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Buying Champagne

What variety should you buy?

Virtually every champagne firm makes several varieties of wine.

Nonvintage champagne is generally moderately priced and the most versatile. It is blended from the grapes of many vineyards, several successive pressings and wines held in reserves from previous vintages. It can be served as an aperitif, throughout a meal or at any time of the day or night.

Vintage champagne is a bit more expensive than nonvintage, ranging from moderately priced to expensive. Only certain years of exceptional growing and harvesting conditions are designated “vintage.” Vintage champagnes are made from a blend of black and white grapes from different vineyards. It is aged not less than three years, but is engaged in an ongoing process for five years. The year of the harvest is shown on the label.

Prestige cuvee is the “best of the best” (also the most expensive), and should be reserved for only your most special moments! It is a luxurious wine made from the first pressing of the grapes, and is aged even longer than other fine champagnes. Each producer strives for a balanced champagne of the finest quality, coupled with a high style of presentation. These premium bubbles may be blanc de blancs or rose. They also may be vintage or nonvintage. And the shape of the bottles is usually different from the traditional champagne bottles. Often they are replicas of 18th-century, hand-blown glass bottles, or wine decanters packaged in handsomely decorated paper, wood or tin boxes for gifting.

Choose the color

Rose champagne derives its rosy color from the pigmentation in the skin of the black grapes used to make it. The fact that the pink champagne is the most difficult sparkling wine to produce explains why it is more expensive than the golden champagne. Since rosy champagne can be flowery and delicate or full-bodied and robust, it can be served with any menu at any time. It is available in nonvintage, vintage, and prestige cuvee.

Blanc de blancs is a blend from only white chardonnay grapes. It may be vintage, nonvintage, or prestige cuvee champagne.

How Much to Buy

When deciding how much champagne per person, allow four generous champagne glasses per standard bottle. For a toast or dessert, allow one glass per person. For cocktails or as an aperitif, you may need two. One half bottle per person should be sufficient for an entire evening.