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.
View From The Cellar, 97 points: The 2005 Cristal is a legend in the making, but this wine is still very young and closed
and some extended bottle age will be necessary to really allow all of the multi-faceted elements
here to blossom and come to the...
Wine Enthusiast, 95 points: With just a touch of bottle age giving a toasty character, this impressive wine is already showing some maturity. That said, the apple and citrus character, the mineral tight texture and crisp acidity promise some aging...
Stephen Tanzer's IWC, 93 points: Light yellow-gold. Highly fragrant mineral-accented bouquet offers fresh pear honeysuckle and honey aromas with enlivening notes of ginger and chalky minerals. Spicy orchard and pit fruit floral and lemon curd flavors...
Wine Enthusiast, 96 points: A beautifully balanced wine that exudes elegance as well as richness. It is drier than previous vintages of Cristal Rosé, yielding a bright, crisp and layered wine. Red fruits are married with orange zest and tight...
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