The Champagne district is the most northerly wine region of France, located some ninety miles northeast of Paris. The method of production for champagne is explainde here.
Originally, the wines of Champagne were still. The cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers, a certain Pierre Pérignon (1639-1715), developed a system of blending, whereby the wines from different area in Champagne and made from different grape varieties, were blendend together. Although Dom Pérignon has been credited as being the inventor of sparkling Champagne, there is little real evidence to support this. There are claims that it was the English who put the sparke into imported Champagne wines, in the seventeenth century. On school of thought argues that warm weather caused the wine to undergo a secondary fermentation in the barrels in which it was exported.
What can be read on a champagne label? The brand and the name of the maker; the dosage (brut, sec or so on); the year or lack of a year; the phrase blanc de blancs when only white grapes have been used in the wine; when possible, the commune of origin of the grapes, and finally, sometimes, but less and less often, the qualitative classification of the grapes: Grand Cru for the 17 communes that have the right to the description, or Premier Cru for 41 others. The professional standing of the producer must appear, printed in small letters: NM meaning a merchant-winemaker; RM a grower making champagne from other sources; CM a cooperative that makes and sells its own champagne using grapes from its member growers; MA the brand of the buyer; RC a small grower who sends his grapes to one or several cooperatives to be make into champagne because he does mot habe the equipment to do so himself, and who receives the finished champagne to sell;
The wine of kings and princes and now the wine for every celebration, champagne is cloaked in glory and prestige and coveys to the world all that is French elegance and seductiveness. Its reputation has as much to do with its history as with its particular characteristics, which means, for many, that only wine from Champagne is the champagne; it is not as simple as that …
The Champagne region, which is situated les than 200 km northeast of Paris, contains three Appellations, d'Origine Controlee: Champagne, Coteaux Champenois and Rose des Riceys, but the last two of these produce only around 100,000 bottles. This northrnmost wine-growing region in France extends chiefly over the Marne and the Aube regions, with small areas in the Aisne, Seine-et-Marne and Haute-Marne. The total vineyard area covers 32,710 ha, of which 30,891 ha were in production in 2014.
Champagne The uniqueness of champagne is apparent right from the harvest itself. No harvesting machines are permitted, and everything is picked by hand because it is essential the the grapes get to the press in perfect condition. Rather than the hods used elsewhere, pickers carry small baskets to ensure that the grapes are not too crushed. Presses are set up in the heart of the vineyards to shorten the time the grapes are transported. Why is such care taken? Because champagne is a white wine made for the most part from o black grape, the Pinot Noir, and it is essential that the colorless juice should not be stained by contact with the grape skins.
Pressing has to take place as quickly as possible and in such a way as to collect the juice from different concentric parts of each fruit one after the other. This explains the particular shape of squashing the grapes and to facilitate the circulation of the juice, the grapes are piled over a very wide area but not very deeply. The skins of the harvested grapes must never be damaged.
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The particular demands of the champagne method, which takes a number of years (three on average and many more for vintage years), requires that over a milion bottles be kept in storage at any one time. According to the CFCE (Centre Francais du Commerce Exterieur), exportation of champagne represents an important part of total French wine exports.
Wine has been made in Champagne since at least the time of the Roman invasion. The first wines to be produced were white; laster production was of red and then 'gris' (grey), which is white or nearly-white wine that comes from pressing black grapes. At an early stage the wine had the irritating habit of fizzing up in the barrels. Systematic bottling of these unstable wines was invented in England, to where, dissolve in the wine, and sparkling wine was born. Dom Perignon, the procurator of the Abby in Hautvillers and a forward-looking blending technician, produced the best wines at his Abbey; he was also able to sell them for the highest prices.
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It is a shame that almost everything with bubbles in gets called Champagne. There are top quality Cavas made by the traditional method that are far better in quality than the most lowly of Champagnes.
Calling these wines Champagne is to undervalue them. Not only is it incorrect but in common with other sparkling wines, the Spanish Cavas have their own story to tell about the grape varieties used, the soil on which they are grown, and the weather conditions that are quite different to those of Champagne. This Spanish wine has been made by the same methode traditionnelle as French sparkling wines since the end of the nineteenth century.
