Non Vintage - The
ordinary, most basic blend. The best Champagne houses
and growers pride themselves on providing a continuous
house style through the judicious blending of various
vintages. In an ideal world a house would not declare
a vintage in a good year if they needed the wine to
keep up the standard of their non-vintage, but seldom
happens these days. Most non vintage Champagnes are
based on wine from a single year, with added reserve
wines from previous vintages, minimum ageing before
release is 15 months, but all good houses are giving
their wines considerably longer, which does wonders
for their flavour.
Vintage - Wine of
a single, usually good quality year. It's typically
fuller, deeper, and a definite leg up the quality scale
from non vintage Champagne, but not necessarily more
enjoyable for that. Certainly these are less effective
as 'spontaneous celebration' wines, to get your best
out of vintage Champagne it's worth taking your time
to enjoy it.
Cuvee de Prestige/de Luxe
- A Special, highly prized, and certainly highly priced
blend. Usually vintage but not always. It encompasses
some great wines and some unworthy wannabees. There
seems to be a rule that the wines must come in distinctively
- Still wines, either red or white from the Champagne
region. They sometimes come with a village name, like
Cramant (white) or Bouzy (red).
Cremant - This used
to mean a Champagne with less than the normal amount
of fizz, but now that Champagne has won the exclusive
use of the term methode champenoise (no other wine made
by this method may use the term, and now has to use
the words like 'traditional method' instead) it has
surrendered use of the word Cremant on labels. Cremant
is onw only used by Champagne method sparkling wines
from other parts of France, as in Cremant de Loire.
Rose - Traditionally
the pink colour is gained by a careful and short maceration
of the black pinot noir and pinot meunier skins with
the juice. However, this method is unpredictable and
more often now a little red wine from the region is
added to the white just before bottling. The wines are
usually aromatic and fruity, but must be drunk young.
Blanc de Noirs - This
less common style is made from 100 per cent black grapes.
The wine is white, usually rather solid, but can be
impressive if aged for long enough.
Blanc de Blancs -
An increasingly common style, from white Chardonnay
grapes. The wines are usually fresh and bright when
young, getting deeper and richer as they age. Many de
luxe champagnes come in this style.