grower-producers.
“Why should you drink grower Champagne?
Because you may have forgotten that Champagne is wine
Because it’s made by a family of farmers and vintners not by a factory
Because you believe wine should be an expression of a place and of a point of view
Because its price is an honest reflection of what it costs to produce, not to advertise
Because in drinking it you help protect diversity and density leads to vitality.”
The great thing about sparkling wines is that they go with pretty much anything, of course, the classic holiday festive food pairings include oysters and caviar. Some lighter-bodied, leaner crisper styles like a Blanc de Blanc go best with lighter dishes where the bigger bolder wines like the roses will hold up to more protein-based dishes.
In conclusion, I leave you with a footnote to get the most out of your Champagne and sparkling wine enjoyment. Good quality sparkling wines are made in either the Charmat or bottle fermented methods. Remember, you can tell by the tiny bubbles that are long-lasting and come from the bottom of the glass. The bottle-fermented wines with age requirements are going to be the richer creamier style, where Charmat sparkling wines are going to be brighter, fresher, and crisper.
Below is a list of my recommendations based on style, or better yet come by 15 Degrees C and we will help you select the perfect bottle!
|Sommariva Prosecco||J Lassalle Champagne|
|Tintero Moscato||Veuve Fourny Champagne|
|Meyer Fonne Cremant|
|Marques de Gelida Cavs|
|Muga Conde de Haro Cava|