Summer Champagne Supreme Guide

. Posted in LIVING

champagne-bath-woman A CHAMPAGNE LESSON
How to indulge in one of the world’s classic wines and yet still try something new

You may think you know Champagne, but what is it exactly that makes this tipple so special? It can’t just be about the big names and their famous labels, although perhaps they hold a fair amount of sway in certain circles. No, a drink with a reputation such as this has the history to back up its immense popularity, so if you want to know a bit more about your favourite celebratory sparkler, let me give you a brief Champagne lesson and point you in the direction of a few names that you might not be familiar with…

All wine produced in France is subject to strict controls and Champagne is no exception. Made from grapes grown in a limited region in the northern part of the country, the marginal climate produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier crops with high levels of acidity – essential for making quality sparkling wines. Although there are many regions throughout the world that produce exceptional sparklers, what factors set Champagne apart from the rest? The lengthy amount of time it must stay in bottle, contributing to the development of its distinctive rich, yeasty, biscuit-like flavours, for starters. But it’s also those extra special long-lasting bubbles - and these aren’t just any old bubbles. A still, dry white wine is produced first and then, through a detailed method known as méthode champenoise, a secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle by adding a mixture of yeast and sugar called the dosage.

Whereas most wines are made from a single vintage, one of the most notable characteristics of Champagne is its branding and non-vintage house styles. To produce these consistent bottles from a climate that is famous for its inconsistency, wines from different years are blended to make sure your favourite Champagne tastes exactly like you would expect it to. Although vintage Champagnes are made in years when the harvest is deemed of exceptional quality, it is the non-vintages bottles that are the backbone of our Champagne devotion.
All these rules and regulations are there for a very good reason – to adhere to them takes time and patience and without this time and patience, Champagne would not taste and distinctive and as fantastic as it does.


So what if you want to expand your Champagne horizons beyond those famous houses? Although not as well-known as its some of its non-vintage counterparts, ‘R’ de Ruinart is a fine example of the finesse and complexity characteristic of the region. So if you’re looking for a NV that typifies the balance of flavour and length and offers better value for money than more famous tipples, then you need look no further.
Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV and its distinctive gold label is one you may already be familiar with and for good reason. From the Champagne house that makes the most famous bottle of the lot, Cristal, this is rich and opulent, described my many as the most consistently good non-vintage there is. The perfect summer celebratory drop, in fact.

But don’t let the kudos of these names dissuade you from seeking out smaller producers and growers who go about their business creating perfection in a bottle that can more than rival any of the famous Grand Marque offerings. The Pinot Noir-dominated Dosnon and Lepage Recolté Noire has the classic Pinot perfume and offers a luscious alternative to the more Chardonnay-dominant blends.  The classy Cuvée Cuis 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs by Pierre Gimonnet is exceptionally dry with a unique subtle, oaky character, proving that you can produce something different that still adheres to a classic style. Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV is another fantastic fragrant bottle with floral and fruity aromas that are backed up by a plate that is full of nutty, creamy notes – definitely one not to be passed up for you Champagne connoisseurs.

Paul-FisherThis summer might just be the perfect time to experiment with your Champagne preferences, so discover why it is possible to indulge in one of the world’s classic wines and yet still try something new.
Paul Fisher is a wine expert at Roberson Wine and has a particular interest in Champagne. When he's not blogging about wine he can usually be found drinking it or skiing (and sometimes both at once).

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