We all love a good glass of bubbly for a special celebration or just for fun. Now you could sound like a connoisseur when discussing your favorite. We’ve got a quick guide to help you choose the perfect champagne whether pairing with dinner or bringing a bottle to a weekend soiree.
No longer viewed as the frivolous Valentine’s Day drink, rose wines have grown in popularity in recent years, constituting 8.5 per cent of all champagne shipments worldwide, up from the 3 to 5 per cent of the past. There are three ways to make rose – skin contact, saignee (or “bleeding” colour from dark skinned grapes) and blending, but rose champagnes, like this Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose, typically use the blending method to ensure consistency. The saignee method is occasionally used (in Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d’Or Vintage Rose and Laurent Perrier Brut Rose for instance) and it imparts a richer, sometimes more tannic taste, making such roses great to pair with food.
Blanc De Noirs
Literally meaning “white of blacks”, blanc de noirs is white wine made from black-skinned grapes. For champagne, only two such grapes are permitted: pinot noir and pinot meunier. Bollinger’s Vieille Vignes Francaises and Krug’s Clos d’Ambonnay are arguably two of the most famous examples of blanc de noirs champagne, and both are incidentally among the most expensive sets of bottles ever produced. In production, the grapes are pressed very lightly to minimise contact with the skins, and the resultant juice can be almost colourless. Champagnes in this style tend to be full-bodied, big on fruit and long on the finish.
This is the very best that a champagne house has to offer. Of all the sparkling wine in the world, roughly 10 per cent is champagne. And only 10 to 15 per cent of that are good enough to be prestige cuvee. Famous examples include Louis Roederer’s Cristal, Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne and Moet & Chandon’s Dom Perignon. While the best champagne houses have always made excellent wines, Dom Perignon is likely the first to market a “best of the best” product, inspiring other wineries to follow suit.
Blanc De Blancs
As you can guess, blanc de blancs is the fairer and probably more well-known counterpart to blanc de noirs. While exclusive use of chardonnay grapes are the norm with this style, other white grapes like pinot blanc, petit meslier and arbane are also allowed. Because exceptional chardonnay grapes are scarce in Champagne, many champagne houses – even the big ones – tend to save their chardonnay grapes for blending. But chardonnay grows especially well in the Cote des Blancs area, located south of Epernay (where Perrier-Jouet is based). When treated right, they make for a fine and delicate wine that is perfect as an aperitif. Below, Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs.
The categories of “sweet” champagne can be confusing because “sec”, which typifies champagne with higher sugar levels, means “dry” in French, but only extra dry champagnes are actually sweet. Extra dry champagnes are the mildest of the sweet bubblies, with 12g to 17g of sugar per litre. Doux champagnes have the most sugar, with a whopping 50g of sugar. Secs have between 17g and 32g, while demi-secs have a range between 32g and 50g. While brut is currently the most popular style, the sweeter wines can be versatile in food pairings since they are not sweet enough to be considered dessert wines. Below, Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec.
Ready to go buy a bottle? We’ve found some great wine shops!
By Charmian Leong, The Peak, December 2014