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An Exquisite Evening of Champagne Awaits You

Champagne cascading into flutes

Enjoying a glass of Champagne is both relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time.  Its bubbles and ethereal flavors instantly commemorate festivity. Not only does it set any party in motion, it also pairs wonderfully with a variety of foods.  So, after four solid days of rush hour commuting and long hours at the office, by the time Thursday evening rolls around, a glass of bubbly is just what the Dr. ordered, right? Or better yet, a glass of the finest Champagne paired with delectable gourmet cheeses and some light-hearted socializing!

Next Thursday, May 12th, Wine Cellarage and the bulthaup showroom in Soho have joined together to host an amazing evening filled with Champagne!  Not only will the very best Champagnes be poured, Cristal, Krug and Dom Perignon to name a few, the event will be an enlightening adventure.  This exciting tour of select, premium Champagnes will showcase styles ranging from Blanc de Blanc to Rosé and is sure to put a sparkle in your eye.

Antonio Galloni, wine critic for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, will be the featured guest for the evening.  He will be available throughout the event to answer any Champagne questions you may have and will share his insights with all attendees at 7pm.

This is an incredible opportunity to taste a great selection of the world’s finest Champagnes in one night.  If you love Champagne as much as we do, this is an event that you won’t want to miss!

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the featured Champagnes…

2002 Moet Chandon Dom Perignon – Moët & Chandon’s prestigious Dom Pérignon is a vintage Champagne that is only made in the most excellent grape-growing years. Named for the legendary Benedictine monk who made great contributions to the craft of sparkling winemaking, this Champagne is a tribute to the noteworthy man. Truly the best of the best, there have only been 36 vintages of Dom Pérignon produced since the first, the 1921 vintage.

2002 Louis Roederer Cristal - A remarkable vintage, the 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal is rich, powerful and refined with great ageing potential.  Made with 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay, this wine exhibits complex aromas and flavors of ripe red fruit, cocoa, caramel and Viennese pastries.  Cristal is the perfect choice for special dinners and celebrations, pairing wonderfully with lobster, scallops, salmon and oysters.

2002 Pierre Peters Brut Cuvée Spéciale les ChétillonsPierre Péters is a small family-run estate located in the center of the Côte des Blancs region, in the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil sur Oger.  The Péters family has worked together to maintain their vineyards, growing and selecting only the best grapes and producing superior grower Champagne, dedicated to expressing the terroir and varietal character in each of their ethereal wines.

NV Krug Brut RoséKrug Rosé is pure extravagance, combining the chic taste of the celebrated Champagne with an intriguing elegance and style of its very own. Exquisite aromas of wild berries, exotic spices and flowers give way to opulent, seductive flavors on the palate. As with all of Krug’s Champagnes, power and finesse come together in each harmonious, sublime sip.

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Champagne: A Short Guide to the Sparkling Delight

Celebratory Flutes of Champagne

Champagne is the drink of celebration.  Its bubbles and ethereal flavors instantly commemorate festivity.  Not only does it set the party in motion, but it pairs wonderfully with a variety of foods.  From potato chips to sushi, you can’t go wrong with a glass of Champagne.  When shopping for this sparkling beverage, we are faced with a number of choices and must decipher a set of labeling terms that tell us about the style of the bubbly in the bottle.  Will it be dry, full-bodied, fruity?  To begin to understand the language of Champagne and the various styles that it is made in, let’s take a look at the region and a bit of history…

In the most northern reaches of French wine country, and the farthest north of all the European vineyards, lies the legendary Champagne region.  Northeast of Paris, hugging the Marne River valley, the region is divided into three main subregions, the Vallée de la Marne, the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs.  Here, the short growing season and severe growing conditions produce light wines that have high acidity and low alcohol, the perfect foundation for sparkling wine.  Millions of years ago, a sea covered the Champagne region, the fossils and sediments of which formed the area’s chalky soils.  If it weren’t for these mineral-rich chalk soils, vines would not grow nearly as well here.  The chalk retains water and slowly releases it as the soil dries, ensuring that the vines are always hydrated. The mineral content in the soil nurtures the vines and gives the grapes their character, making wines of quality and distinction.

