Spotlight : Champagne
Sparkling wines exist throughout the world in either traditional method, tank method or by adding carbon dioxide. A common mistake by many is to call everything that sparkles, Champagne. However, unless it is made in the region of Champagne, it cannot be called Champagne. Within Champagne, there are significant sub-regions known for quality, as well as areas for growing the grapes responsible for making Champagne. The three major grape varieties used are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. Blanc de Blanc is made entirely with Chardonnay grapes and Blanc de Noir is made with various percentages of Pinot Noir and Meunier. Rose Champagnes are made only with the red grapes with varying levels of skin contact or by blending. Chardonnay provides notes of lemon chiffon, stone fruits, flint and minerality. Pinot Noir provides the structure along with red fruit notes such as strawberry cream and plum pudding. Meunier provides backbone, softness, and richness. The secret of Champagne is its second fermentation in the bottle, or the Methode Champenois. This is what gives us the fine bubbles and the autolytic characteristics of brioche, pastry, Danish, tart, biscuit, and yeasty notes. The longer the wine sits on the lees in the bottle, the more these notes will come through. Most Champagne will spend at least three years on the lees.
How sweet is Champagne?
What does Brut, Extra Brut, Sec and Demi Sec mean? These are all levels of sugar measured in grams per litre that exist after the dosage has been added to the disgorged wine. Dosage is the amount of sugar added to the bottle after the dead lees has been removed to give the final style of Champagne.
- brut nature is NO dosage added and less than 3 grams of sugar per litre
- extra brut is 0-6 grams of sugar per litre
- brut is 7-12 grams of sugar per litre (mostly what is in market)
- extra dry is 12-17 grams of sugar per litre (mostly seen in prosecco, but not much in Champagne)
- sec is 17-32 grams of sugar per litre
- demi-sec is 32-50 grams of sugar per litre
- doux is more than 50 grams of sugar per litre (otherwise known as ‘rich’)
91 POINTS DECANTER
One of the smaller Champagne houses, the family since 1921 has been committed to making quality Champagne to showcase the diversity of the Champagne terroir. This cuvee is made from an assemblage of over 100 cru sites; a blend of 30% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir and 50% Meunier and aged for three years in the limestone cellars at Ay. The Chardonnay contributes citrus and floral notes, the Pinot Noir structure and tension and the Meunier brings character and richness. Fine bubbles, rich brioche and pastry flavours, this Champagne hits the mark in character and price point. Stock up this Christmas!
91 POINTS JAMES SUCKLING
The Taittinger family has managed the house for nearly a century committed to the pursuit of excellence. Located in Reims, with 288 hectares under vine, it is the third largest Champagne house in the region. The Nocturne is a slightly sweeter Champagne at the sec level and is comprised of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir & Meunier. Easily recognizable for its purple, disco-like bottle, the subtle and delicate bouquet reveals the delightful aromas of yellow peaches and dried apricots. It’s smooth and creamy, yet very crisp. Distinctively sweet, it’s full flavoured with raisins and peaches in syrup. For those looking for a slightly sweeter style of Champagne, try the Nocturne.
This house was founded in 1925 and located in Epernay. Their goal is to express terroir through soil, topography, climate, and viticulture. In addition to their own house vineyards, the Lombards work closely with a group of growers with a total vineyard area of 65 ha which ensures consistent quality year after year. Following organic and sustainable principles, yields are kept low to highlight the unique character of each vineyard, their grapes, and minerality of the soil. This blanc de blanc is an exquisite and elegant champagne at 0 dosage, with almonds, yellow fruits, brioche, and toasted almonds due to the 4-5 years of ageing on the lees. The chalk and flinty soils are expressed with refreshing acidity, minerality and even a touch of saline. A delectable treat.