The art of Blending in Champagne (Assemblage)
Today we are going to look at one of the basics in the making of a champagne: the blending (and therefore the reserve wines, the Crus and the grape varieties!).
Blending is a fine art that is brought to bear when the ‘vins clairs’ for the creation of the cuvées are tasted. This is generally carried out between January and June, depending on the preferences and customs of each Champagne House and winemaker.
The blending work can take three different forms:
The blending of the grape varieties
In Champagne, the vast majority of champagnes are multi-varietal and are therefore blends. 7 grape varieties are permitted within the Champagne appellation, but 3 of them make up the majority of plantings: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The blending of grape varieties allows us to create contrasts and add complexity to the wines. These varietals can therefore be blended together, for example: 30% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Meunier.
If we decide not to blend the grape varieties, we will be producing either a Blanc de Blancs or a Blanc de Noirs champagne.
The blending of the Crus
The Champagne region is divided into 4 main areas: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs and Côte des Bar and includes 319 Crus. Each of these Crus, in each of these areas, is unique and has its own "personality". Blending them together creates an infinite array of possibilities.
A champagne that is not a blend of Crus will be designed to reveal a specific terroir, commune, lieu-dit or even a walled vineyard or plot.
The blending of the different harvests
The vast majority of champagnes produced are Brut sans année (BSA). These Brut champagnes “without year” are not the fruit of a single harvest. Several years or harvests will be blended together. This also ensures that a consistently high level of quality is maintained even in years when the weather has not been good.
A champagne from a single harvest will be a vintage champagne, demonstrating exceptional quality, which does not require the addition of reserve wines.
Reserve wines are wines that have not been used to make the year's champagnes. They are therefore stored to be blended later with different vintages, bringing their own aromas.
But none of these blends would be possible without the skill of man. It is thanks to these blends that the Champagne Houses succeed in creating and preserving their own unique style over the years.