One of the defining characteristics of champagne is the blend - a blend of white and red grapes, a blend of multiple different vintages. Certainly that is a crucial component of what makes champagne such a special wine. It is also part of the art of production - taking the many different components and blending them together to give a balanced and beautiful final product. As we have explored, it is not only about the grapes, but also how the vigneron chooses to grow, vinify, and age them before they get blended together into the bottle of champagne.
In fact, as I type this, I'm sharing a bottle of Egly-Ouriet "Vignes de Vrigny", a 100% Pinot Meunier from a single village. As my friend and I discussed it, it showed beautifully and clearly the effects of grape, place, and winemaker. And it is undeniable that this wine could not have been made exactly this way otherwise. Sounds like another term we use a lot, doesn't it? Yep, terroir. But, the more we explore each grape, and each village, and each house, it allows us to identify and appreciate each of those different factors and how they play together in the final product.
To this end, we are going to re-visit a format we did before, basing a series of 3 tastings around different grapes. But, beyond that, I will work to find an array of wines each night that will allow us to explore and understand these different components, or building blocks, that go into the more common blends. Rather than just Chardonnay from different villages, we will put together comparisons between steel vs oak, young vs aged, vintage vs multivintage. And then we'll do the same with Pinot Noir. The final class will be as much Pinot Meunier as I can find (it's sadly still the least common to find bottled alone) and then some wines that showcase the "other" 4 grapes that are allowed in the appellation. When we're done, you'll hopefully have a deeper appreciation for the role that each grape plays in a classic blend, as well as the other factors such as place, elevage, and age that make their own imprint on the character of the grapes.
You can sign up for the first class here, CES The Building Blocks on March 15.