A Champagne with out bubbles is, in fact, not a Champagne, until it’s previous and has misplaced its sparkle because of previous age. However through the first levels of its life, earlier than the second fermentation, a “Champagne” is a nonetheless wine. And these nonetheless wines are fascinating to style. If you’re chargeable for the mixing of the Champagne, you want to have the ability to decide the standard and character of those nonetheless wines.
The Champagne grape juice will undergo a primary alcoholic fermentation, similar to any wine. You then acquire a nonetheless wine, referred to as vin clair in Champagne. Typically individuals name them the bottom wines. They often have an alcohol stage of between 10.5 and 11.5%. Throughout the second fermentation within the bottle, the alcohol stage will improve by a bit multiple share level. So, within the last Champagne, you should have 12-12.5% alcohol, and a stress of round 6 atmospheres.
Up to now, the nonetheless wines weren’t at all times notably nice to drink. They could possibly be harsh and acidic. The bubbles and the dosage (sugar added on the finish, after the ageing on the lees within the bottle) have been wanted to make the wine fulfilling. At this time, producers decide their grapes riper, and lots of nonetheless wines can be glorious wines in their very own proper. The acidity continues to be excessive, although, in comparison with most different wines, nevertheless it has decreased within the final 20 years.
In lots of Champagne cellars, the mixing of the nonetheless wines shall be finished in late spring. It’s a complicated process. A producer’s non-vintage Brut, i.e. the “commonplace” champagne from a home, usually consists of wines from a number of vintages and numerous villages across the Champagne area. A small grower, in fact, has fewer selections than an enormous home.
However for everybody, it’s essential to discover a stability between the grapes: crisp Chardonnay, structured Pinot Noir and fruity Pinot Meunier. The totally different villages and the totally different areas give their character to the mix. The older vintages (usually referred to as “reserve” wine) which are added to the mix give softness and complexity due to their age. A typical mix for a non-vintage brut can be 70% of the present classic and 30% reserve wine. Most homes additionally use the entire three foremost grape varieties in the usual mix, chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier.
At Champagne J. de Telmont within the village of Damery within the Vallée de la Marne, we’ve got had a number of thrilling tastings with nonetheless wines when we’ve got visited them. They like to indicate wine journey vacationers a little bit of what occurs behind the scene. Once you style the grape varieties individually, with out bubbles, you’ll be able to spot the variations between the three Champagne grapes. It’s more durable to try this in a Champagne the place the whole lot is (ought to be) harmoniously blended.
One in every of these tastings included two Chardonnay wines from totally different terroirs, one Pinot Noir and one Pinot Meunier.
The primary Chardonnay was from the southern a part of Champagne, within the commune of Vitry-François. It’s situated 45 miles southeast of Epernay and is a not very well-known a part of Champagne with 1100 acres of vines on south-facing slopes. Right here, Chardonnay reigns supreme. The wine was refreshing in a really typical chardonnay type of citrus, peaches, inexperienced apples, some almonds. The acidity was excessive, however the wine felt balanced and contemporary.
The subsequent Chardonnay got here from Damery, the village the place the home is predicated, within the Vallée de la Marne, within the lovely Marne River Valley. Pinot Meunier dominates in Damery. This wine was pleasant on the nostril with lemon, white flowers, very clear with inexperienced apples, on the verge of being unripe, although, which gave the palate a little bit of a shock with the acidity.
The Pinot Meunier we tasted additionally got here from Damery. This wine was extra full-bodied with raspberries, lemon confit and apricots on the nostril. It was additionally very refreshing however balanced. The Meunier is usually very fruity and offers juiciness to the mix.
The Pinot Noir got here from the area of Côte des Bar, the southernmost a part of Champagne, fairly near Burgundy and well-known for its Pinot Noir grapes. The nostril first jogged my memory of pink wine with various pink berries. Not stunning, given pinot noir is a pink grape though this wine was, in fact, white. However there have been additionally gooseberries and hazelnuts. It was a scrumptious wine, though the excessive acidity was a bit an excessive amount of, tasting it by itself. However I feel it will have been scrumptious with meals.
The winemaker at Champagne J. de Telmont could have many extra nonetheless wines to work with for the ultimate mixing than the tree that we tasted on our most up-to-date go to. Tasting the wines like this, you notice that it’s fairly a fragile activity. I’ve, in fact, tasted their completed Champagne as properly, a go to at all times finishes with that, and I can assure that the result’s glorious.
After which, as a last step earlier than the bottling, the winemaker provides the liqueur de tirage, which is yeast and round 24 grams of sugar per litre. This will get the second fermentation in bottle going. After spending a minimum of 15 months within the cellar, with the lifeless yeast within the bottle, the nonetheless wine could have been reworked right into a Champagne with bubbles. The excessive and refreshing acidity continues to be there, however with the bubbles and some grams of sugar, the Champagne will style simply wonderful.