The State of BRUT NV – December 2016

SPEC’s sells a lot of Champagne. And well over two-thirds of that Champagne is labeled Brut Non-Vintage (Brut NV). Brut Non-Vintage from the grand marque producers is far and away the best selling sort of Champagne but it is not what gets the most attention. The wine press and the wine-geek community are more focused on Rosé, on Farmer Fizz, and on the fancier tête de cuvées or luxury blends. Nevertheless, Brut Non-Vintage is the horse that pulls the Champagne wagon and is, based on the sheer numbers, what most Champagne drinkers are drinking.

A Little Brut NV Background:
With a dosage giving it a residual sugar content of less than 1.5%, “Brut”, the second driest style of Champagne (only un-dosed or “natural” Champagne is drier and it is very often too dry), strikes the right balance between fruitiness and acidity. That little bit of unfermented sugar is necessary to balance the natural tartness of the grapes grown in cool northern terroirs. As brut is far and away the best selling style of Champagne, it is clear that the market has stated that “we like our Champagne dry … but not bone dry.”

So, what about the “Non Vintage?” The vast majority of Champagne produced does not carry a vintage date and about 87% of all the real Champagne Spec’s sells is sold without a vintage. Of course this includes a some Extra dry, Demi-Sec, Sec, and even Rosé but most of it is Brut Non-Vintage. So what is Non-Vintage? To be precise, Non-Vintage Champagne should be and maybe usually is a blend of wines from two or more years that ideally combine the freshness of some younger wines (the majority of the blend) with a smaller percentage of older “reserve wines” that should add richness and complexity while expressing a house style. In practice, a goodly amount of Non-Vintage Champagne is actually to product of a single vintage  – especially in the better years with some reserve wine added. The Champenoise want their Brut Non-Vintage to be as consistent as possible and to be the flag-bearing product that is always available in the market.

Not all Brut Non-Vintage is the same. Each house has its own style and blend and  dosage and other quirks. Here are tech notes and my scores on some BNV Champagnes I have tasted of late.

BRUT NV
From the Negociant Houses and other non-estate Champagnes.
For Estate-Bottled Brut NV, please go to SELECTING GROWER CHAMPAGNE.
For help in parsing out the styles from the technical information provided, please see UNDERSTANDING WHAT’S IN YOUR CHAMPAGNE GLASS.

AbelCharlotLabelABEL CHARLOT Brut  Champagne NV  ($19.94)
15.5% Chardonnay, 38.5% Pinot Noir, 46% Pinot Meunier.  22% Reserve Wines. 24 months on its yeasts. Dosage at 10 grams per liter. BS: 90+.

BARONS de ROTHSCHILD Brut, Champagne, NV  ($59.84) 
60% Chardonnay from the Cotes de Blancs and 40% Pinot Noir from Verzenay, Ay, Mareuilsur- Ay and Bouzy (all grand and premier cru); 40% reserve wines 36 months en tirage. BS: 94.

BILLECART SALMON Brut Reserve  Champagne NV  ($49.39)
40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay with 40% of the Cuvee from reserve wine. Aged 3 years on its yeasts. Dosage of 8 grams per liter. BS: 92.

BILLECART SALMON Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV  ($79.69)
100% Chardonnay from the five Grand Crus of the Cote des Blancs (Avize,  Chouilly, Cramant, Oger and Mesnil sur Oger) blended from 3 vintages, partial malo-lactic fermentation, and aged 4 years on the yeasts. BS: 93.

BOLLINGER Special Cuvee Brut, Champagne, NV  ($49.99)champagne_de_castelnau_brut_reserve
60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier. 20% reserve wines; 0.8 RS; primary fermentation in oak barrels and small stainless steel tanks. 36 months en tirage.  BS: 93+.

CASTELNAU Brut Reserve Champagne NV  ($36.99)
From Champagne’s best co-op. 43% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, 47% Pinot Meunier.  15% Reserve Wines. Aged almost 7 years on its yeasts. Dosage of 8 grams per liter.  BS: 91+.

CHARLES HEIDSIECK Brut Reserve, Champagne, NV ($51.99)
A blend of 1/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Pinot Noir, and 1/3 Pinot Meunier blended from 60 crus with 40% of the cuvee from reserve wines with an average of 10 years age. Aged on its yeasts for six years.  BS: 93.

DELAMOTTE “Le Mesnil” Brut, Champagne, NV ($40.69)
50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, and 20% Pinot Meunier with all of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes coming from Grand Cru vineyards; 3 years en tirage; aperitif style.  BS: 93+. 

DELAMOTTE Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV  ($59.84)
100% Charonnay fermented in stainless steel tanks. 10% reserve wines. Aged at least 48 months on its yeasts. BS: 94.

DEMOISELLE Brut “Tete de Cuvee”, Champagne, NV ($39.89 )    
80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir with 36 months en tirage. BS: 91 

DUVAL-LEROY Brut, Champagne, NV  ($38.59)
60% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier, and 10% Chardonnay from fifteen crus and generous quantity of reserve wines, full malolactic fermentation.  20% reserve wines. Dosage at 8 grams per liter BS: 91.

