According to Winespeed: Non-vintage Champagne (designated NV on the wine’s label) is a blend of wines from different years’ harvests and from different vineyards and villages (crus) within the Champagne region. Non-vintage Champagne wines represent the vast majority of Champagne wines produced. (By contrast, vintage Champagne represents a little less than 6% of exports). Non-vintage Champagne wines are valued for their consistency year to year. By blending multiple vintages, each Champagne maker can maintain a “house style” that consumers can depend on. Amazingly, in some cases, the range of vintages in a non-vintage Champagne can span up to 20 years. By law, non-vintage Champagne wines need to age on the yeast lees for at least 15 months, although most are aged longer. The minimum aging for a vintage cuvée is three years on the lees.
Don’t judge a Champagne by its cover: Prestige cuvée Champagne bottles may come dressed in finery, but it is what’s inside that earns them the title. These are the finest (and most expensive) wines that a producer makes, from the best grapes in the top, highest-rated crus or vineyards of Champagne. The French refer to these singular offerings as têtes de cuvée, a term that can be loosely translated as “top batch.” Prestige cuvées are almost always vintage-dated, and are made only in exceptional harvests, on average 3 times per decade. One reason for this is that Champagne is one of the most northern wine growing regions in the world—at roughly the same latitude as the U.S.-Canadian border—with an inherently cool climate where the grapes struggle to ripen. Prestige cuvées are aged longer than other vintage Champagne wines (on average 10 years versus 3 years) and continue to develop in the bottle for another decade.
Why I Drink Champagne Every Night (Karen at Winespeed)
It’s true. I drink a glass of Champagne every single night. A bottle lasts me several days (after pouring a glass, I use a Champagne stopper to keep the bubbles in). I don’t find it to be an extravagance–just my own one necessary indulgence. Why do I do it?
o Because I like the snappiness, raciness and energy of Champagne.
o Because it’s full of mineral flavors. And minerals are like micro explosions
on the palate.
o Because it doesn’t have new oak flavors.
o Because it goes with virtually every food imaginable.
o Because it’s sleek and taut on the palate—not heavy.
o Because there’s a purity and precision to Champagne that so few other wines possess.
o Because it separates day from night. A demarcation. I like it when every evening has its own beginning.
Truth be known, I have been copying her for years, though I do branch out to some Cabs, Sauvignon blanc, Single Malt Scotch, and beer.
My French is terrible, since it is non-existent. So, here is some help from Winespeed:
How’s Your French?
Here are some tips on pronouncing some (often mispronounced) Champagne brand names.
Moët et Chandon—Mo-ETTE ay Shan-DON
The “t” in Moët is indeed pronounced.
Pol Roger—Paul Roe-ZHAY
Winston Churchill reportedly drank a glass of this every morning.
Nicolas Feuillatte—NEE-co-la FOY-yat
Easy to say and easy to drink.
Although the British fondly pronounce
Not your mum; more like the sound
a cow makes.
Pierre Gimonnet—Pee-AIR ZHEE-mon-ay
Known for their lacy fresh
blanc de blancs.
Like Moët, the “t” is pronounced.
Billecart Salmon—BEE-ya-car Sal-MON
No “t” sound. Their rosé is especially
Marc Hébrart—Mark Hey-BRA
One of our favorite Grower
Champagne wines for their
consistently delicious wines.
Often mistakenly pronounced RUE-in-art.
This French brand, whose name is German in origin, is not pronounced
the German way.
No “t” sound we’re afraid.
Veuve Clicquot – Vuhv klee-KOH
Not pronounced “voov,” the word means “widow” in French.
Now the bubbles themselves: One million bubbles in a glass of Champagne, according to the calculations of Gérard Liger-Belair, a professor on the “Effervescence Team” at the Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne in France. The bubbles begin as clusters of carbon dioxide molecules dissolved in the wine. They collect on tiny dust particles inside the Champagne glass until they are big enough to race to the surface. Bubbles are not just textural; they also influence flavor.
What exactly do the bubbles do?
The bubbles (all one million of them in every glass) certainly give Champagne an extra dimension of texture and make it super lively on the palate. But bubbles also contribute to the overall flavor by magnifying a Champagne wine’s aroma. (Flavor is the unified perception of smell and taste). As bubbles rise and burst at the surface of the liquid, tiny droplets of wine are released into the air, projecting the wine’s aroma to your nose. Even when the wine is on your palate, the bubbles help project its aromas to your retronasal passages, thereby amplifying the wine’s smell, and hence its flavor. (Thank you, Karen at Winespeed)
No matter which one(s) you drink, I offer you a hearty “Bonzai” and stay well.
Sparkling wines photographed at the Roederer Estate’s tasting room in Philo , Calif., Friday, May 25, 2018.