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Ask Dr. Vinny

New Year's Eve 2008 special edition, part 1

Posted: December 26, 2007

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. Want to see more of them? Check out my archive. And here are my most Frequently Asked Questions.

Also see part 2 of my two-part series on Champagne and sparkling wine.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Do Champagnes taste better with age?

—Victoria, Paris

Dear Victoria,

Well, I certainly like 'em more the older I get. (Thank you very much, I'll be here all week.) Seriously, though, that whole "better" thing makes me a little bit uncomfortable, so let me answer this way: Do some Champagnes age well? Yes. Do some people prefer the taste of well-aged Champagne to younger versions? Yes. But in my experience, it's the zingy bubbles and crispness of sparkling wine that gives it such wide appeal, something that will fade and evolve into other nuances as a sparkling wine ages. I'd bet that most people prefer the young ones.

—Dr. Vinny

 

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have a friend who gets headaches with real Champagne yet doesn't with wines such as Prosecco. Do you know why this might be?

—Peggy, Los Angeles

Dear Peggy,

Without taking a peek at their medical records, my guess is because they drink more Champagne than they do Prosecco.

—Dr. Vinny

 

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Please explain "NV" as it applies to sparkling wine. How is it produced and how often?

—John T., Annapolis, Md.

"NV" stands for "non-vintage," a term that refers to wine blended from the harvest of several different years. The vast majority of bubblies out there are non-vintage wines; the intent is to create a consistent house style. There's a saying that non-vintage fizz is a reflection of the house, while vintage bubbly is a reflection of the year. Most sparkling wine houses will release a new version of their non-vintage wine every year. In general, non-vintage sparkling wines are meant for early consumption, usually within a year or two from release.

Unfortunately, most Champagne labels fail to tell you when the bubbly was released, so one NV wine may be significantly older than another with an identical label. Buy your Champagne from a retailer with a high turnover to ensure the freshest bottles.

—Dr. Vinny

 

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What does "mousse" mean when pertaining to Champagne?

—Gary, Oxford, England

Dear Gary,

"Mousse" means "froth" or "foam" in French, and it refers to the collection of bubbles that form on the surface of your glass of bubbly. If you¹re hanging out with a group that discusses a sparkling wine's mousse, you might also like to know about the "bead," which is the trail of bubbles that rises from the bottom of your glass.

—Dr. Vinny


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