by Lara Victoria
Perhaps it is the twinkling lights of the season, or the cheer of shared joy, but one cannot think of a celebration without the clink of a Champagne toast.
P erhaps it’s the twinkling lights of the season, or the cheer of shared joy, but one cannot think of a celebration without the clink of a Champagne toast. Champagne is eponymous for sparkling wine. Yet, all that sparkles isn’t Champagne. Only wines from the region of Champagne in France bear that name. While the origin of its production technique of secondary fermentation “in bottle” is heartily debated these days, Champagne was without a doubt the first place to take these sparkling wines to market and has been distinguished with supreme quality ever since. Despite its universal demand, Champagne represents just about 8 to 10 percent of global sparkling wine production. There is only so much land under vine in Champagne and rather than increasing yields, the quality-obsessive champenois have focused on elevating quality standards even higher to command their market share. In this, they have unequivocally succeeded. Indeed, nowadays we have access to some of the finest wines Champagne has ever made. There are currently more than
VINTAGE These are wines from a single vintage and are aged for at least three years on their lees before release. Producers only declare a vintage in years that produce exceptional wines. With great aging potential they continue to evolve in complexity with time. BLANC DE BLANCS Three grape varieties rule in Champagne: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. When a Champagne is made from Chardonnay, the only white grape variety of these three, it is called Blanc de Blancs, i.e. white wine from white grapes. The chalky minerality of Champagne’s soil and cool climate yields crisp, pure and intensely complex Chardonnay that produce powerful wines with stupendous flavour characteristics, balance and structure. It is no doubt that Blanc de Blancs are treasured among Champagne aficionados. TREASURED BLANC DE NOIRS This is Champagne made from its dark grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. They look deceptively like white wine because of minimal skin contact with the grape must before fermentation. Pinot Meunier contributes fresh fruit
percent of its vineyards. Some growers or “vignerons,” produce their own wines, known as “grower Champagne.” Others combine yields to produce wines as “cooperatives.” The celebrated Champagne houses, or maisons buy a lot of their grapes from these growers. It is worth noting that Champagne houses collectively represent 90 percent of global exports. In BC, we are spoiled for Champagne choices. With everyone from Bond to Churchill endorsing their preferred Champagnes, whom are we to trust? Admittedly, this can be a little intimidating, so here are three considerations to help you pop the cork on Champagne. Style NON-VINTAGE (NV) A product of different vintages, NV wines are masterfully blended to deliver a signature “house” taste. Many can also hold for years. Aged for a minimum of 15 months, their effervescence is ready to sip now. Some houses like Piper- Heidsieck (from the cover) age their NV wines for a minimum of 30 months, twice the requirement for this style, offering greater value to consumers for incredibly complex wines.
15,000 growers in Champagne, who collectively own about 90
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