Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Few Champagne Questions

I've been asking these questions at my reliable local wine shops and getting different answers. So I share with you these hopefully interesting questions and ask for your opinions. Please share!

1) Why is rose of Champagne always more expensive than regular Brut Champagne?

2) What are the "proper" glasses from which to drink Champagne? I assumed flutes, or maybe coupes, but in Theises's catalog I noticed wine makers drinking their Champagne from what looked like regular white wine glasses. Are flutes purely decorative? Are white glasses better for encouraging the aromas of Champagne?

3) Champagne can withstand colder aging temperatures than still wine, from what I've read. Is the refrigerator (yeah, the regular one with my vegetables, milk, miso paste, etc) okay for short term (1 year-ish) cellaring?

4) Why won't you just give me a bottle of that '98 Billecart-Salmon to taste? I promise I will appreciate it, and share it with friends.


David McDuff said...

Alright Neil, I'll bite.

1) Rosé is almost always more labor intensive to produce than a "regular" Champagne, as it requires either a blending of a blanc Champagne with a separately produced still red OR a very carefully managed maceration and saignée process. Many producers consider their rosés to be their finest Champagnes.

2) If you own a set of coupes, throw them out. Or save them for serving fruit cocktail. Flutes serve two main purposes: they look elegant and they help to focus and preserve the stream of tiny bubbles inherent to good Champs. A regular white wine glass is considered ideal by many as it allows for greater aromatic development and release. Bubbles will dissipate more quickly though so your choice should depend somewhat on how important you deem the mousse.

3) Cold storage, as long as it's short of freezing, actually won't hurt any wine. It will just slow down the evolution process. The only thing to be concerned with in a regular refrigerator is dryness, which could eventually cause a cork to shrink, thereby potentially oxidizing the wine. If you want to keep your bubbly in the fridge for long periods of time, be sure to store it on its side.

4) If I had a bottle of the '98 BS, I'd be happy to share it with you. Just keep me in mind if someone does happen to make you their benefactor.

Brooklynguy said...

Holy cow david, this is a post in itself! Thanks so much for your input. These are helpful and instructive comments.

1) why would the blending be more labor intensive than all of the other blending that they do in "regular" champs? 2) i figured that the coupes were purely decorative, and i only use them for cocktails or desserts. as for flutes...i will probably move to white wine glasses now. i care more about aroma than mousse. 3) got it, thanks. 4) you got it.

David McDuff said...

It's not the blending in and of itself that could be more labor intensive. It's the production of a separate wine and even the cultivation of an entirely different vine.

The blending process, as it relates to rosé Champagne, is most typically used in areas that specialize in or are dominated by the production of Chardonnay based wines. A small amount of Pinot Noir (or Meunier) may be grown by producers in these areas, tended throughout the season, then vinified as a still wine. In some cases this wine may then be aged for some years. Finally it is blended with what might otherwise be a Blanc de Blancs Champagne to create a rosé. All of the other blending practices inherent to the production of NV Champagne are still conducted.

How's that for more labor?

Marcus said...

First of all Neil, welcome back from Cali!

Second, shame on you for scaring me like that. All my prized wine has been relocated to the kitchen fridge, seeing that summer is NOT over and my crappy little wine fridge has finally given up the ghost. So taking David's reassuring lead, I would like to add that I had heard exactly those things about cold storage, but immediately wrote them off and put them out of my mind. On this, I think I can speak for all of us who operate one of those old-fashioned fridges that a) never gets as cold as these new polar models that just love sub-zero temps, b) have really inadequate door storage design which forces you to lie the bottles sideways and finally c) have really poor moisture control anyway with sweatiness (and cork-friendly misting) abounds.

So the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru stays where it is, until after Labour Day at least.

Brooklynguy said...

Hey David - thanks again for these helpful comments. Now that you mention it, I remember reading in the Theise catalog that the Pinot Noir used in his rose is 10 years old. More labor indeed. I really appreciate you taking the time to write all that.

Hiya Dok! thanks for the welcome back, and sorry for the scare - your wine will not in any way be harmed because of this post.