29 January, 2015
Still wines up for the brut sans année
Once per week a small group of winegrowers from our cooperative gather with the oenologue to taste the wines from the grapeharvest of 2014.
Always at 10.30 AM since this is supposed to be when most palates work at their best. This table boast around 8-10 people, amongst them Alain.
Non vintage brut
At the moment they concentrate on the BSA, the brut sans année, that is the non-vintage assembled champagne, that will eventually become a brut (dry champagne with around 8-9 gram of sugar per litre).
The wines are still, no bubbles around yet. They have finished their first alcoholic fermentation, and are now stable, which means their taste doesn't change anymore.
The wine has gained. In the autumn, it seemed to lack some acidity but it must have hid behind something else, because it is no longer the case. 2014 is promising. Now these guys and girls must agree how to mix this basic wine with a selection of older reserve wines to achieve excactly what we are all looking for. The mix that - with time - will develop into the champagne, we all appreciate.
The idea is to mix the 2014-wine with different proportions of different reserve wines, taste blindly and finally discuss. A proces that usually goes on for weeks since people rarely agree in the beginning. This discussion is what it is all about: Since nobody's palate is perfect, it makes sense to put several palates together and work to construct unity.
The original idea
The idea of Champagne has traditionally been to assemble wines to achieve one wine that tastes more or less the same year after year unlike still wines that represent their vintage. In Champagne, the reserve wines that are kept several years are used to obtain that same taste year after year.
This tradition is challenged these years where plot champagnes that represent just their terroir and particular year spread between smaller winegrowers. These growers may not have a selection of many reserve wines to spice up things, and they also may not wish to as it may seem more interesting to create something else than the big champagne houses. At the moment, they are helped by global warming that makes the vintages better than before thus less or even not necessary to blend.
However, when it comes to quantities sold, the assembled non-vintage brut remains the top seller of Champagne.
White or black
The discussion at this table usually has two themes.
The first issue is which reserve wines to use and what amount. The second issue is the mix between Chardonnay wines and Pinot wines that are added in small quantity for the balance. Several of the people here prefer Chardonnay, which usually means heavy discussions about each amount of Pinot added into the blend.
Between six and ten percent of Pinot wines are usually allowed to mix with the Chardonnays. The next weeks will show where 2014 will bring us.