Wine Lovers Chronicles - Sitting in Front of a Bottle of Champagne
During December sitting in front of a bottle of Champagne, any one of these doubts will always come to mind; if not your mind, then anyone else’s.
Many questions remain unanswered because Champagne is a very well kept labyrinth… where each production house guards its secrets while watching the competition.
Every connoisseur knows that each bottle keeps the secret of its best uncorking period. Labels never proclaim it; that would be like firing a projectile under the waterline of the transatlantic pleasure ship (real or imagined) of the famous French wine.
Due to international law, all wines must state on their front labels the harvest year of the grapes used in each bottle in front of you; that is all, except Champagne and Oporto.
In both cases, when the date of the vintage appears, it indicates that it was a harvest of exceptional quality, with grapes of extraordinary merits. It’s called “Vintage”, and it doesn’t happen every year.
Usually, every ten years there are three or four “Vintages” (remember, exceptional vintage), never one after the other in a decade. “Vintage” allows for a higher price and maintains the legend of superior quality alive, while handling it with prudence.
What is the age of the wine in the bottle?
No one knows, only if the production house proclaims it, which the Maison Krug has begun to do, if the consumer reads the code, and later consults on the Web.
In order to avoid scams and manipulations, the vintage with exceptional quality grapes cannot be proclaimed by the owner of the brand; it has to be validated by an interprofessional committee (the State, producers, and enologists).
Why would a prestigious brand want to mix wines of different years? To maintains its consistency irrespective of the vagaries of climate every year (as it preserves its style in the mixture of wines that comprise the cuvée), as well as making it easy for the consumer to identify it vis-à-vis the competition.
Non-Vintage wines aren’t inferior wines, they’re just the habitual ones. It’s a customary practice among sparkling wines and fortified wines.
Due to its higher price, consumers buy, uncork and offer Vintage in deference on special occasions, when you decide to go overboard, or almost.
Should you stir a glass of sparkling wine?
No, it’s not necessary.
The bubbles take care of letting the wine’s aroma come up to the surface of the glass.
If you shake and stir the wine in your glass too rapidly, you run the risk of making the wine’s aroma go flat prematurely.
In other wines, the taster twirls his glass around so the aromas trapped in it can come to the surface and allow the taster to appreciate, differentiate, and keep in his olfactory memory (limbic system in the brain).
Will Champagne go bad if the bottle becomes warm and is cooled again?
Champagne is a delicate wine, much more sensitive to fluctuations in temperature than a calm, non-sparkling one.
Carbon dioxide, the gas that enlivens the bubbles, is sensitive to the wine’s temperature. As the temperature rises, the bubbles will begin to diminish until they disappear.
Very cold Champagne generates columns of small bubbles that move rapidly, constantly from the base to the surface of the flute glass. When the wine becomes warm, the speed of the bubbles diminishes until they vanish.
Thus, after serving the wine, the bottle must be returned immediately to the icebox; however, you cannot leave it there open for more than an hour. The carbon dioxide will object and leave. When that happens, there’s no way of putting it back in the bottle.
What affects bottled Champagne the most?
Light, heat, fluctuating temperatures… and rare uncorking. Except for vintages, it’s a wine made to be enjoyed, not kept for years, expecting it to improve with time.