Abstracting Champagne


Of all the styles of wine (Fortified, Aromatized, Sparkling and Table), Sparkling wine shows the narrowest spectrum of styles.  That is, delicate, crisp blanc de blanc is closer in style to the heartiest vintage rose than Chablis can ever be to a Napa Valley Chardonnay – like Pahlmeyer or Rombauer.  The process of Champagne demands precision, especially in the irony of Non-Vintage Champagne.  That irony lies in the fact that it is more difficult to blend together a consistent non-vintage across many years than it is to make a great wine from one year – but that is exactly what these tanks do.  And, it is exactly what big Champagne houses do the most of.  Blending these wines from across years means they have to be kept as pristine as possible – a pristine, clean, complexity made possible by otherwise dull looking, staid, stainless steel tanks.  They have no external character – but in the world of champagne, since the 40’s – they have been the major factor in producing the nuances, even if slighter, of the Champagne we know today.  Using warmer light for this photo of the Champagne tanks in the Moet and Chandon Champagne in Epernay seems to evoke more of the character for which Champagne is known.  The complexity of the Methode Champenois brings out flavors and nuances from what is otherwise a colder, harder grape-growing region.  That complexity and process are what this picture speaks to me – an abstraction of what the grapes began with after being put through these sterile yet mellifluous tanks.

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