We drink champagne in times of celebration –a big birthday, a promotion, to celebrate the purchase of a new home, or to bring good luck in the new year. I suggest you pop that cork for no reason! Celebrate the wine for what it is – consistency delicious!
You probably don’t put much thought to it, because you know you can turn to the champagne label of your choice and it never disappoints. Dom Perignon or Veuve Cliquot are always consistent and there’s never any second-guessing that your big celebration will be ruined by poor vintage selection. Year over year, you can just count on good champagne – almost as a commodity or a brand.
In fact, most champagne produced is “non-vintage”, a unique wine making tradition. Champagne consistently tastes the same year after year because it really is a blend of 30-60 wines from different vintages mixed to create a final product of bubbly the vintner feels represents the label. There may be small nuances in taste but in general you always know what you are getting.
Another interesting tidbit is that authentic champagne can only come from the wine making region called Champagne in France, where they exclusively use only Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunièr grapes. The flavors of real champagne are influenced by the chalky soil of the northern terroir of France. The weather there is inconsistent -and so are the grapes from year to year – hence, the blending process mentioned above.
Champagne is produced in a somewhat complicated two fermentation wine making process, first aged in oak and then again in the bottle (which is when and where the bubbles are produced). All other wines made in the champagne-style technically have to be referred to as “sparkling”. Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain and sparkling California wines are made in the 2 fermentation “method du Champagne” but may use other grape varieties…which definitely infuse flavors of the soil where the grapes are grown. So you may not find the same chalkiness as the French wine in your sparkling wine bottle.
Champagne goes perfectly with oysters (also something we seem to save for special occasions, I’m not sure why); it’s also wonderful with raw fish, so enjoy it with sashimi at your sushi bar. But why wait for a special day? Have champagne for no reason!
Special thanks to my friend Carl who let me use this photo.
His boat inspired this week’s blog.