Champagne is a beautiful thing, but it’s often misjudged. The thing is, Champagne is an upscale product often priced way higher than regular bubbles and non-sparkling wines. Champagne might have high price tags, but actually, it’s not expensive at all, as you’ll see, it’s very well priced. So, why does Champagne cost what it costs?
First, real Champagne must come from the region of the same name in France. The town has inhospitable weather, so grapes struggle to ripen and don’t reach their fullest potential every year. This means Champagne makers have to blend wines from different years to end up with something nice; this is a pain-stalking process, by the way.
Then there’s the method. Getting those pearly bubbles into the wine is no easy feat; especially when done in the traditional champenoise way. You have to make the wine, then you have to bottle it with a little yeast and sugar and seal it tightly. Then you wait, and wait some more.
To achieve its characteristic flavours, Champagne must age for several years in dark, cold caves built underground, and have to be cared for during all that time. We’re not done yet, before putting their bottles in the market, producers need to get rid of the dead yeast inside the bottle, adjust the final sweetness and only then, can they put a cork in it.
This can take years! but the result is unmatched. Sparkling beauties with a lovely acidity and complex scents.
Not all Champagne is created equal either, there’s white and pink, there’s dry and sweet, and then there’re the categories:
This is the regular Champagne and is the flagship wine for Champagne houses. It doesn’t state a vintage, or the year the grapes where harvested, because, as I said before, it’s a blend of wines from different years (sometimes decades apart!). This wines often represent the best value. This wine can be citrusy and sometimes can remind you of freshly baked brioche.
When the weather is merciful in Champagne, and that’s every few years, winemakers bottle their wine without blending and state the year of the harvest on the label. These wines are on another grade of quality. At this level, aromas are intensified, and the flavours are a bit more pronounced.
The best of the best, wines like Dom Perignon, Cristal and the Ace of Spades are the finest Champagne houses have to offer. The complexity of aromas can be overwhelming; dried apricots, almonds, honeycomb and vanilla are common descriptors.
Finally, there’re the brands. Many Champagne houses have been around for centuries and have amassed quite a reputation. Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, Laurent Perrier and Lanson are powerhouses that always deliver. Their rosé versions and Prestige Cuvées are worthy of the most memorable celebrations.
So, now you tell me, is Champagne your cup of tea? I’ll guess you’ll have to try it and see.