While we’re familiar with famous wine and champagne types like Dom Perignon, as well as the many sparkling wines that have been developed from the Methode Champenoise, have there been any new champagne varieties over the past few years? While the specific nature of champagne production does mean that creating something significantly new is difficult, there have been some potentially strong new vintage years, as well as slight alterations to production processes.The future of the wine and champagne market is expected to feature a strong period of growth, with vintage champagne particularly benefiting from a good harvest in 2012. Whether or not a new vintage can be created from a year’s growing schedule depends on a specific combination of seasonal factors, as well as on whether vineyards have been able to successfully reproduce previous growing conditions. In the Champagne region, 2012 might prove to be as strong a vintage as those enjoyed in 2002 and 2004.
How champagne is made does, however, create some limitations over producing new champagnes. The Methode Champenoise used in the Champagne region means that it’s often difficult to deviate from bottling and fermenting champagne and sparkling wine without losing its special qualities. Sparkling wines, by comparison, can be carefully adjusted in terms of flavour and sweetness. New champagnes consequently rely on growth conditions and the Champagne harvest in France, which can be affected by climate changes and the quality of grape crops.
This doesn’t mean, though, that some winemakers can’t experiment with innovations in growing to produce champagne that is stronger or more consistent in its flavours. For example, Charles Taylor Wines has been working with wine expert Benoit Tarlant to produce new champagnes using biodynamic principles; this involves using a lower dosage of sugar when making wines, and blending Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, and Petit Meslier grapes.
Whether we see some significant changes in wine production will depend on changes to the Champagne region itself, which is still the only area that can truly claim to be producing champagne using traditional rules. There are opportunities for the zoning boundaries for Champagne to be expanded to include 40 new communes, which will provide slightly different conditions for growing and maintaining grape crops. However, any expansion to Champagne will have to work around the challenge of preventing a wine surplus, one of the main economic problems experience by European producers in recent years.
In this context, while there hasn’t been any ‘new’ wine and champagne recently, there have been ongoing steps towards adjusting how champagne is made. Sparkling wines that use similar methods to champagne are also going through ongoing changes, whereby flavours and strengths can be significantly varied. Wine and champagnelovers looking for the best new champagnes and sparkling wines can similarly look to the innovations being made by sparkling wine producers in California and countries like Spain and Portugal to sample new vintages and brands.
Author Bio : Sophie Wiggins is a freelance writer with special interests in wine and French cuisine. She recommends looking for examples of the 2012 champagne harvest from France for special vintages.