Champagne and its secrets: the art of blending
It can be argued that, one of the reasons why Champagne during the centuries has become so renowned is its intrinsic finesse and consistent elegance.
This definitely is something difficult to be achieved by winemakers, but in this region, especially thanks to the long-standing tradition in making bubbles, it has been possible to reach unimaginable quality levels.
But, what is the real secret behind the making of Champagne? What is the most crucial activity during winemaking?
The blending process at the heart of Champagne winemaking plays on the diversity of nature, combining wines from different crus (growths), different grape varieties and different years.
The Champagne blender brings together contrasting wines to create a cuvee that is different every time and distinctly superior in quality to the sum of its parts.
Three dimensions of Champagne blending
Blending wines from different crus
There are so many subtle differences between the crus that no two blends are ever the same. The result is an array of wines that capture the multifaceted character of their appellation.
Blending wines from different but complementary grape varieties
Marrying different grape varieties brings contrasting and complementary qualities to Champagne wines. The Pinot Noir contributes aromas of red fruits and adds strength and body to the blend. The Pinot Meunier, the fastest-maturing component in Champagne, contributes supple body, intense fruit and roundness. The Chardonnay gives the blend finesse. As a young wine, it brings floral notes, sometimes with a mineral edge. It is the slowest to mature of the three Champagne varietals and the longest-lived.
Blending wines from different years
The annual weather variations in Champagne affect the quality of the grapes, making for very different vintages depending on how cold, hot, wet, etc it was in the year in question.
Champagne blending usually encompasses all of these three dimensions, though the winemaker may decide to focus on one dimension in particular.
For instance, a vintage Champagne commemorates a truly exceptional year by including no reserve wines at all. Otherwise, a single-varietal Champagne, whether Blanc de Blancs or Blanc de Noirs, celebrates the taste of a single grape variety. Finally, a single-vineyard Champagne expresses the distinctive qualities of a single cru, ‘lieu-dit’ (named vineyard plot) or sometimes a ‘clos’ (walled vineyard).
Fourth dimension of blending: the winemaker’s talent
By combining wines with different sensory characteristics (colours, aromas, flavours) the Champagne maker looks to create a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts – one with a carefully balanced harmony of notes in which no one note is dominant. The ultimate objective is the same today as it has always been: to create a sense of balance that is not found naturally and could not exist without human intervention.
If you want to have more tangible examples of these concepts, take a look at the special selection of Champagnes in our Online wine shop.
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