Today marks What’s Worth Drinking’s 150th article. So to celebrate I decided to pop the cork on some awesome Champagnes. Today’s post takes a look at the major styles of Champagne. We’ve got a Blanc de Blanc, a Blanc de Noir, and a rosé, as well as a non-vintage and vintage cuvee. We’ll be making sense of each one by talking about some beautiful examples from each category. But before we do, I have to give a shout out to the Packing House Wine Merchants in Claremont, who hosted the tasting where I sampled each of these fabulous wines. Nice selections guys.
Wine #1: Besserat de Bellefon NV Brut Cuvee de Moines Blanc de Blanc Champagne
Our first wine is a Blanc de Blanc. In Champagne, the wines are made almost always exclusively from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Of the three, two of them (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) are red grapes. A Blanc de Blanc, meaning “white of white”, is made using only white skinned grapes, and true to style, this wine is entirely made from Chardonnay.
The aroma of this wine is absolutely dominated by toasty baguette tones. Fresh, yeasty, biscuit tones drive the core with some pretty golden apple and sea stone notes showing in the background.
Soft golden apple tones introduce the palate with yeasty, toasted baguette notes coming through strongly. There is a fresh acidity to this wine that brings out notes of lemon curd and lemon zest at the mid palate. A nice, chalky minerality gives this wine further definition, creating a very fresh, refined, and precise bubbly.
Worth Trying. 92 points.
Wine #2: Dosnon & Lepage NV Brut Recolte Noire Champagne
Our next wine can be seen as the opposite of our first. Where a Blanc de Blanc is made entirely from white skinned grapes, a Blanc de Noirs, “white from black”, is made using only dark skinned grapes. These wines are made from either 100% or a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. All the pigment in the dark skinned grapes is in the skins, while the juice is actually clear. Following crushing and pressing, if the juice is removed from the skins immediately, little to no color will be transferred to the liquid, leaving a white wine.
Very dense, deep, and intense on the nose, this wine has very clear tones of whole wheat toast and faintly earthy notes showing clearly. Crisp mineral tones and fresh cut apple aromas also make an appearance.
The palate is very ripe and fresh, with coconut and amaretto showing at first. Lime and orange candy show brightly on a doughy base of wheat bread, with subtle hints of cut apple and coffee beans on the finish. Very full, dense, and nicely complex, this is easily a wine…
Worth Trying. 91 points.
Wine #3: Vranken Demoiselle NV Brut Rosé Grand Cuvee Champagne
Rosé sparkling wine is typically, but not always, a blend of white and red grapes. The pink color is either achieved through blending a white base wine (generally Chardonnay) with a bit of red wine (Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier), or by leaving the juice pressed from red grapes in contact with the skins long enough to give the wine the desired hue.
Smoky and delicate, the nose of this wine is also rich with notes of amaretto and crushed raspberries. It comes together beautifully with dense toastiness and an almost creamy quality that make it very enticing.
This wine is bright, rich, and impressively red berry toned. Coffee beans, fresh rosemary and mixed herbs, and a faint nuttiness between almonds and amaretto give this beautifully fruity core excellent depth. This wine comes together impressively and is absolutely…
Worth Trying. 93 points.
Wine #4: Bollinger NV Special Cuvee Champagne
Champagne is a region that is largely characterized by blending. Non vintage wines are made from a blend of base wines from a number of vintages in order to create a style that will be consistent year to year. These wines make up the majority of wines produced in Champagne, and many other sparkling wines produced throughout the world also are made following this model. A Cuvee is also a blend, and they can be made in both vintage and non-vintage styles. In most cases wines like this one are white, but are made with both white and red varietals. There is considerable style variation, as the term Cuvee means nothing more than “blend”, but most of them will typically be made in a style similar to this one.
The aroma of this wine is incredibly rich, with dense floral tones mingling seamlessly with hints of vanilla and malt. A gentle spin in the glass reveals an intriguing bread dough and marzipan quality as well.
Marzipan shows clearly on the palate with apple cider, mixed kitchen spices, and almond tones appearing immediately afterward. Very full, intense, and rich, this wine is also beautifully fresh and balanced. Very impressive.
Worth Trying. 93 points.
Wine #5: G.H. Mumm 1998 Cuvee R. Lalou Cuvee Prestige Champagne
The final major style of Champagne is vintage. Any of the four previously mentioned types of Champagne (Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noir, Rosé, and Cuvee) could either be made vintage or non-vintage. The determining factor is, unlike a non-vintage wine, which is made with a blend of base wines from multiple years and is essentially the same all the time, vintage wines are made solely with fruit from one vintage year and the product is drastically different each time. Vintage wines are generally only made in years where the fruit was spectacular, and these wines will generally be much more expensive than non-vintage wines. These wines also cellar beautifully, and as is the case with this 1998, they will develop massive depth and complexity the longer they age.
Delicious tones of toast drenched in honey drive the aroma of this wine. It’s almost smoky with lovely tones of chestnut and hazelnut playing off notes of butter and lightly oxidized apples.
Rich and caramelly, tones of chestnuts and hazelnuts sautéed in browned butter and a faintly smoky stone quality introduce the palate of this fascinating wine. The palate is full, round, and dense with incredible complexity showing the beautiful combination of fine winemaking, exceptional fruit, and careful cellar aging. Beautiful.
Worth Trying. 95 points.
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The Grapevine: What is your all time favorite Champagne?