Drinking Champagne


last update: 24 March 2020

The Coronavirus disease 2019 was first identified in December 2019, and on 11 March 2020 it was declared a pandemic. Efforts to prevent the virus spreading included travel restrictions, quarantines, curfews, event postponements and cancellations, and lockdowns all around the world. Recommended measures to prevent infection included frequent hand washing, social distancing (maintaining physical distance from others), and keeping hands away from the face.

My wife and I followed the general rule, '
stay at home and only go out for essentials', e.g. food, medication, etc. So we decided to drink a small glass of Champagne each evening with our meal. In order to keep costs down we extended our definition of Champagne to any producer using traditional methods, but we also started by restricting our choice to rosé Champagne.

Traditional method is the equivalent to 'méthode champenoise', i.e. a second fermentation in the bottle through the addition of yeast after the first fermentation. When this method is used it must be mentioned on the label.

To make it more meaningful I have put together this webpage on our tastings and impressions.

Basics


The grapes
Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay are primarily used to produce almost all Champagne.

Most of the Champagne produced today is "
non-vintage", meaning that it is a blended product of grapes from multiple vintages. Most of the base will be from a single year vintage with producers blending anywhere from 10–15% (even as high as 40%) of wine from older vintages. Wikipedia has a list of Champagne houses.
If the conditions of a particular vintage are favourable, some producers will make a
vintage wine that must be composed of 100% of the grapes from that vintage year.

A
cuvée de prestige is a proprietary blended wine that is considered to be the top of a producer's range, e.g. Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon (a cuvée is a vat, but can also mean batch or blend).
Blanc de noirs is a white wine produced entirely from black grapes.
Blanc de blancs is used for Champagnes made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes or on rare occasions from Pinot blanc. The term is occasionally used in other sparkling wine-producing regions, usually to denote Chardonnay-only sparkling wine.
Rosé Champagne is produced either by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on its skins for a brief time (known as the saignée method) or, more commonly, by adding a small amount of still pinot noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvée.

Just after disgorgement a '
liqueur de dosage' - a blend of cane sugar and wine is added to adjust the levels of sugar in the Champagne when bottled for sale, and hence the sweetness of the finished wine. Today this dosage is used to fine tune the perception of acidity in the wine.
Brut Zero has no added sugar and will usually be very dry (less than 3 grams of residual sugar per litre)
Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per litre)
Brut (less than 12 grams)
Extra Dry (between 12 and 17 grams)
Sec (between 17 and 32 grams)
Demi-sec (between 32 and 50 grams)
Doux (50 grams).

In addition to Champagne there are also sparkling wines. We have included these sparkling wines in our list only when the producers explicitly mention the use of traditional methods of production.
Crémant is another type of sparkling wine which also uses the same traditional methods as used for Champagne. There are eight appellations in France, and there is also a Crémant de Luxembourg.

We will start with one of our favourites…

Perrier-Jouët


Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé

Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé is a non-vintage brut wine composed of 40% Pinot noir, 30% Pinot Meunier and 30% Chardonnay (and includes 20% of reserve wine). Other reports mention 50% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay, and 12-15% blended still red wine.
The colour is often defined as a luminous medium cooked salmon colour with a touch of copper highlights. So pink and a bit pale.
No trace of aggressive bubbles.
Average acidity, crisp, fresh, floral, and quite long and satisfying in the mouth. No acid attack, and just a nice touch of sweetness.
Easy to drink. The kind of Champagne you could drink too much of at a Sunday brunch on the terrace.

Gales Héritage - Crémant de Luxembourg


Gales Héritage Cremant Luxembourg

Gales Héritage is a Crémant de Luxembourg. Gales started producing wine in 1916, and today the same family produces a wide variety of white wines, including seven different wines using traditional methods. Of those there are two Crémant du Luxembourg, one a pure Riesling, and the other, the Héritage, an assemblage of Riesling and Pinot blanc. The Héritage Rosé is produced with Pinot noir.
The colour is a very pale pink.
Quite aggressive bubbles, and quite fizzy.
Light, fresh, not too dry, and not particularly long in the mouth.
Easy to drink. The kind of
Crémant that works as an apéritif with some warm amuse-bouche. It could also be a nice wine to go with a meaty fish or langoustines in a rich creamy sauce.

Ayala Rosé Majeur


Champagne Ayala Rosé Majeur

A traditional French producer, now part of the Bollinger family. Rosé Majeur is a non-vintage brut wine composed of 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot noir (including 6% red wine), and 10% Pinot Meunier.