Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Friday, June 5, 2009

More Champagne!

My prior post got me to thinking about the labels for Champagne.  There's some useful information to be found on them, so here's the quick-and-dirty on it, using this Deutz Rose 1999 label as an example.

First of all, since it says "Millésmé 1999," we know that this is a vintage wine -- most Champagne will not show a date, and is therefore nonvintage (it's a blend of juice from different years, so they can't label it with a vintage).  "Rosé" means the juice should be pink, either because of sangineé (leaving the juice from the pinot noir and pinot meunier in contact a short while with the skins to get the color from it), or because some still red wine was added (Champagne is the only region in France, as far as I know, where that's allowed).  Other types of Champagne would be Blanc de Blancs -- 100% Chardonnay -- and Blanc de Noirs -- 100% Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier.

This wine does not list a cru status, so we can infer that either the wine was made with a blend of crus (some grand, some premier, and some plain ol' cru), or that the village where the grapes were harvested were neither grand nor premier cru.  Either way, there's probably not going to have a lot of terroir in the wine.

On the bottom, next to the bottle size, there's a code: NM-178-005.  The "NM" tells you that the wine is a négociant wine -- more than 5% of the grapes, juice, or finished wine were purchased from someone else.  Yes, it's practice in Champagne to purchase finished bubbles and blend it into your own cuveé!

Now, there are several other codes that could be used here:
  • RM: Récoltant-Manipulant.  Grower-maker.  Less than 5% of the grapes, juice, or wine was purchased.  The remainder was grown by the producer.
  • CM: Coopérative de Manipulation.  A co-op; the wine was made by a group of growers getting together and sharing their grapes.
  • RC: Récoltant-Coopérateur.  Grower-cooperator.  This is a grower who turns over their fruit to a co-op, but takes back the wine before it's done.
  • SR: Société de Récoltants.  Group of growers; this is a family business, where one part of the family grows grapes, and another makes wine.
  • ND: Négociant Distributeur.  This is a merchant selling finished wine under their own name.
  • MA: Marque Auxiliaire or Marque d'Acheteur.  This is wine sold under a name unrelated to the grower or producer.
In general, the quality level of the RM's, SR's, and RC's is fairly high (likely, you'll only see RM's -- there are few SR's and RC's out there).  The CM's are pretty good, generally, depending on where they get their grapes from -- so check the cru status and/or village name on the bottle.  NM's can be good, but the big ones tend to be pretty cookie-cutter, so tread lightly into them; look for a cru status (yes, there are Grand Cru NM's), and ask questions at your wine store.

Avoid the ND and MA wines, generally.  They're the stuff that couldn't be sold to the NM's.  There are exceptions, but they're very few and far between.

Now, if the name of the wine includes the word "Château," it means that the wine was bottled and cellared entirely on the estate.  There are, I'm given to understand, only a handful Château Champagnes, and I can heartily recommend one (Château de Bligny -- in the sense of full disclosure, I got to taste it for free with the owner's son at a tasting event).

Edit: Thanks to Boris for pointing out I'd incorrectly referenced the villages below Premier Cru as Cru Bourgois -- it's just plain "Cru," at that point in Champagne.

No comments:

Post a Comment