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Ask Dr. Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

When I see a non-vintage Champagne rated, how do I know the one I see in the store or the restaurant wine list is the same one?

—Sam E., Salem, Mass.

Dear Sam,

Well, you don't—but if a sparkling wine house is doing its job, its non-vintage wines will taste alike from year to year.

I posed this question to Wayne Donaldson, winemaker at Domaine Chandon, to see if he could clue us in about achieving consistency in non-vintage sparklers.

Wayne said, "The beauty of non-vintage sparkling wine and Champagne styles made in the traditional method is that we add reserve wines to maintain a house style and alleviate fluctuations from vintage to vintage. You can feel very confident that the wine you see in the store or on the restaurant wine list will be consistent with the high-scoring wine in the magazine. This is especially true for California sparkling wine, as we are blessed with abundant sunshine and great consistency from year to year."

So there you go.

—Dr. Vinny

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