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Champagne Basics

October 18, 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of #ChampagneDay, a yearly social media celebration made possible by Champagne lovers from around the world.” Comité Champagne

We provide some recommendations for Champagne Day in our October newsletter (Link). Read on for some champagne basics that will help you understand these magical bubbles, and impress your friends!

Location:

  • Champagne is the name of a winemaking region in France.
  • It is about 100 miles east of Paris. Smaller than the state of Connecticut and it supplies Champagne to the entire world.
  • Departments are Marne (66% planting) Aube (23%) Aisne (10%), Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne
  • 34,00 hectares of vineyards, 320 villages known as crus. Vineyards in Champagne are rated for quality. Grand Cru (highest quality) There are 17 Grand Crus Villages. Premier Cru (second highest quality). There are 42 Premier Crus Villages.
  • Four main growing regions are: Montagne de Reims, Marne, Côte de Blancs and Côte de Bar.

Climate/ Soil:

The area has a dual climate that is continental and has oceanic influences. Continental brings harsh winter frost and lots of sunshine in the summer. Oceanic Influence keeps temps low with a steady rainfall.

This combination results in moderate precipitation with an ideal pattern of rainfall that provides the vines just enough water to produce quality high quality grapes.

the soil is limestone, (chalk, marl and limestone proper). This type of soil is the reason why champagne has a mineral character.

Champagne Vincent Couche Vineyards

Grapes:

  • Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier are the three grapes used for making champagne. Did you know that, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot blanc and pinot gris are also grown in the area? Together, they only account for 0.3% of plantings.
  • Pinot Noir- (predominant in Montagne de Reims and Bar areas. This grape adds backbone and body to Champagne.
  • Pinot Meunier (mun yay) (Valle de la Marne) adds roundness and fruitiness to the blend.
  • Chardonnay (Cote de Blancs) provides floral, citrus and mineral notes.

Making Champagne:

  • Making champagne is highly regulated, labor intensive. [WATCH THIS VIDEO]
  • Champagne undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle where the carbon dioxide. Gas is captured to produce the natural bubbles.
  • The art of making Champagne is the art of blending known as assemblage. The winemaker or cellar master’s goal is to create a wine that although a blend a various vintage is consistent in taste and style of each Champagne house.
  • According to French law, all Brut Champagnes must be aged at least 15 months in the bottle before it is released, with 12 of those months being aged on lees (dead yeast that allow second fermentation). The minimum aging for vintage cuvees is 36 months. Most champagnes are aged longer than the recommended minimum.

Facts to Impress Your Friends

  • Only wine from Champagne can be called Champagne.
  • A Champagne winery is known as a Champagne House.
  • Champagne is classified according to how dry it is. Dosage liqueur is a sweet liquid that is added at to determine the sweetness level of the wine.
  • Brut Nature (zero dosage/driest style), extra brut (less than 6 grams of sugar/litre), brut (less than 12 grams), extra dry (12-17), sec (17-32 grams of sugar/litre), demi-sec (32-50 grams/litre) doux (more than 50 grams)
  • Non-Vintage Champagne (NV) is made by blending reserve wines from previous harvests. For example, a non-vintage Champagne that you will find in stores today may contain wine from the 2010, 2009, 2008, or 2007 harvests.
  • Vintage Champagne is made with wine from one year’s harvest. These are only bottled in exceptional harvest years.
  • Champagne is the most versatile wine there is because of its higher acidity. It can be sipped alone, with appetizers, with a meal, or with a dessert (Demi-Sec is best paired with desserts, especially pastry).

Regine Rousseau

Regine Rousseau is the CEO of Shall We Wine, author of Searching for Cloves and Lilies. She is a TV personality. Rousseau holds a Level II Certification from the International Sommerlier Guild and a Bourbon Stewart Certification from Stave and Thief.

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