Champagne is the most expensive of quality wines. That fact almost single-handedly supports the expensive advertising campaigns that promote the festive bubbly born in France, as a symbol of status and the preferred spirit at life’s many celebrations. As you toast friends or family and celebrate achievements, these insights from a distinguished wine importer and distributor will heighten your appreciation of champagne.
BEHIND THE PRICE-POINT: The high price and quality of champagne grapes is partly responsible for champagne’s luxury status. The lengthy, complicated process of Mèthode Champenoise: the process which Chardonnay, Pinot, and Pinot Meunier grape varieties are blended, influences the value appointed to champagne. Liqueur d’expedition is the process of adding wine and sugar to champagne to give it varying degrees of sweetness.
“Mediocre champagne producers demand high prices simply because their product is grown and produced in the French province of Champagne,” explains Brian Nembhard, a New York-based distributor who is originally from Jamaica. But a leading champagne house “produces great champagne in successive years and consistently fetches high prices around the world.”
WHY AGE MATTERS: The year listed on a bottle’s label identifies the year of the harvest, while other markings classify the champagne by age. Non-Vintage or NV champagne (made with grapes from various harvests) is aged for at least one year. Vintage champagne (made with grapes from a single harvest and bottled that same year) is aged for three or more years. And, Prestige Cuvèe champagne (made with the very best grapes) is aged for five or more years.
HOW TO STORE: The more explosive the bubbles in a champagne the higher the quality, according to Nembhard, CEO of Nembo Imports. He is the wine specialist who was commissioned to redesign the wine menu at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Store your champagne in a dark room at 55-degrees Fahrenheit on a horizontal rack to prevent the cork from drying out and shrinking.
Gather additional insight at http://www.wineenthusiast.com (Wine Enthusiast magazine), www.wineandspiritsmagazine.com (Wine and Spirits magazine), www.winespectator.com (Wine Spectator magazine), and www.decanter.com (Decanter magazine). For a hands-on education, add a tradeshow to your next holiday trip itinerary. The wine industry assembles for Vinexpo in France, New York, and Chicago (www.vinexpo.com). Plus, there’s the Duty Free Show of the Americas (www.iaadfs.org), but if you desire the most opulent wine show experience, there is VinItaly hosted in Verona, Italy (www.vinitalyonline.com).
WORLD’S LEADING BRANDS: Louis Roederer, Cristal, Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Piper-Heidsieck, Pierre Jouet, Bollinger, Taittinger.
BEST MODERATE-PRICED BRANDS: Bollinger, Taittinger, Lanson, Nicolas Feuillatte, Deutz, Jacquart, Mumm, Champagne Henrio.