FORGET BRIMONT Brut, Champagne, NV ($39.89)
40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay all from the estate; about 30% reserve wines; aged 24 months on its yeasts. Dosage at 10 grams per liter  BS: 91 

FORGET BRIMONT Blanc de Blancs Brut, Champagne, NV ($69.99)
100% Chardonnay from Grand Cru vineyards in Cramant on the Cote de Blancs. BS: 93+

G.H. MUMM Cordon Rouge Brut, Champagne, NV  ($37.99)
45% Pinot Noir, 24% Pinot Meunier, and 30% Chardonnay, 36 months en tirage, Dosage at 10 grams per liter. BS: 91.

GOSSET Brut Excellence, Champagne, NV ($39.69)heriotbrut
45% Pinot Noir and 36% Chardonnay (primarily from grand cru and 1er cru vineyards) and 19% Pinot Meunier. The base blend comes from three harvests and then adds 20% reserve wines. 30 months en tirage. BS: 91.

HENRIOT Brut Souverain, Champagne, NV ($39.49)
40% Chardonnay from the Cote de Blancs and 60% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims from 4 vintages. Aged 3 years on its yeasts. Dosage at 8 grams per liter. BS: 92.

HENRIOT Blanc de Souverain, Champagne, NV  ($66.79)
100% Chardonnay grapes mainly from the Côte des Blancs and village crus: Mesnil sur Oger, Avize, Chouilly, Vertus, Montgueux, Trépail, Epernay and the Vitry region. The cuvee contains 30% reserve wines. Aged 4 years on the yeasts. dosage of less than 10 grams per liter. BS: 92.

LAURENT PERRIER Brut LP, Champagne, NV ($39.89)
50% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier with 20% reserve wines; aged 48 months on its yeasts. BS: 92. 

LOUIS de SACY Brut Originel, Champagne, NV  ($28.99) 
67% Pinot Noir with 30% Chardonnay and 3% Pinot Meunier. aged 30 moths on its yeasts. BS: 90+.louissacybrutgrandcru

LOUIS de SACY Brut Grand Cru, Champagne, NV  ($32.89)
60% Pinot Noir with 40% Chardonnay all from Grand Cru vineyards in Verzy with 10% reserve wines. aged at least 36 moths on its yeasts. BS: 91+.

MOET & CHANDON Imperial Brut Champagne NV  ($37.97)
Pinot Noir (45% – 50%), Pinot Meunier (35% – 40%), and Chardonnay (10% – 20%) with plus/minus 30% reserve wines. Aged 18 months on its yeasts and dosed to 13 grams per liter. BS: 89.

NICOLAS FEUILLATTE Brut Champagne NV  ($35.14)
From a very good co-op. 20% Chardonnay, 40%Pinot Noir, and 40% Pinot Meunier.  Blended from 100 to 150 single cru vineyards owned by the co-op’s members. Aged 3 years minimum on its yeasts. BS: 91.

PANNIER Brut Tradition, Champagne, NV  ($27.54)
Co-op made (but in a very good co-op), 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier; 25% reserve wines. BS: 90+. 

PERRIER-JOUET Grand Brut, Champagne, NV ($39.89)
40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay with up to 20% reserve wines from previous vintages.  Aged 3 year on its yeasts. Dosage of 11 grams per liter. BS: 91+.

PIPER HEIDSIECK Brut Champagne NV  ($35.99)
55% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier, 15% Chardonnay, 10-20% Reserve Wines. BS: 88.

POL ROGER Brut  Champagne NV   ($48.89)
1/3 Chardonnay, 1/3 Pinot Noir, and 1/3 Pinot Meunier with 20% reserve wines and full malolactic fermentation (not the norm in Champagne). Aged four years on its yeasts. BS:  91+.

POMMERY Brut Royal, Champagne, NV  ($46.89)
1/3 Chardonnay with 2/3 Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier; aged 3 years on its yeasts. BS: 91.

ROEDERER Brut Premier Champagne NV  ($41.79)
40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Meunier aged in oak tuns (foudre) with at least 20% reserve wines before the in-bottle fermentation. Aged three years on its yeasts. BS: 91.

RUINART Blanc de Blancs Brut, Champagne, NV ($66.79)
100% premier cru Chardonnay with 20% younger reserve wines. Full malolactic fermentation. Dosed to 9 grams per liter. BS: 93.

TAITTINGER Brut La Francaise Champagne  NV  ($35.99)
40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, and 15% Pinot Meunier aged at least 3 years on its yeasts. BS: 90+.

VEUVE CLICQUOT Brut Yellow Label Champagne NV  ($41.97)
50-55% Pinot Noir, 15-20% Pinot Meunier, 28-33% Chardonnay with 25-40% reserve wines. Dosed at 10 grams per liter. BS: 87-91 (depending on the bottle).