Of all the wines in the world, none suggest a celebration louder or more clearly than Champagne. As a generation fortunate enough to experience not only our own fin de siècle, but the end of a millennium as well, we all certainly have something to celebrate. There has been much talk of a Champagne shortage this New Year’s Eve, but it’s only partially based on fact.
While well known Tête de Cuvées, like Roederer’s Cristal, Moët & Chandon’s Dom Pérignon, or Veuve Clicquot’s Grande Dame might be difficult to obtain in quantity, Non-Vintage Bruts will be plentiful.
It is important to realize that NV Bruts are actually the most definitive expression of a Champagne house’s style. It is through the blending of different grapes and vintages that a Champagne maker achieves, year after year, the consistent product he demands and his audience expects. Rémi Krug, one of the most renowned makers has said, “Champagne is like music. It has to be identified by name. You don’t say ‘I’ve listened to music,’ you say ‘I’ve listened to Beethoven, Mozart, or Berlioz.’ It’s the same with Champagne. You need to know who is behind a label.” The best way to get to know the different personalities and qualities of various Champagne houses is by tasting their NV Bruts. Begin with some of the more delicate, clean and crisp varieties, such as Laurent-Perrier or Perrier-Jouët. Next, try fuller, more complex interpretations of the winemakers art, such as Veuve Cliquot or Mumm Cordon Rouge. Finally, try a weighty, rich, yeasty but elegant wine like Krug or Roederer.
If you start tasting now, you’ll be able to choose and put away a nice supply of your favorite bubbly in time for the last New Year’s Eve of the millennium.