Champagne House Style
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Great Champagne Houses
Decisions can be tough, for a typical Champagne House a standard choice they will have to make is whether to use steel or wood for the vessel in which they choose to store their base wine. This is where the Champagne House keeps the base wine before bottling, and in actual fact is one of the dichotomies of the Champagne lifestyle.
An analogy in the political world would be whether you are left or right, for a Champagne house it is steel or wood. There is a good argument for either of them, and whichever one is chosen in the end, will be a reflection of the preferences of that particular Champagne house.
In reality the main difference practically speaking is that the wood will allow air to come into contact with the wine, admittedly this will be small, but the steel will not, so obviously the Champagne house will consider this. Wine stored in wood will of course take some flavours of the wood with it, which could be good or bad depending on what the Champagne house is trying to achieve.
Champagne House Quality
The Champagne houses in the Champagne region are very good at evolving with the times, contrary to their public image. The fine Champagne houses are having difficulties with adding texture and interest to their top Champagne brands by choosing to present themselves in relation to their grower credentials. It is not uncommon for a Champagne house to have vineyard selections based on cuvées, and nowadays many alternatives to the traditional top Champagne brands are starting to increase.
One thing worth pointing out was that on my last few visits to various Champagne houses, was the interconnection that exists between steel, wine and wood. This in my opinion has become one of the main ways a Champagne house can choose to define itself.
Champagne House Makeup
I will try to clarify this point: “We love Pinot Noir”, that is a common thing you hear at the Bollinger Champagne house, something you may expect since much of the finest Pinot Noir is grown in this area. And then, with the Pol Roger Champagne house we hear almost the same, for example their Vintage Rosé from 2008 is 60% Pinot Noir.
On the face of it the styles may be similar, but in actual fact each Champagne house achieves their goals quite differently. The Bollinger Champagne house goes about their business in a professional way. The Pol Roger Champagne house on the other hand has a style that is more pure and crisp.
A cellar visit of each of the Champagne houses helps clear things up a little bit. At the Bollinger Champagne house you will see many ex-Chandon casks there alongside some of the incredibly large 400 litre barrels, with some of these barrels thirty or forty years old or more.
On the other hand, the Pol Roger Champagne house is quite the contrast, with steel gleaming in all directions, with an almost futuristic feel to the facility. In this Champagne house you will also see tiled floors that have been cleaned to such a level you could eat your meal off it. Another notable difference is that in the Bollinger Champagne house you will see a sizeable amount of their reserves stored in magnums that are cork-stopped.
On a personal level I like a fine Champagne that has had some sort of contact with some oak, so out of the two the Bollinger Champagne house appeals more, a great example of this would be Jacquesson’s Cuvée which is a very fine Champagne. One theory on the matter is that when a Champagne house uses steel, the result is a more fruit flavour in the Champagne, and there may well be some truth to this theory. In my opinion when a Champagne house uses oak, the end result is a more autumnal feel to the fine Champagne.
Another Champagne house that is worth mentioning is Louis Roederer, who will often distinguish between the sweeter aromas of the sessile oak, compared to a more bitter flavour that is associated with pedunculate oak.
Another Champagne house that is worth discussing on this matter is Taittinger. Their Comtes de Champagne is a truly fine Champagne with a soft velvety texture and would be the pride of any of the top Champagne houses. This luxury Champagne from this great Champagne house to be a rather interest blend of both methods, stainless steel is clearly a large part of the facility, but the Grand Cru has a certain percentage of it aged in oak.
Here are some Champagnes reviewed from some great Champagne houses.
Taittinger Champagne House, Comtes de Champagne 2006
A fantastically pale summery colour, with creamy scents that have the sense of floating through the breeze. The result of this great Champagne house is a well-rounded, low acidic fresh fine Champagne. With a gentle spice after taste, and a delightful satisfying flavour, this fine Champagne from this top Champagne brand is truly fantastic. 94/100
Bollinger Champagne House, Grande Année 2005
A light old-gold colouring with a definitely winey smell in the background evokes memories of a mature burgundy. This fine Champagne from this top Champagne house is a complex and has a distinctive taste. The structure to this luxury Champagne is incredible, a true masterpiece. 94/100
Jacquesson Champagne House, Cuvée 734 DT,
This interesting release from this fantastic Champagne house was disgorged in 2014, but was actually based on fruit from 2006. The colour is a bold gold, with malty aromas, with a vivid ripe sensation on the palate. This fine Champagne from one of the top Champagne houses can hold its own with the better known luxury Champagnes on the market. 93/100
Dom Pérignon Champagne House 2006
An absolutely fabulous luxury Champagne from the best-known Champagne house of them all, the appearance is light gold with floral scents emanating from it. At the same time this luxury Champagne has an intense sensation on the palate and is a truly fantastic fine Champagne. 93/100
Roederer Champagne House, Cristal 2002
This luxury Champagne from another great Champagne house is 15 years old, and what a fantastic luxury Champagne this is. There are floral scents with a vivid intensity unmatched by many a fine Champagne. A truly fantastic fine Champagne which will keep improving with time. 96/100
Pol Roger Champagne House, Brut Vintage 2006
Another superb fine Champagne from another great Champagne house. This one from 2006 is the Pol Roger Brut Vintage which has an almost bready aroma to it. This luxury Champagne is Pinot-rich and wonderfully ripe, a true masterpiece from one of the top Champagne houses of today. 94/100