The sparkling wines of Champagne have been revered by wine drinkers for hundreds of years, and even today they maintain their reputation for excellence of flavor and character, and are consistently associated with quality, decadence, and a cause for celebration. Their unique characteristics are partly due to the careful blending of a small number of selected grape varietals, most commonly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These grapes, blended in fairly equal quantities, give the wines of Champagne their wonderful flavors and aromas, with the Pinot Noir offering length and backbone, and the Chardonnay varietal giving its acidity and dry, biscuity nature. It isn't unusual to sometimes see Champagne labeled as 'blanc de blanc', meaning it is made using only Chardonnay varietal grapes, or 'blanc de noir', which is made solely with Pinot Noir.
When it comes to New York wine regions, Finger Lakes reigns supreme. Wines have been made in New York for longer than in any other part of the US, with the first vineyards being planted there over three hundred years ago by Dutch settlers. Finger Lakes is home to two of the United States’ oldest operating wineries, dating back to the 1860s, which continue to produce characterful wines inspired by France’s Alsace region.
Finger Lakes is New York’s largest and most productive wine region, with over one hundred separate wineries located on the banks of the six long, narrow lakes. The majority of the wines produced in this fascinating region are made from Chardonnay and Riesling varietal grapes, with Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir also growing well in the unique microclimate that the lakes provide. Indeed, it is the lakes themselves that influence the climatic conditions of the region - without them, the early winters and springs would be far too cold to effectively grow vines, but the lakes allow warmth to be maintained throughout the colder months, and temper the heat of the summer. This allows for a long and fruitful growing and ripening season, which gives the berries the chance to take on plenty of character and many fascinating features of this beautiful terroir.
Of all the New World wine countries, perhaps the one which has demonstrated the most flair for producing high quality wines - using a combination of traditional and forward-thinking contemporary methods - has been the United States of America. For the past couple of centuries, the United States has set about transforming much of its suitable land into vast vineyards, capable of supporting a wide variety of world-class grape varietals which thrive on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coastlines. Of course, we immediately think of sun-drenched California in regards to American wines, with its enormous vineyards responsible for the New World's finest examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines, but many other states have taken to viticulture in a big way, with impressive results. Oregon, Washington State and New York have all developed sophisticated and technologically advanced wine cultures of their own, and the output of U.S wineries is increasing each year as more and more people are converted to their produce.