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Special Champagne

Crystal for Roderer, Comte de Champagne for Taittinger, and so on. Could you explain what difference there is between the special cuvee and the ordinary one that Champagne brands produce ? Between a glass of the special cuvee and a glass of the ordinary one, what difference should I expect ? Thank you very much in advance ! Looking forward to reading your erudite answer.
Answer From Expert Roger Bohmrich MW

This is a very interesting question which is seldom asked. Typically, all Champagne producers have a standard bottling which accounts for the large majority of their sales. These are usually non-vintage Champagnes, which make up around 80% of total Champagne volume. The usual aim is to offer a style which is immediately enjoyable when released from the cellars. This could mean a larger share of Pinot Meunier, which develops more rapidly in the bottle and imparts a relatively softer, fruitier impression (for Champagne, that is). A luxury cuvée is the reference point for a producer; it should stand above the rest of the range and nearly always carries a vintage. To achieve the best result, grapes may be selected from the highest-rated villages, those ranked grand cru. And the Champagne remains in contact with the deposit in the bottle for a longer period prior to being disgorged. This may be for 7 or 8 years in order to gain in complexity. A non-vintage Champagne and the top cuvée from the same producer, tasted side-by-side, should show clear differences (or a large price disparity wouldn't be justified). Simply put, you should expect more dimension, depth, and length in the luxury example. But such characteristics are often quite understated and call for careful tasting. A suitable glass helps: avoid the very slim, narrow flutes and choose a smaller white wine glass. Pour only a limited amount (one-third of the bowl) at a time to keep an ideal temperature and limit loss of precious bubbles. You'll differentiate the styles and quality far more easily and appreciate the Champagne all the more!

About Our Expert

Roger has enjoyed a lengthy career in the wine trade as an importer and retailer, and at present he is an educator, speaker and consultant. He set up and managed Millesima USA, a New York merchant affiliated with a leading European company. Previously, he served as senior executive of importers Frederick Wildman & Sons. In recent years, Roger has judged wine competitions in Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, China and the U.S. Roger is one of America's first Masters of Wine.

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