Monday, December 17, 2012

Champagne: Specific or General

I saw an ad the other day that featured Veuve Cliquot "Yellow" Label for just under $50 a bottle.  I will avoid my temptation to bash that ubiquitous product while lamenting how good it was a decade and a half ago.
My dollars rarely go to Champagne anymore, the prices have simply gotten out of hand at the same time producers from around the world have improved their sparkling wines.  This is before the coming increases (See 2012 Harvest Post).
So, if you are wandering through the world of Champagne you better know what you want, which is exactly why the standard labels sell so well.  Thinking about my predilection for individual grower offerings, led me to claim them to be the real Champagne.  But are they?
Grower Champagnes come from vignerons tending a specific plot of land and bottling their own estate product.  Large houses, like Veuve Cliquot and Moet and Chandon, etc., buy from multiple growers to make their house style.  "Moet [and] Chandon sources grapes from 234 villages in the Champagne region." (Wine Spectator Nov. 30, 2011).  That's a lot of different sources, and, to my mind, a more generic product.  Reliable, consistent but lacking character.
However, if you source grapes from all over the region is that not, perhaps, a more representative example of the style of Champagne than one vineyard, one grower?  To put it another way, is a Napa cabernet from St. Helena a better example of California cabernet than one sourced from Napa, Paso Robles and Central Coast?  Not a better wine, just a better example...

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