First, some quick definitions, provided by The Champagne Bureau:
Brut NV (Non-vintage) is usually a blend of wines from several years and a number of 'crus.'
Vintage Champagne is produced exclusively from the wines of a single harvest. As a result, producers will only declare a vintage in exceptional years.
Rosé Champagne is produced by macerating the black grapes or by adding locally produced red wine to the blend.
Special Cuvée is made from the most subtle and distinctive wines, whether vintage-dated or not.
Demi-Sec Champagne does differ from Brut in its slightly sweeter taste.
Blanc de Blanc is made from a blend of white grapes only, Blanc de Noir is a blend of black grapes only.
OCCASION: The Bachelor or Bachelorette Party – For your last night in singledom, liven up your celebration with a rich, full bodied Blanc de Noirs style Champagne. This Champagne is made using only black grapes and pairs well with full-flavored foods—perfect to get the party started!
OCCASION: The Rehearsal Dinner – It can be hard to please a room full of family, but a non-vintage Brut Champagne pairs well with almost anything and can help the evening go smoothly.
OCCASION: The Reception – On the wedding day, Blanc de Blancs Champagne is a perfect wine for your toasts. The name literally means “white of white,” a perfect complement to your gown. This delicate Champagne is made from only Chardonnay grapes and has a light, dry flavor, just right for when you want to dance all evening. Make sure to save a bottle to drink on your first anniversary!
OCCASION: The Honeymoon – When the happy pair is finally alone, make sure there is a a rare Vintage Champagne to share. It’s only made in years that produce the highest quality grapes, and just as love grows over time, these wines have been aged for a minimum of three years before they are released.
Champagne is produced exclusively from the grapes of Champagne, France, under strict rules designed to ensure quality. There are many other wonderful sparkling wines made around the world, but true Champagne only comes from Champagne.
The distinctive natural components of the terroir of Champagne — a unique combination of soil, sub-soil, climate and grape varieties unlike anywhere else in the world — are the underlying factors which account for the uniqueness of the wines of the Champagne region. The harshness of the northern climate is fortunately tempered by two particularities: a deep chalk sub-soil that allows easy drainage, and the way in which the grape vines are planted on slopes where they can receive the most sunlight. Under these conditions, the vineyards can yield their best grapes.
Thanks to the Champagne Bureau for their information! It’s the official U.S. representative of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France. “Whichever Champagne you choose, make sure it is genuine,” says the Bureau. For more information, go to http://www.champagne.us/.
© 2011 Barbara Keck
For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "Wine Adventures" in June 2011.
Book in Process: "Mountain High Wine: The Sierra and Its Foothills".