Cava came into being in the province of Barcelona in 1872 because the local innkeepers and hoteliers could not meet the increasing demand for good sparkling wine. The Catalans decided to make their own sparkling wine instead of always having to import either expensive Champagne or cheap Blanquette de Limoux.
When asked why he drank Champagne for breakfast every morning, Noel Coward replied, “Doesn’t everyone?”.
“In victory you deserve it; in defeat you need it,” said Napoleon.
Champagne is the most northerly vineyard in France, a large plain split by the River Marne 90 miles east of Paris. There are about 72,000 acres of vineyards within the Champagne appellation, some 15,000 growers, more than 4,500 producers including 110 Houses and about 250 miles of tunnels for storing and ageing the wine. Annual sales are around 250 million bottles, of which 40 per cent is exported.
Champagne, the outstanding symbol of festivity, may only be produced in the Champagne region of France. No other wine from wherever else it is made inside France of elsewhere, may not use the prestigious name of Champagne. Champagne is an unparalleled wine.
The historic heart of Champagne is Reims, about 93 milles north-east of Paris. The geographical centre of the Champagne region is at Epernay, slightly south of Reims. Champagne is subdivided into four large areas: the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne, the Côte des Blancs, and finally the Côte de Bar in the department of Aube, between Bar-sur-Seine and Bar-sur-Aube.
Champagne is well known worldwide as a sparkling wine made from selected grape in the Champagne region of France. For a successful Champagne requires a secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle. Many of us use the term "Champagne" as a generic term for sparkling wine but most importers reserve this term only for all wines that are exported from the Champagne region and are produced in accordance with sparkling wine appellation.
When we look at a glass of Champagne can easily observe characteristic bubbles. The most important grape varieties used for the production of Champagne are Pinot Noir...
Some labels bear predicates such as ‘Grand Cru’ or ‘Premier Cru’. These descriptions are in no way a guarantee of quality of the Champagne. They merely relate to the quality of the Champagne. They merely relate to the quality of the grapes used in the making of the wine.
This wine is very very dry. After degorgement, extra brut is solely topped up with the same wine and therefore contains virtually no residual sugar. Few people appreciate Champagne as dry as chalk.
California is a very large wine region in which the following guaranteed places of origin are the best known: Mendocino Country, Lake Country, Sonoma Country (includes the famous Russian River Valley and Sonoma Valley),
Napa Valley, Los Carneros, Central Valley, Sierra Foothills, Livermore Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey Country, San Joaquin Valley, San Luis Obispo Valley, and Santa Barbara Country.
Irrigation is permitted throughout California but not necessary everywhere. The most popular grape varieties are Chardonnay, Colonbard, Chenin Blanc, Fumé Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Viognier for white wines and Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Grenache for red wine. The classic Californian grape variety of Zinfandel is starting to play an incresingly important role.
You mai encounter thousands of different types of Californian wine because of the great differences in climate, soil, wine-making method, yield, and target group for marketing.
The powerful house of Champagne forbid everyone from using their name outside the designated area of Champagne in France yet you will find the term ‘Champagne’ used in the USA on other wines. To avoid long drawn out and costly law siuts in the American courts, the Champagne houses have had to accept that names such as ‘Californian Champagne’ are legally permitted here.
They are however restricted to the domestic markets so that the so-called Californian Champagne must be sold in Europe merely as ‘sparkling wine’. American sparkling wines are made in both pink (rosé) and white and from quite dry to sweet. The driest is the Brut, followed by Extra Dry, Dry/Sec, and Demi-Sec, which is the sweetest.
Only the highest quality sparkling are made in the United States by the traditional method with second fermentation in the bottle. Most are produced by the charmat or bulk method. This shows to be made down to a price. A thrid method is the transfer method which combines aspects of both the other methods. The results are of better quality than with the ordinary bulk method but remain cheaper than the traditional way.
Whether white or rosé, some of these wines are well worth discovering. Two of the leading Champagne nouses make good ‘Champagne’ style wines in America. Those of Mumm are good while the Taittinger product is excellent.