Posted: 01 Apr 2010 02:24 AM PDT
People often talk of wine and champagne as if they are two different things, but they're not; champagne is a wine that just happens to have bubbles in it. Mind you, in some ways champagne is quite different from most wines. The concept of NV, which stands for non-vintage, is one of those ways
To understand what nv champagne is you first have to be clear what vintage means
Look at most bottles of still wine and you'll see a date on the label; that date indicates the year in which the grapes were harvested. In other words the date indicates which 'vintage' the wine comes from – in this case the word vintage just means 'harvest'
The thing is that the weather and the harvest are never quite the same from one year to the next – some vintages are good, some are dreadful - so it's impossible to achieve a constant style and quality of wine.
In Champagne they realised long ago that giving your customers a wine that is always good to drink, year in year out, is a pretty smart thing to do. But how can you do this when you can never rely on the weather?
Well, in Champagne each year they put aside a certain proportion of the wine made that year and they keep it in reserve for future years. In fact this stored wine is called 'reserve' wine.
This reserve wine benefits from being kept for a year or sometimes much longer. It takes on richer flavours and aromas and loses any sharpness that is sometimes associated with wine that's too young.
Then in subsequent years, if the harvest and the wine made from it is not as good as they would like, champagne makers bring out the reserve wine and add it to the current year's wine meaning that the they can pretty much guarantee the same style of champagne every year.
It's also a way of eliminating the ups and downs of the weather so as to produce something that's good quality every year.
Because there are wines from more than one year in the final product, it follows that you can't put a single vintage year on the bottle, so champagne like this is called non-vintage or
nv champagne for short, although a more descriptive name might be multi-vintage.
That's why if you look at most champagne bottles you won't find any year mentioned at all.
Non-vintage champagne accounts for 80 % or more of the entire world market, which incidentally is around 300 million bottles per year.
Of course you do get vintage champagne too and this is made using the grapes from just one year's harvest, but that's a topic for another time. Or if you'd like to find out more about vintage, non-vintage and everything else about champagne you can find it all in The Insider's Guide To Champagne
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