November 17, 2012

Champagne - a style study

Champagne, just taste the word and think of the enjoy of life that comes to your mind. Luxury and flair. Corks fly into the air. Party time!

But which kind of Champagne do you prefer in your glass? Have you ever thought about the different styles of Champagne and which one is your favourite? This was the theme of an interesting tasting including only noble bubbles.

The fresh style was represented by Guy Charlemagne's Blanc de Blancs. Thus 100% Chardonnay. Often a Chardonnay-dominated style. It is fresh, light and youthful. Lemon flavours and austere acidity. Wonderful to shell fish and the favourite of oyster lovers. Another of my real favourites in this style is the very likeable Rudolphe Peter's Pierre Peters Cuvée de Reserve. Pierre Peters, located almost next door to Guy Charlemagne in the little grand cru-village Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in Côte de Blancs.

The "widely appealing" style has more body, is softer, fruity with a tiny sweetness. Rosé Champagne is found in this style. We tasted Veuve Cliquots Vintage Brut Rosé 2004 which showed good balance, nice fruit, red berries and enjoyable acidity. Delicious just on its own, but why not to a lighter dish of meat?

The full-bodied style often gets many supporters among the Champagne beginners. That is my experience. Pour a glass of Pinot Noir-dominated Champagne and watch the effect. Not unusual to get a comment like "I have not been that found of Champagne, but this is great". When we not serve it as apéritif it is well suited to both foie gras and a bit heavier meat dishes. Swedish Jessica Perrion provided her family's Thierry Perrion Tradition Grand Cru to our tasting. Full bodied, heavier, dark fruit, a bit thicker on the palate. Really yummy.

Finally the mature style. Well, just listen to the name of the style. These are wines of some age that have developed mature notes, complexity and roundness in the acidity. Flavours of ripe apples, spices, chocolat and coffee are usual. The intensity of the bubbles might have calmed down a bit, but for the lover of mature wines this will be a real treat. Just enjoy it on its own. We tasted a Special Club Champagne from Grongnet, vintage 1999.

My favourite among these styles? Well, I prefer three of them: the fresh, the full-bodied and the mature. So it will more depend on occasion and producer. In this tasting Perrion and Grongnet got my highest scores.

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