As thousands of corks fly from Champagne bottles this season, you may grow weary of sipping sparkling beverages night after night. Nobody wants to rain on Champagne’s parade, but is it too much to ask to drink a standard, still glass of wine? It may seem crazy, but in fact, it is possible to drink Champagne without bubbles. Meet Coteaux Champenois, the still wine of Champagne.
When famed monk Dom Pérignon was the cellar master of the Abbey of Hautvillers in the 1600s, bubbles were actually considered faults, a result of leftover yeast becoming active again as springtime temperatures rose. Though Champagne has now become synonymous with sparkling wine, it’s common for most Champagne producers to make a small amount of still wine under the appellation Coteaux Champenois. This white, rosé, or, more commonly, red wine is fairly easy to purchase in Champagne itself, but very few bottles are exported to the U.S. A separate, even rarer appellation, Rosé des Riceys, exists solely in the Aube region of Champagne, designated only for still Pinot Noir rosé.
Coteaux Champenois, which can be made throughout all five of Champagne’s subregions, is typically light and acid-driven, with lively fruit that pops. Some bottles list a village on the label, the most famous of which is Bouzy, which specializes in red wines. While Coteaux Champenois from grower-producers such as Geoffroy, Paul Bara, and Egly-Ouriet have gotten the most buzz lately, larger houses like Bollinger and Laurent-Perrier bottle still wine as well.
By eschewing the holiday season’s bubbly tradition, you’ll actually be drinking the most authentic Champagne there is. Just a warning: Because of small production, Coteaux Champenois doesn’t come cheap. You should probably keep the bubbly versions flowing for all but your favorite guests.