Champagne and New Year’s eve go together, don’t they? So, to help you navigate the waters as you head out (or stay in) to do to do some Champagne shopping for New Year’s, we aim to arm you with a few tips to help you understand Champagne and sparkling wine just a little bit better. Much to the chagrin of the French, in this blog we use the words, “Champagne” and “sparkling wine” interchangeably. Properly speaking, Champagne is a sparkling wine only from the Champagne region of France. You can call it whatever feels right to you.
What’s the deal on Vintage or NV?
It’s common practice for a winemaker to blend champagne across using multiple vintage years. Because of this, a bottle of champagne can only be considered a particular vintage year when at least 80% of the grapes have been harvested in that year. This is what is referred to as a vintage champagne. It’s permissible for in vintage champagne for up to 20% of the grapes to come from other years. Vintners blend their Champagnes with the best of the best from previous years. The goal is a more uniform quality across grape growing years and vintage years. Any champagne that does not meet this standard is considered non-vintage and is labeled N.V. This does at all mean that NV inferior in any way, in fact, many Champagne aficionados say that as a general rule NV bottles are superior to all but the best (and most pricey) vintage labels.
Size Does Matter
Champagne, aka sparkling wines, come in a wide variety of bottle sizes. In the real world, the first 3 or 4 are can be found in most stores. Larger sizes are for showing off and are often priced higher than the equivalent number of full bottles. Never the less, it’s fun (but slightly nerdy) to throw around the names Jeroboam and Nebuchadnezzar at a party, Here’s a breakdown:
You're a Brut
The relative sweetness and dryness of varieties of Champagne and the terms to describe it is probably the most confusing part of this whole business. As you try more and more champagne, you will decide whether you prefer it dry or sweet.
As a quick guide, here is a list of the levels of dryness that you can choose in your Champagne:
1.2 - 2.0%
1.7 - 3.5%
Hope this helps a bit. If you have any questions, give us a call and we'll do our best to answer it. Next post, how to chill, open, pour, save and store Champagne.