The bubbles in Champagne come from an intriguing and complex process entailing not one, but two fermentation cycles.  Once the wine goes through its initial fermentation, it is bottled as a still wine.  Right before bottling, a mixture of sugar, wine and yeast nutrients is added to the wine.  In French, this mixture is called “liqueur de tirage”.  The bottle is topped with a temporary seal and laid down in the cellar where the second fermentation begins.  During this stage, the yeast digests the added sugar, which in turn produces more alcohol and carbon dioxide.  The CO2 builds up in the bottle, slowly dissolving in the wine…and viola! Bubbles!

Although Champagne production was initially accidental and it is unclear who actually discovered the process, it is certain that the monk Dom Pérignon was a leader of the Champagne wine movement in France during the mid-1600s.  During the early 1800s, Champagne was first commercialized by the infamous Madame (Veuve) Clicquot.  The popularity of the bubbly drink continued to grow and around this time, the celebrated Champagne names that we know and love entered the scene, the local merchant Monsieur Moët, as well as Krug, Bollinger and Roederer, all young, business savvy German entrepreneurs.  Since those early times, the region struggled with difficulties, from vine-destroying pestilence to fraudulent wine production, occurrences that shaped and strengthened the modern Champagne industry.

There are three grape varietals used in Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  Each of these grapes dominates one of the three Champagne subregions and creates wine with specific characteristics.  Chardonnay grapes, most common in the Côtes des Blancs subregion, produce a lighter style wine with high acidity, citrus characteristics and fine bubbles.  Pinot Noir is widely planted in the Montagne de Reims subregion, and imparts body to sparkling wine blends.  Pinot Meunier, the dominant grape in the Marne Valley, provides fruity character to the blend.  These three grapes varietals, used in combination or on their own, produce an array of Champagne styles, which brings us to a set of vocabulary that you’ll encounter when buying your bubbly.

A familiar term in Champagne speak is Non-Vintage (NV), which is bubbly made from a blend of wines from different years.  NV is considered by some to be superior to Champagne from a single year’s harvest because it allows quality control and insurance that no matter how bad one year’s vintage is, it can be evened-out by the blend.  Vintage Champagne shows the year of harvest on the label and has distinct characteristics based on the particular year’s growing conditions.  The term Prestige Cuvée is given to Champagne that is made from the highest quality wine and blended with the utmost care.  These wines are usually aged for longer periods prior to their release.  Examples of Prestige Cuvées from top producers are Moët & Chandon’s Dom Perignon bottling and Roederer’s Cristal.

Champagne labeled Blanc de Blancs, meaning white from whites in French, is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, and is usually a lighter style wine with bright acidity and core flavors of citrus and apple.  The labeling term Blanc de Noirs refers to white Champagne made from black grapes, specifically Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or a blend of the two.  Blanc de Noirs are usually fuller-bodied, fruit-forward Champagnes with a lengthy finish.

Rosé Champagne, with its fun pinkish hue, is made from all three grape varietals, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  Interestingly, Rosé Champagne is most frequently made by blending some red wine from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with white wine from Chardonnay.  A few Champagne houses use the saignée method, allowing the dark grape skins to have limited contact with the musts and impart some of their color to the wine, but this method is far less common.  Rosé Champagnes tend to have a full body and extra fruitiness on the nose and palate.

The level of sweetness in Champagne is determined by the portion of sugar that is added after second fermentation and ageing.  The terms listed below refer to the amount of sweetness in Champagne and will help you decide which best suits your taste:

Term Dryness Level & Grams Sugar per Liter
Brut Nature The Most Dry; Below 3 g/l
Extra Brut Very Dry; 0-6 g/l
Brut Very Dry – Dry; 0-15 g/l
Extra-Sec Off-Dry; 12-20 g/l
Sec Medium-Dry; 17-35 g/l
Demi-Sec Sweet; 33-50 g/l
Doux Very Sweet; 50+ g/l

Brut is the most common of these styles, however, since the levels of sweetness overlap, it is left to the producer’s discretion to use the labeling term of their choosing.

On a final note, there are many incredible and delicious sparkling wines made throughout the world, but in order to be labeled Champagne, it must come from that specific region in France.  When searching for the Champagne that will put a sparkle in your eye, try different brands and styles, and don’t forget to pair it with food for a truly amazing dining experience!

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