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The UK has traditionally been the biggest export market with the United States and Germany competing for second place. Champagne, the world’s finest sparkling wine, comes from one of four vine growing areas - Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs and Aube - and the wine must be at least one year old to be sold as non-vintage, and three years old for vintage.

In 1992 new measures were introduced to designed to further enhance quality and stability. These included limiting yield per acre and controlling the quality of grapes pressed.

Champagne is produced by two fermentations, the first in tanks or barrels and the second in the bottle in which it is sold. After the first fermentation, wines from as many as 30 or 40 different vineyards are selected to produce the Cuvée (blend). Non vintage wines can contain wines from different vintages, while for a Vintage, only wine from a single year is allowed. It is the second fermentation, the méthode champenoise, which converts the still wine into sparkling because gases produced when sugar is converted to alcohol are trapped inside the bottle. The wine is then put in a rack and given a little twist every day until the neck points towards the ground. This action - remuage - moves all the sediment into the neck from where it is disgorged. The level is then topped up and the bottle corked.           

 

Bottle sizes:

Magnum               equivalent to     2 bottles

Jeroboam            equivalent to     4 bottles

Rehoboam          equivalent to     6 bottles

Methuselah          equivalent to     8 bottles

Salmanazar         equivalent to     12 bottles

Balthazar              equivalent to     16 bottles

Nebuchadnezzar equivalent to     20 bottles.

 

Grapes

Chardonnay: For elegance, richness, perfume, depth and longevity.

Pinot Noir: For body and depth of flavour.

Pinot Meunier: For softness and fruit.

 

Styles

Blanc de Blanc: Made only from Chardonnay. Light, fresh and creamy.

Blanc de Noirs: Made only from lightly pressed Pinot grapes. Golden-yellow coloured, heavy and fruity. Needs time to develop elegance.

Brut: Very dry.

Crémant: Made with less pressure so it has smaller bubbles. Creamy.

Cuvée de Prestige: Expensive, top of the range, usually vintage and often in extravagant bottles.

Demi-Sec: Medium sweet to sweet.

Doux: Very sweet, rich dessert Champagne.

Extra Dry: Not as dry as Brut, and not to be confused with Extra Brut.

Grande Marque: Used by the top Houses in Cham-pagne.

Non-Dosage: No added sweetness. Bone diy.

Non-Vintage: The ordinary Cuvée blended to provide consistency each year.

Récemment Dégorgé: Champagne disgorged much later than usual and sold almost immediately. Elegant, balanced, mature wine.

Rosé: Pink Champagne, full of flavour and berry fruit Drink young.

Sec: Slightly sweet.

 

Champagne BottleVintage

A Cuvée from a single year. Classier wines that age well. Must be at least three years old but are often much older.

A new code, agreed in 1990, offers the following labe:

NM: A Champagne House.

CM: Champagne made by a co-operative.

RM: Grower producing Champagne from his own grapes.

RC: A grower selling Champagne produced by a cooperative.

SR: A company created by wine growers who are all members of the same family.

MA: Buyer’s Own Brand.

 

Other wines from Champagne

Coteaux Champenois: Expensive still red, rosé or white produced with their own AOC. The most famous red is Bouzy which is light and matures quickly although some age well. They all tend to be acidic.

Rosé des Riceys: Made only in certain years from ripe Pinot Noir, with incredible colour - ‘red sky at sunset - and austere, gooseberry flavour. Expensive (I). Champagne is sold ready for drinking but many can be kept for 4-5 years if stored correctly in a cool, dark place. Vintages can be kept much longer.

Best vintages: 1990,1989,1988,1985 (exceptional), 1983, 1982,1981,1979.

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