Texture in champagne

One of the things that has always made great champagne stand apart for me is the texture. I find the best champagnes have a fineness and delicacy to to bead that make them a joy to drink. For me, most entry level cuvees, not matter how great they are, tend to have a rougher-hewn character to the bubbles, even when the wine is excellent.

The first champagne I had with great texture was a Vilmart Coeur de Cuvee, and the most recent bottle with incredible texture was a Krug 164me.

Does anyone know why some champagnes tend to have finer texture? Does it have something to do with time before disgorgement?

Chris, Im a big fan of texture= mouthfeel and prefer champagnes that have such in most cases. Ill venture some ideas as to why some champagnes have more texture than others as having to do with numerous factors. This includes the blend of the 3 most often used grapes, how ripe the fruit is when picked, the amount and length of skin contact, whether ML is allowed and to what extent, the receptacle it is aged in and for how long, length of lees contact and absence of fining/ filtering to name a few.

I definitely agree with your remarks about the Vilmart and 164eme. Just had the 09 and 10 Coeur de Cuvees and the 164eme and they were stupendously textured.

I feel like the lees and time on it have to have a huge effect here.

Taittinger Comtes often has that creamy texture I love also.

Very good question Chris. Lees definitively does add to textural complexity.

I find if its true across a variety of grapes. Vilmart CdC is Chard/Pinot blend. I find texutral complexity in Prevost’s 100% meunier Les Béguines and in vouette et sorbee’s Textures (aptly named) is 100% Pinot Blanc!

Just not in champange, the Raventos i Blanc’s Textures in Pedra (appropriately named as well) made with blend of sumoll, Xarell and something else. This is incredibly textured and can hold itself with the champagnes mentioned above.

Alan, isn’t the creamy texture you are referring to come from ML? Its quite striking between champagnes that go through ML and don’t.

I wonder if the OP is talking about textural depth/complexity as opposed to the creamy mouth-feel.

The best champagnes are often aged for a long time which diminishes the aggressiveness of their bubbles that makes it feel softer.

Both Krug and Vilmart are oak-aged, which definitely contributes to the texture you’re thinking about.

Interesting. I prefer sparklers that have an “airy” feel to them – it’s almost as if they vanish without being swallowed.

I feel like people are talking about multiple facets of texture here. The OP is speaking mostly to the mousse, which I have heard many producers say is influenced primarily by the time and temperature of the secondary fermentation in bottle. It’s interesting that fining and filtering were mentioned as influences on general texture, as I wonder if the remainder of particulate matter in the bottle that may add “texture” as a rounder mouthfeel may also provide more nucleation points for bubbles, rendering the mousse more aggressive than it would be otherwise. And of course, any skin contact, lees contact, and barrel aging will have an effect on the body of the wine as well.

I think there are many moving parts to texture creation in winemaking in general, and the added complexity of the second fermentation gives even more options. Would be interesting to cross-reference peoples’ favorites for similarities and differences in production methods.

I think that more nucleation points would render the carbonation less aggressive, not more aggressive, because in this case there would be less nucleation points on the tongue and more within the wine. However, I think that what really would happen is that more nucleation points in wine itself would result only in more aggressive foaming upon opening a bottle when the pressure drops, until the wine reaches a situation where the fizz is stable. This would also result in a wine with less CO2 → less bubbles → smoother and finer mousse.

Chris, interesting question and I don’t know the answer. I recently did the Keto diet, which meant no alcohol. I didn’t miss my beloved Burgundy or even sugar for that matter, but I craved Champagne, specifically the mouth feel, which was unexpected. I found this on the web: click.

Good points Otto and Todd. Textures could mean a lot of things. Is it body/breath? Is it complexity? Creamy mouthfeel? Or is it the mousse?

Todd is spot in highlighting different variables that are involved in champagne creating different textures.

Oak ageing adds to the body that you find in Krug and Vilmart. Savart and Bereche, off the top of my head, are few others who employ this so its worth a check.

Krug and Vilmart differ in ML, the former always goes through ML and Vilmart avoids it. So assume you are not referring to creamy mouthfeel.

Great point on mousse. Cedric Bouchard is one that I know bottles with very little CO2, hence less bubbles.

Thanks for the input everyone. To clarify a few things from the OP: to me, texture is purely about the body & mouthfeel of the wine. In theory, you could find great texture in any sparkling wine. I have yet to find that, but I’ll have to check out the Raventos Textures in Pedra.

Lots of interesting variables mentioned here. Some of them make more or less sense to me, but I do find some exceptions to each:

  • Time before disgorgement: yes, for the most part, many of the wines I love do have a lot of time sur lie. Agree that Prevost has wonderful texture, so that’s an exception.
  • Oak: this one makes sense, although Comtes has great texture and I think is mostly tank
  • Pressure: I think this helps as well, although I don’t know many wines that do this. Some of the Roederer wines, I think.

Seems like it remains a bit of a mystery. I appreciate all the thoughts!

I agree on the point that the texture in a bubbly is a combination of a lot of things. These are (some of) the charateristics I consider vital to the mouthfeel of a sparkling wine.

-The lees aging: as the lees autolyse i.e. break down during the pre-disgorgement aging, they release mannoproteins into the wine, contributing to the richer mouthfeel.

-Ripeness of the fruit: even when two wines show identical chemical analyses, most likely a wine with fruit flavors tending towards sweeter/darker/more exotic feels richer on the palate than a wine with fruit flavors that feel drier/leaner/more green-toned.

-MLF: lactic acid feels less sharp and aggressive than malic acid, so usually wines that have gone through MLF have richer mouthfeel. MLF can also contribute to the creamier flavors that can emphasize the richness of the mouthfeel.

-Dosage: sugar not only softens down acidity and sharper flavors, but also increases the density and the viscosity of the wine → richer mouthfeel.

-Oxidation: oxidation tends to make “drier” flavors richer and sweeter, creating an illusion of richer mouthfeel.

-Oak aging: not only a contributor to the oxidative style, but also possibly adding oak flavors to the wine, which can further emphasize the sense of mouthfeel richness.

-CO2: I’m not sure how much the length of aging changes the bubbles and how they feel, but at least wines with lower CO2 (around 4,5-5 bar instead of the normal 6 bar) come across as smoother and silkier compared to the wines with more pressure. The same thing applies to the older Champagnes that have already lost some of their fizz.

-Flavors themselves: I can imagine that even the flavors can affect how one senses the mouthfeel. If I have two Champagnes made in an identical fashion and showed the same chemical analyses, I still think I would taste a Blanc de Noirs heavy with brooding, spicy and ripe fruit tones hinting at cherries and raspberries having richer mouthfeel than a mineral Blanc de Blancs with floral tones and white fruit flavors.