You are currently viewing the International Edition. You can also switch to the Hong Kong Edition.
Thursday 2 July 2015

Rising reserves causing sugar levels to fall in Champagne

7th April, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt

Falling sugar levels in Brut NV Champagne are a result of both warmer conditions in the region, but also the rising proportion of reserve wines used in today’s blends.

Barrells-Champagne

The proportion of reserve wine used in today’s NV blends is commonly up to a third

According to Bruno Paillard, who uses a minimum of 33% reserve wine in his Bruno Paillard Brut Premier, “everyone has a lower dosage” in Champagne, and one major reason for this change is the “influence of reserve wines”.

Comparing today’s sugar levels to the early 80s, when Paillard launched his own label, he said it was common to have a dosage for Brut NV Champagne of 15 g/l – the highest level allowed under the “brut” classification at that time.

“In 1981, when I started, I had a dosage of 10 g/l, while most houses were at 15 g/l, and demi-sec Champagne was 30% of sales – globally people had a sweeter tooth than they do today,” he said, speaking to db last month at the annual Champagne tasting in London.

Speaking generally of the region, he cited a growing demand for drier Champagnes as an incentive to lower the dosage – but added that such a development had been made possible by both global warming and the rising use of reserve wine.

“Global warming is a fact,” he said, “but a further factor [for the drop in average dosages in Brut NV Champagne] is the influence of reserve wines.”

With the use of past vintages to bring greater richness in more acidic years, and freshness in hotter harvests, Champagne houses are able to produce a more consistent Brut NV style, which in turn reduces their reliance on a high dosage to smooth out differences from variable vintage conditions.

Bruno Paillard

Bruno Paillard

Paillard picked out the impact of the famously hot 2003 vintage as an example. Rather than relying on this somewhat anomalous harvest for his Brut NV Champagne, which Paillard described as an “unbalanced base”, he increased the proportion of reserve wine to 50% for his Champagne release that was based on that harvest.

Furthermore, he said that temperature control and stainless steel were together allowing producers to increase the use of reserve wines to bring richness and consistency to their Champagnes.

“Keeping reserve wines is more popular and it is easier to do because of temperature control and stainless steel – the greatest progress made in oenology in the last 50 years is due to temperature control, it’s nothing to do with some miracle powder or sophisticated tool.”

But he also said that storing wine for use at a later date was also “easier” because of current low interest rates, which reduced the cost of borrowing money to buy grapes to make wine and Champagne for extended storage.

“The other factor [for the rising use of reserve wines] is the keeping of interest rates at 2-3% – this makes it much easier than when there were 15% interest rates in 1991 and 1992,” he commented.

But, as highlighted in this year’s Champagne Report by the drinks business – which will be distributed with the April edition of the magazine – the greater use of reserve wine has also been triggered by changes in the way that the CIVC regulates Champagne production.

Alterations in 2007 and again in 2011 actively encourage producers to build their reserves, and they are now allowed in certain circumstances to hold stocks of up to 10,000kgs/ha for a limited period.

As a result, the proportion of reserve wine used in today’s NV blends is commonly up to a third, while as recently as the early 90s, only a few major houses boasted using even 15% reserve in their blends.

Finally, the widespread use of a high proportion of reserve wines is one element certain houses believe the Champagne industry should more strongly promote to differentiate the region’s produce from sparkling wines made in other parts of the world.

For a six-page article on the role of reserve wines in Champagne see this month’s Champagne report, out with the April edition of the drinks business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

If that's interesting, how about these?

Louis Latour Agencies signs Gosset

Louis Latour Agencies marked its 25th anniversary last night with the more...

Top 10 wine brands 2015

In a year that saw major shifts in the global wine market, the drinks business more...

How to become a 'wine expert' in four hours

A doctor of psychology has devised 10 simple steps which he claims can set you more...

PR Senior Account Manager/Director

London, United Kingdom

Depending on experience

Top 10 ways to reuse a wine bottle

If you are anything like the db team, it won't take long to amass a collection more...

The London Wine Fair in pictures

From red trews and foie gras macaroons to 2CVs, wine on tap and temporary more...

Top 10 modern wine drinker stereotypes

From Rioja lovers to Champagne quaffers, the drinks business has more...

Marketing and eCommerce Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive, includes equity options

Mumm releases vintage collection

Champagne Mumm has released a new “Collection du Chef de Caves”, featuring more...

Top 10 estates for en primeur returns

db rounds up the 10 best Bordeaux estates for en primeur returns on more...

Top 10 Negroni spots in London

As the Campari Red Night District takes over London's Shoreditch, we round up more...

E-commerce, Sales & Marketing Executive

London, United Kingdom

Competitive salary and bonus package based on experience and qualification.

William Grant in World Cup deal

William Grant & Sons has been awarded exclusive spirits and champagne pouring more...

Top 10 architectural wonders of the wine world

You don't have to look far to find stunning examples of architectural prowess more...

Armand de Brignac launches its most expensive Champagne ever

Jay-Z’s Champagne brand Armand de Brignac has launched its most expensive more...

Hatch Mansfield – Brand Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive salary

Cristal launches 'underrated' vintage

Champagne Louis Roederer has released its Cristal prestige cuvée from the more...

World's most extravagant wineries

With Château Margaux preparing to unveil its new winery and cellar, designed more...

Top 10 banned alcoholic drinks

The drinks trade has seen its fair share of drinks banned from public more...

Warehouse Supervisor

London, United Kingdom

£27,000-£30,000 depending on experience

UK importer confident of Champagne comeback

One leading UK Champagne importer is optimistic for the future of the category more...

Top 10 worst estates for en primeur returns

Using Liv-ex's data, db rounds up the worst 10 châteaux for en primeur more...

Asda warns suppliers of Champagne scam

Asda is warning suppliers to be on guard after several companies received more...

Global Wine Buyer

London, United Kingdom

Competitive

Mumm releases Santana sparkler

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana has teamed up with Mumm Napa to release a more...

10 richest people in the UK drinks trade

As The Sunday Times Rich List 2015 reveals the wealthiest individuals in more...