Champagne is a sparkling wine made from grapes coming from the Champagne region in north-central France. Producers must follow rules requiring the secondary fermentation of the wine in bottle to create the bubbly carbonation. Champagne is a blending of base wines which, ideally, create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. These “base” wines come from an assortment of wines—the Chardonnay white grape and Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for red—from various villages and vineyards.
Two areas in the Champagne region are thought to be best for their superior grapes: the Montagne de Reims, which is perfectly located for producing the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier red grapes, and the Côte des Blancs, whose soils of limestone and chalk are excellent for Chardonnay. The Vallee de la Marne, which lies in a thin band along most of the region and is home to both red and white grapes, is the biggest area other than the Aube district, which lies further to the south.
Each decade, there are only four out of five harvests in the tough climate northeast of Paris that generate the needed ingredients to produce complete and balanced Champagne, vintage-designated, wines. They are, by definition, wines made entirely during the year indicated on the label. Because of this, most Champagnes also blend juice from two and more vintages.
This act of blending vintages is the means Champagnes producers employ to maintain their “house style” and provide their customers with a dependable, and consistent, product. With non-vintage wine accounting for about four out of five bottles of all Champagne produced, it makes sense that the status of most major houses depends on the quality and uniformity of their non-vintage offerings. Lucky for the Champagne-enthusiast, non-vintage bottles are often just as good as their vintage counterparts—and considerably less expensive.
Wine Spectator, 91 points: Generous, full-bodied and broad-textured, this is a tempting, full-flavored and easy-drinking bubbly with toasty aromas and solid fruit flavors. Though relatively tight on the finish now, it should improve with time. Best...
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 98 points: Medium lemon-straw colour. Intensely fragrant nose with aromas of jasmine, cinnamon buttered toast, stewed apples and preserved ginger. Concentrated honey-nut, warm apple tart and spice flavours fill the mouth giving...
Wineanorak, 98 points: Wow. Complex and full; evolved and yet still fresh, with bold nutty toasty notes on the nose, together with some herbal complexity. The palate is broad but still very concentrated and fresh with massive length and real...
Antonio Galloni's Vinous, 94 points: The 1990 Dom Ruinart Rosé (magnum) was another showstopper. This big, opulent wine revealed an expansive personality, with tons of fruit and impeccable balance.
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