Gaston Chiquet has made a name for itself as one of the best. In a region with thousands of small producers, it is a credit to owners Antoine and Nicolas Chiquet. Based in the evocatively named Dizy, the family first planted vines in 1746 but did not produce Champagne until 1935, when brothers Ferdinand and Gaston Chiquet took the bold step of setting up their own label, rather than merely selling grapes to the larger houses.
With vineyards in the great villages of Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay and Hautvillers, they currently produce 15,000 cases each year, from a blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir
Learn More About Non-Vintage
Most Champagne you encounter will be NV, or non-vintage. This is because the base wine is a blend of wine from
In producing non-vintage wines, Champagne houses strive to keep the taste consistent year by year, and non-vintage
the winemakers flexibility in blending, ensuring a constant style each year. Non-vintage Champagne is released when
it is ready,
so drink within a year or two after you purchase or receive a bottle. That said, there are some stars of non-vintage
that are as
good as many vintage bottlings and can last a few more years. The higher priced non-vintage, or multiple vintages, like
Krug's Grand Cuvée and
Laurent Perrier's Grand Siecle
are prestige cuvées, or tète de cuvées. This means these are the top blends from the house, and of no less quality
vintage Champagne. Krug makes no entry level
Champagne, so everything you see from them is a prestige cuvée.
The difference in styles can be categorized by body. Here's a quick cheat sheet for some of our most popular
Moët & Chandon
Sparkling wines from other regions that are made in the traditional method will also differentiate their
non-vintage and vintage bottlings, just as Champagne. Non-vintage sparkling wine from most wineries will often
have a house style, just as the Champagne houses.
Learn More About Champagne, France
Champagne is both a region and a method. The wines come from the northernmost vineyards in France and the name conjures an image like no other can. An 18th Century Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon is said to be the first to blend both varietals and vintages, making good wines not only great, but also special and unique to their winemaker. Today, nearly 75% of Champagne produced is non-vintage and made up by a blend of several years' harvests.
All Champagnes must be made by a strictly controlled process called "Méthode Champenoise." The grapes are pressed and fermented for the first time. The blending phase follows and the wine is bottled and temporarily capped. Then comes the second fermentation, a blend of sugar and yeast is added and, this time, the carbon dioxide is kept inside the bottle. This process leaves a great deal of sediment that is extracted through a process of "racking" or "riddling." The bottles are progressively turned upside down until all the sediment is collected in the neck. The necks are then frozen and the sediment is "disgorged." After this phase, the winemaker may decide to add sugar to sweeten the wine. Finally the wine is corked. Some wines move through this process in a couple of months, while others are aged after the riddling phase to build greater complexity and depth.
Champagnes range from dry, "Brut," to slightly sweet, "Demi-Sec." Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are used in Champagne blends, but "Blancs de Noirs" is made entirely of Pinot Noir and "Blancs de Blanc" is made from only Chardonnay grapes. The high acidity achieved by the northern location is crucial to the balance and structure of these wines.
Not every year is a "vintage" declared. In years when it is not, the wines are blended with the produce from other years to create the non-vintage blend, the house style that remains constant from year to year. But in a great vintage year, champagne houses will bottle by itself the unblended year's produce, and use other portions as "reserve" wines to supplement and enrich the non-vintage blend. A vintage champagne can age quite gracefully, and gain complexity just like any other great still wine.
Mild cheeses like gruyere and shellfish pair nicely with Champagne. Also, oysters and Champagne is a popular combination. A full-flavored vintage Champagne can go with almost any meal.