Food & Drink

December 3, 2014

How To Buy Champagne For The Holidays

If you’re a Champagne novice the first step is, [just like anything else],  know what you like and go from there. Price has nothing to do with it, so take that qualifier out of the game right now. Don’t let names such as Dom PérignonCristal or Krug influence your purchase because if you don’t like Brut Champagne you’ve just thrown $200+ out the window because you absolutely will not enjoy any of those wines. And that is exactly what wine is all about, enjoying it.

Here are a few tips to get you started on your Champagne journey.

Champagne Sweetness

The level of sweetness in Champagne is classified by the following:

Extra-Brut or Brut-Naturale, Bone dry, unsweetened
Brut, Dry. This is the typical style of Champagne with no sweetness
Extra-Dry, Dry with a hint of sweetness
Sec, Lightly sweet
Demi-Sec, Sweet
Doux, Very sweet, dessert Champagne (very rare in US)

The label on Champagne bottles will indicate the level of sweetness so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Vintage/Non-Vintage Champagne

A non-vintage Champagne is a blend of grapes from several vintages. Most Champagnes are non-vintage, classified as “house style”. This “house style” is very consistent, and meant for immediate consumption. Non-Vintage (NV) Champagne is reliable from one harvest to the next (because of the way it is made); when you find a particular NV you like, you can be assured that style will be the same bottle after bottle.

Vintage Champagne comes from a single year’s crop; the finest fruit is used to make vintage Champagne which makes it all the more desirable. Not every year is declared as a vintage year. Vintage Champagne is only made if conditions are ideal. A vintage will reflect the earth’s and the atmospheric elements as much as it does the winemaker’s style so each vintage will taste different from one year to the next.

cuvée de prestige is a proprietary blend of wine that is the top of the line for Champagne Houses. Famous examples are Louis Roederer’s Cristal, Moët & Chandon’s Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger’s Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill

Varietals used in making Champagne

The name “Champagne” refers to wine produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France. The three primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier

Blanc de Blanc: A French term literally translated means “white of white”. The terms Blanc de Blanc is used to designate Champagne made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes.

Blanc de Noir: A French term literally translated means “white of blacks”. Blanc de Noir is a white wine produced entirely from the black grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot  Meunier.

Rosé: Rosé wines of Champagne are also known as Pink Champagne. Pink Champagne is produced by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on its skins for a period of time or by adding a small amount of still Pinot Noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvée (tank).

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Champagne Fun Facts

  • The name ‘Champagne’ can only be used if the wine is produced in Champagne located in the northeastern region of France. If a similar sparkling wine is produced, using the same method other than in Champagne, then it has to be labeled as methode champenoise so as to give credit to the procedure.
  • The bubbles in Champagne are formed during the second fermentation that takes place in the bottle.
  • A bottle of champagne can have as many as 49 million bubbles thus its affectionate name “bubbly”
  • The pressure in a bottle of champagne is 90 pounds per square inch, about three times that of an automobile tire. This is why Champagne bottles and corks are thicker than still wine bottles and corks.
  • The size of the bubbles is one of the factors that determine the quality of the champagne. High quality Champagne is characterized by tiny bubbles. Large bubbles are the mark of a lesser quality wine.
  • Champagne should be drunk in a flute, a tall and narrow glass; this is to preserve the bubbles and to let the aromas of the wine muse.
  • There are 91 calories in a four-ounce glass of Champagne and 495 calories in a 750-milliliter bottle.
  • A cork leaves the bottle at a rate of 38-40mph.
  • Champagne folklore has it, that the Champagne “coupe” goblet was modeled in the shape of Marie Antoinette’s breast using wax molds.
  • A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh Champagne will float up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top.
Here are some recommended Champagnes for you to further research and taste. Keep in mind the “house-style” of each, which will keep the cost down. The starting prices listed below are for you to gauge your purchases, use solely as a reference. The prices listed are not indicative of all retail stores but rather the competitive nature of online websites selling these wines.
Pol-Roger prices start at $40

Deutz prices start at $30

Krug prices start at $75

Perrier-Jouet prices start at $30

Veuve Clicquot prices start at $30 

Bollinger prices start at $45

Moet & Chandon prices start at $20

Billecart-Salmon prices start at $50

Louis Roederer prices start at $30

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  1. [...] all out or want to go all out, sparkling wines are a lovely aperitif starter to any party. While Champagne can be pricey, Prosecco (Italy), Cava (Spain), Sket (Germany) even Sparkling Shiraz (Australia) are [...]

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