Tuesday, February 19, 2008
There’s no question that champagnes are getting drier, especially those of the top growers and houses. There are three primary reasons for this, at least when talking about young champagne. The first is that people are harvesting riper fruit, due to better vineyard practices. Riper fruit gives more stuffing to a wine, and also higher sugar generally results in lower acidity, meaning that you need less dosage to balance the whole. The second reason is that people are harvesting riper fruit due to warmer weather. Whether or not you believe that global warming actually exists, the fact is that champagne grapes are now maturing faster, earlier and to a higher degree of potential alcohol. The third is simply that dry champagne, especially extra brut or, increasingly, non-dosé champagne, is very fashionable right now.
I like extra brut champagne as much as anyone (as you can see from this photo of some recent things I’ve been drinking), and yet I’m not in the camp that believes drier is automatically better. The issue is not that I prefer sugar or don’t prefer sugar. To me, each wine finds its own particular balance – sometimes that’s at a dosage of three grams per liter of sugar, sometimes eight. Sometimes it’s even (gasp!) at ten or eleven, and yes, sometimes – only sometimes – it’s none at all. To say that drier is unequivocally better reminds me of the German riesling trocken craze around the late 1990s. There is a certain segment of champagne that is moving in the same direction. And yet, there are some absolutely brilliant extra brut and non-dosé champagnes. What are your thoughts?