All wine with bubbles is not Champagne. True Champagne comes from only one region, also called Champagne, about 90 miles northeast of Paris. These wines have a celebratory status like no other wine has. There are 15,000 grape growers and 110 wine firms, known as houses, that make these grapes into sparkling wines. It is one of the coolest wine-producing areas in the world. Early attempts were thin, tart, gritty and coarse. It wasn’t until 1818 that remuage, or riddling was developed, which allowed yeasts to be removed from the wine in one frozen clump. The early Champagnes were sweet, and it wasn’t until the mid 1800s that Perrier-Jouet attempted a dry (brut) style. Champagne is a region covering some 85,000 acres, with chalky soil. It is the combination of the soil and cool climate that sets these wines apart from other sparklers. The only white grapes used for making Champagne are Chardonnay. Champagnes made only from Chardonnay are called Blanc de Blanc. Red grapes used are Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. In most cases, grapes are fermented in stainless steel vats, under controlled temperatures. A few houses still ferment in wood, as was done in the past. A percentage of each vintage is held in reserve, to blend into future wines. This blending adds depth and richness to the wine. It is said that the smaller the bubbles, the finer the wine. The average number of bubbles in a bottle of Champagne is 56 million. Champagnes range from dry to sweet are labeled, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi-Sec and Doux. Most are blends of the three grapes, though some labeled Blanc de Noir are made only with red grapes. Rose Champagnes are highly prized and cost more generally, than golden wines. Quality wines can be found labeled Non Vintage, with higher quality wines labeled with the date (Vintage Champagne) and the most costly Prestige Cuvee (made from the highest rated vineyards). Champagne comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from a Split (1½ glasses), Half Bottle (2 ½ glasses), Bottle (750 ml), Magnum (2 bottles), Jeroboam (4 bottles), Methuselah (8 bottles), Balthazar (16 bottles), and Nebuchadnezzar (20 bottles). The glass for the large format bottles is hand blown and rarely makes it outside France. How fun is that?
Wine Quote of the Month;
I will drink no wine before it’s time. Okay, it’s time – Groucho Marks
This months’ White Wine of the Month is La Fiera, 2014, Soave, made from Garganega, Trebbiano and Chardonnay, produced in the Veneto region of Italy. This wine has fresh pear and apple flavors, is bright and clean, with nice minerality.
Our Red Wine of the Month is Vinchio-Vaglio Serra, 2014, Barbera, from Piemonte, Italy. It has juicy black cherry and plum flavors and smooth, soft tannins.
Wine Club members please come in early to pick up your bottles, before they’re gone. We have some great wine tastings and dinners planned for this summer. I hope to see you there.
Sommelier, Maynards Market and Kitchen