Last-Minute Champagne Guide|
by Sarah Bonneau
You may have seen or heard of champagne grapes. These are actually the tiny Zante grapes that are used to make dried currants; they're called champagne grapes because a few of them dropped into a glass of champagne will rise and fall hypnotically with the bubbles. Champagne is generally made from a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, but variations in soil composition around the Champagne region and in the way the three grapes are mixed together will give each Champagne a different taste. This is why a Moët et Chandon tastes different from a Mumm.
When choosing a bottle, remember that valuable information about the contents can be found on the label. Many are labeled, from driest to sweetest, as brut, extra dry, demi-sec and sec. Your taste will dictate what you prefer. If you see a date on the label, for example, 1990, that means you have a vintage bottle that contains champagne made from grapes that were harvested in 1990. If there is no date on the bottle, then you are purchasing a non-vintage (NV) bottle that contains a champagne made from grapes harvested in different years. Remember, a non-vintage bottle will still contain a wonderful tasting product.
Other terms you may see on the label are "Blanc de Noirs" and "Blanc de Blanc." A bottle of "Blanc de Noirs" contains a champagne made from only the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. A bottle of "Blanc de Blanc" means that the bottle contains champagne made from only the chardonnay grape. Again, if you experiment you will determine what suits your taste best. Usually these bottles are more expensive than those that contain a blend of all three grapes, because these champagnes are produced in a much smaller quantity.
OK, you didn't buy into the hype and you have no champagne on hand yet for Christmas or New Year's. Shame on you! You missed the magnum of 1989 Krug for $375 (only one store had three, and they sold them in 48 hours!). All is not lost. There is plenty of bubbly to be had in Albuquerque, at a variety of prices to fit everyone's budget. Consider spending a little bit more than you normally would. It's worth it to drink a wine you'll never forget. Here is a general guide to some of the brands available, but be sure to call around for prices and availability.
A magnum is equivalent to two bottles in one, and a Jeroboam is three liters or the equivalent of four bottles. Getting both will make a big impression and will assure that everyone in your party can have a glass. If you'll be buying a quantity of champagne, why not go for a couple big bottles? These are truly bottles to save -- have everyone at your party sign the bottle. Here is what's available:
Sarah Bonneau and her husband Philippe have a personal collection of over 110 bottles of vintage champagne representing over 35 champagne houses. For New Year's Eve they have purchased a magnum of 1989 Krug.