How to Identify a Good Champagne

If you’re preparing to purchase champagne for a meal or special event, you might be wondering how to make sure you’re getting a good bottle. Luckily, there are many criteria that make good champagne stand apart from the rest.

By choosing a reputable brand, you’ll maximize your chance of selecting a high-quality champagne. A good vendor is also important. You can help your chances even more by reading champagne reviews online and in wine enthusiast publications.

Here is a list of things to look for and questions to ask yourself when you’re purchasing champagne.

Start with the Marque

A ‘marque’ is a house that produces champagne. This is also known as the brand.

In the world of champagne, famous brands are usually famous for a reason: they produce great champagne! However, since everyone’s taste is different, you might need to sample champagnes from several marques before you find the one you like best.

Champagne

Some of the most reputable champagne makers include Bollinger, Charles Heidsieck, Krug, Moet et Chandon, G.H. Mumm, Joseph Perrier, Ruinart, Taittinger, Veuve, and Cliquot.

Champagne or Sparkling Wine?

True Champagne comes from the Champagne region of France. Any other region of the world produces sparkling wine (or “champagne” with a little c). For the purposes of this section, “Champagne” refers only to the real thing.

Champagne is produced in a special way that sets it apart from sparkling wines. It’s actually a law in France that real Champagne must be made according to the traditional “method champenoise” – the Champagne method.

This is a labor-intensive process. Instead of carrying out the second fermentation in a vat, the Champagne is placed into small bottles and allowed to ferment there. This fermentation is what creates the spectacularly tiny, active bubbles associated with true Champagne.

Choose a Good Source

You can purchase champagne at liquor stores, supermarkets, specialty shops, and online. The choice is up to you, and each has its pros and cons.

Supermarkets are affordable, and shopping online is convenient. However, it’s unlikely that you can sample the goods beforehand. It’s also unlikely that you’ll encounter an expert who can answer your questions at one of these outlets.

Specialty shops might have employees who can give you advice about the best champagne. Just beware if they try to get you to purchase the most expensive brand. It’s not necessarily the best for your budget, or your taste.

Vintage or Non-Vintage?

Vintage champagne is limited-release champagne produced during a certain harvest year. Weather conditions or other factors made that year remarkably good, so the champagne maker created a limited quantity of vintage champagne from that year.

There are a couple of important differences between vintage and non-vintage champagne. First, the taste. Vintage champagnes typically have more character and a more unique flavor due to the factors that affected the harvest. As the vintage champagne ages, the taste takes on different characteristics. Read more…

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