Like Drinking the Stars
Legend has it that Dom Pérignon, upon taking his first sip of Champagne, gushed, "I am drinking the stars!"
Though this is pure fiction, an early example of marketing baloney, Dom Pérignon was in fact a real person. His major claim to fame: he was responsible for advancing the quality of champagne in the late 17th, early 18th centuries.
Pérignon is credited with perfecting the art of blending Champagne. He blended grapes from different vineyards before pressing, choosing batches according to location, ripeness, and flavor. Through careful blending, he arrived at a consistent, distinctive flavor, a house style, a brand.
And that’s really the art of blending: creating a wine that, though the vintages change, remains relatively consistent in flavor.
Words and Phrases to Know
Champagne is a blended wine. Here are some terms to know about the wine and the process of making them:
Cuvée means a blended batch of wine, put together to make a specific lot of wine. Cuve means tank or vat.
Grandez Marques: The big houses; Moet et Chandon, Vouve Cliquox, etc.
(multi-vintage) means the wine is not made from the grapes of one particular vintage but is a blend of wine from various vintages.
House style: Champagne is typically blended to create a consistent style, one that will conform to a certain taste year after year. This can be a good hedge against inconsistent conditions in the vineyards.
Tête de cuvée: This is the very best wine from a vintage, which is set aside. Leftover wine makes non-vintage house wine.
Dosage de tirage: The process of adding a sugary syrup to still wines to ensure secondary fermentation in the bottle. The process dates to about 1700. Wines come in from different lots and are made into still wine.
Dosage d'expedition: One for the road. The final bit of Champagne that is added at the end to fill the gap left after disgorgement.
RM (Recoitant-Manipulant): Shown at various spots on the label, RM indicates that the wine was made by a single grower who used his/her own grapes; the wine was estate grown and made.