Famous author Charles Dickens once said, “Champagne is simply one of the elegant extras of life.” When it’s time to celebrate, the most common go-to drink for most people is an elegant bottle of bubbly. If you’ve never tasted champagne, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about.
With its sparkling reputation and varying and complex fruity tastes, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular celebration drink. How does the way Champagne is produced affect the taste? Are some brands tastier than others?
Today’s article answers these interesting champagne questions. We’ll also look at how a few of the more popular Champagne brands stack up in the taste department. By the end of this article, you’ll have a list of a few options to try in your search for your personal favorite. Keep reading for all the info you need about how Champagne tastes!
What Exactly is Champagne?
If you’re not an experienced wine or Champagne drinker, you might be under the impression that there isn’t much difference between the two. Technically, you wouldn’t be far off. In short, Champagne is a sparkling wine.
The real difference is that quality bubbly is all made in the Champagne region of France and has been for many centuries. Essentially, Champagne is produced by blending grapes from the three top Champagne grape varieties. These are commonly known as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
Champagne is made from white grapes, giving it its popular light, sparkly color. The good news for bubbly lovers is that there are a wide variety of Champagnes to choose from, making food pairing amazingly easy!
How is Champagne Made?
As mentioned, this popular celebration drink is mostly made from three quality grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The process of making classic Champagne is often referred to as méthode champenoise or méthode traditionnelle.
Making Champagne is a time-consuming and relatively labor-intensive process. It’s this process that distinguishes Champagne from your average wine. It’s the primary reason this sparkling drink earns itself a reputation for being a quality, classy drink.
There are a few processes that make producing Champagne much different from regular wine. Once you understand how it’s made, you’ll have a clearer indication of why it tastes so great!
- Pressing: Grapes of the highest quality are used in the first press. The second press selects grapes more aimed at tannins and pigments.
- 1st fermentation: Yeast converts the grape’s natural sugars into alcohol.
- Blending: Different climate conditions and areas create a varied blending combination. This combination is the key to each particular flavor.
- 2nd fermentation: Yeast, sugar and still wine are bottled using a crown cap and must be stored horizontally. It takes about 8 weeks for the yeast to convert the sugar into alcohol. This fermentation process creates C02, and this is where the famous bubbles come from!
- Lees aging: Dead yeast cells or lees, are important in Champagne’s aging and determine the specific profile. Aging takes about 15 months for non-vintage brands and an average of 3 years for the vintage options.
- Riddling: Special racks hold the bottles at an inverted 45-degree angle. A mechanized process routinely turns the bottles causing the lees to settle at the bottle’s neck, affecting the tannins.
- Disgorgement: The bottle cap is removed so that the dead yeast cells can be extracted. The lost liquid is replaced by a sugar and still wine dosage to create the wine’s ultimate sweetness level.
- Recorking: The last step involves placing the final cork and wire cage on the bottle as it’s prepared for aging. Non-vintage Champagnes must age for an additional 15 months. Vintage Champagnes on the other hand age for about 36 months before they can be sold.
What Does Champagne Taste Like?
And now the million-dollar question – What does Champagne taste like? In general, Champagne can range from dry to sweet, depending on the sugar added. This bubbly drink’s taste also varies depending on the grapes used and blended.
A quality Champagne boasts a velvety mouthfeel with flavors that include cherry, peach, almond, citrus, cream and even toast. If acidulous bubbles burst across your palate you know you’re drinking a quality Champagne!
Aside from an exquisite taste, Champagne has a subtle aroma. As with the taste, the choice of grapes used influence the aroma. Some of these include:
- Chardonnay grapes: Creates citrus white flower, lime-blossom and citrus aromas.
- Pinot Noir grapes: Expect an aroma of violets, peonies and cherry fruit.
- Pinot Meunier: Fresh strawberry notes are popular with this grape.
Different Champagne Flavors
It’s important to note that despite being made in the same region with similar grape blends, Champagne variations have assorted flavors.
Read on to see some of the more popular choices.
- Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial Non-Vintage: There’s a reason Moët & Chandon is commonly referred to as the world’s top Champagne brand. Brut Champagne offers a smoky aroma with a fresh, crisp apple chalky flavor. There’s also a hint of lemon and honey.
- Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve: With the emphasis on various stone fruit flavors and aromatic spices, this Champagne is light, crispy and fresh. It’s also a popular pairing choice for seafood dishes.
- Krug Clos d’ Ambonnay Blanc de Noirs: This popular bubbly is a dry Champagne that offers a pleasing aroma of citrus fruits and plum tarts. As a member of the vintage Champagne collection, it offers a flavorful palate of autumn fruity notes.
- Laurent-Perrier Brut Non-Vintage: Made with a high quantity of Chardonnay grape blend, this particular Champagne boasts an aroma of smokey toast with a citrus and apple combination. A touch of honey and toast flavor is balanced by a hint of fresh green apples and leaves a dry chalky taste!
- Louis Roederer Cristal ‘Gold Medalion’ Orfevres Limited Edition Milesime: This variation is ideal for Champagne lovers looking for something with a spicy note. Its citrus aroma adds a wonderful complement to any special occasion.
- Canard-Duchêne Authentic Brut Non-Vintage: While this particular Champagne is cheaper than the average bubbly selection, it doesn’t disappoint on taste! As you open this bottle, you’re overwhelmed with a lemon and apple aroma with a hint of baked bread. The aroma flows over into the taste complimenting the dominant apple flavor.
- Dom Perignon P3 Plenitude Brut: If you’re looking for a Champagne with a full-bodied flavor, this high acidity option is the ideal choice. As a vintage Champagne, it boasts a rich bouquet of brioche aromas.
- Taittinger Brut Réserve Non-Vintage: As with many other Chardonnay-based Champagnes, this non-vintage favorite sports wild aromas of citrus and honey. Similar to most quality bubblies, there’s a subtle background of bread. On your palate, you get a ripe citrus and honey taste. It finishes with a fresh burst of lemon, making it a reliable favorite!
- Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Non-Vintage: Any Champagne with a blend made primarily of Pinot Noir makes for a full, rich bubbly! An aroma of buttered baguette and honey fills the air. The taste however is considerably more exquisite. A complex combination of bread, apricot, peach and red berries provides a balanced flavor.
- Pol Roger Brut Champagne: If you want to celebrate like a royal, the Pol Roger Brut is your best option! Used as the official bubbly at most royal functions, this variation has a strong fruit foundation and sports a tasty combination of crisp citrus and berries.
- Pommery Brut Royal Non-Vintage: This popular variation offers a strong honey taste with a fresh lemon finish. Made with an equal blend of all three grapes used in Champagne production, the Pommery Brut has a delicate and lively balance. It’s crisp, fresh and has a dominating white flower flavor.
- Ruinart Blanc de Blancs: Unlike the other Champagnes on our list, this variation offers a 100% Chardonnay blend. A sole Chardonnay blend gives it a toasty profile with notes of almond, honey, green apple and peach.
- Krug Grande Cuvee: This flavorful Champagne offers a rounder, softer flavor profile. Made with a variety of grapes, it’s rich in citrus and stone fruits. A hint of chocolate and spice creates a unique and delectable flavor!
In summary, Champagne is a type of sparkling wine that is primarily produced in the famous French region of Champagne. When it comes to taste, Champagne should feel crisp and mellow on your tongue. Flavors can vary from the apple taste of an extra-dry option to a fruitier choice best paired with desserts.
Irrespective of your preferred type of Champagne, there’s no denying that the rich velvety flavor makes it perfect for celebrations or just to enjoy with a simple cocktail dinner! Try some of the options on our list to find your new favorite!