Non-vintage (NV, sans année) champagne is the backbone of every house’s production, typically accounting for 80–90 per cent of the total output. Hence, it is also the most important product, taking up the most time and effort to perfect. Maintaining the style and quality of the house’s non-vintage champagne year after year is a challenge. Yet this is paramount, because the very idea of non-vintage champagne is that no vintage related variation can be detected. In the unpredictable climatic conditions of Champagne, consistent quality is achieved by using reserve wines from previous years. The amount of reserve wine used and their age is very much a question of house style.
Moreover, non-vintage champagne must be ready to drink as soon as it has been released – the majority of champagnes are consumed immediately after purchase. Therefore, non-vintage champagnes of négociant houses usually consist of all three grape varieties sourced throughout the region. The cellar masters may blend together from dozens to several hundred base wines in order to create a balanced and consistent non-vintage champagne.
The minimum maturing time of non-vintage champagne is 15 months (of which 12 months on the yeast lees), but most prestigious champagne houses mature their non-vintage for 2–3 years in order to achieve the autolytic, toasty character typical of champagne.