As my father once told me, there is a first and last time for everything. And for each of those occasions, there is a special wine I think is perfect to commemorate both ends of the field — Champagne.
It is the perfect wine to celebrate the firsts in our lives, whether it’s a new job, a first date, marriage, children, graduations and so on. And, it is the perfect wine to memorialize the last milestones.
Therefore, I dedicate this special Wine of the Week to the firsts and lasts that we have the opportunity to embrace as we begin and end each adventure.
While Champagne may appear complicated, there are really just a few simple things to remember. First, only wines made in France’s tiny Champagne region can be called Champagne.
Next, most midlevel priced Champagnes ($25 — $50) are “nonvintage” or “NV.” This means that it’s a blend from several other years’ worth of wines from the same winery.
For example, a current Non-Vintage Champagne might be made up mostly of the 2017 vintage mixed in with a little of the 2016 vintage and topped off with bits and pieces of the 2015 and 2014 vintages.
This method of blending vintages is used to maintain a “house style” from year to year. A “Vintage” Champagne is always designated by a specific year on the bottle and is made entirely from grapes harvested that year.
Unless you know specifically what year you’re looking for, most NV’s are a good choice and can be enjoyed right away.
Lastly, Champagnes are made from three specific grape varieties; chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir.
A Champagne labeled “Blanc de Blancs” is made entirely from Chardonnay. “Blanc de Noirs” denotes that the wine was made from red grapes, such as meunier or pinot noir. Most “Brut” Champagnes are made from a combination of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.
If you’re celebrating the start of something big, you might as well go big.
The wonderfully dry Nonvintage Champagne Jacquesson 744 Cuvee Brut is a testament to the new style of winemaking embraced by one of the oldest Champagne Houses in the region. The “700 Series” of wines is produced from the same Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards from the same vintage, with small additions of reserve wine from previous vintages as needed.
The intention, according to Jean-Hervé is to, “retain the best characteristics of each harvest and not to disguise the variations that each year brings.” It features flavors of honey, apple and nectarine on a weighty palate with exceptional balance and finesse. The slightly creamy mouthfeel provides a silky-yet-firm finish. $70
If you’re finally going to stop and smell the roses, you might as well do it with a rosé Champagne. It certainly is one of my guilty pleasures.
The Nonvintage Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé is a blend of roughly 50% chardonnay, 35% pinot noir and 15% pinot meunier. The delicate pink color is accompanied by lovely scents of sweet cherry, vibrant strawberry and chalky mineral.
Bright black cherry, strawberry and red plum fruit flavors offer surprising depth. Mouthwatering mineral-laden acidity mesh with hints of baking spices on the beautiful finish. $95
Of course, if you really want to splurge, then I can think of no better way than popping the cork on a bottle of Non-Vintage Krug Grande Cuvée. The trademark signature style of Krug’s house blend is a combination of intensity and charm.
The creamy mouthfeel is layered with flavors of crisp green apple, baking spices, nectarine and buttered toast, all delivered on a medium-bodied frame emphasizing the lengthy finish. But make no mistake, this lovely Champagne is expensive — but worth it. $175
Note: In order to fully appreciate Champagne, serve it chilled in a small white wine glass or “tulip” style glass. While a tall flute-style glass is certainly elegant, and shows off the bubbles, a glass with a larger bowl allows you to fully appreciate the bouquet of the wine and will definitely enhance your experience.
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