Vintage: Like most wines, are from a single year's worth of grapes. Unlabeled or non-vintage bottles are from a blend of years. ‘Vintage’ in Champagne is different from other wine regions as each house makes its own determination on whether or not to declare a vintage year. Usually each house declares a vintage three years out of each decade.
The reasons for the tremendous price difference between non-vintage and vintage is that vintage wine is:
*Made from the best grapes at the highest-rated vineyards
* Usually made from the first pressing of the grapes
* Spends more time aging in the bottle than non-vintage Champagne
* Made only in vintage years
* Made in small quantity, and the demand is high. Price is dictate largely by supply and demand
Vintage Years Vintage Champagne must be 39 months old before it is sold, that is 3 years after the 1st January following the harvest around September. Many 'Marques' will age their wines for longer than this legal minimum.
1996 - Very good year
1995 - Good year
1994 - Average year
1993 - Average year
1992 - Average year
1991 - Good year
The process of producing Champagne is a long and complicated one. Towards the end of the “Methode Champenoise”, the special process by which Champagne is made, there is a stage called ‘Dosage’ when a combination of wine and cane sugar is added to the bottle. At this point, the wine maker can determine whether he wants sweeter or drier Champagne. The following shows you the guidelines the wine maker uses when he adds the dosage:
▸ Brut - driest
▸ Extra Brut - less dry
▸ Sec - more sweet
▸ Demi-sec - sweetest
Brut and extra dry are the wines to serve as an aperitif or throughout the meal. Sec and Demi-sec are the wines to serve with desserts. Pink Champagne, often with a touch of fruit flavors, gains its color from blending white wine with the red wine from the vineyards of Bouzy or leaving the red grape skins in contact with the ‘must’ for a short period of time.
Determine the style of Champagne you prefer, full-bodied or light bodied. The more white grapes used in the blend, the lighter the style of the Champagne, the more red grapes used in the blend, the heavier the style. Also wines fermented in wood have stronger characteristics than those fermented in stainless steel.
▸ Fully-Bodied: Krug - Ruinart -Pol Roger
▸ Medium-Bodied : Roederer - Pommery - Taittinger
▸ Light-Bodied:Bollinger - Veuve Cliquot - Perrier-Jouet - Mumm - Moët & Chandon - Laurent-Perrier - Deutz
Champagne can be drunk as soon as you buy it. You can keep the bottle for three to four years after purchase but the wine will not improve. Champagne is something you should not put away.
Champagne is stored for drinking just like any other wine - at around 55F, in a dark, damp location, stored on its side to keep the cork from drying out.