Champagne is the best known and appreciated of sparkling wines. Located far to the north, the Champagne appellation benefits from a cool and humid climate which gives a beautiful typical acidity to Champagne. If 7 grape varieties are authorized in the production of this wine, only 3 are used in the majority: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Champagne distinguishes the best plots by classifying them as Grand Cru and Premier Cru.
The Champagne appellation is one of the best known in the world produced exclusively in the Champagne region.
The Champagne vineyard represents just over 33,000 hectares and covers the departments of Marne, Aube and Aisne, Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne. It is the northernmost in France.
The origin of Champagne dates back to the Gallo-Roman era with the appearance of viticulture in the region. The sacrament of Clovis at Reims Cathedral in 496 made this place a symbol of royalty where the region's wine, first still and then sparkling, was served at major events and became the wine of Kings. The notoriety and image of this mythical wine grew with the rise of notable vineyard owners.
In the 6th century, many abbeys were important wine owners and implemented high quality cultivation methods and winemaking know-how. The vineyard is developing and growing rapidly thanks to its geographical proximity to the main commercial axes of the country.
It is to the Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon that we attribute the paternity of Champagne from the 17th century. He played an important role in the method of elaboration and the practice of blending the grapes to produce a more balanced and accomplished wine.
At that time, the glass bottle appeared and replaced the barrels. This conditioning keeps the carbon dioxide locked up and transported. From 1690, we officially speak of the wines of Champagne.
The Champagne Houses that have become iconic today appear from the 18th century (Moët, Veuve Clicquot, Heidsieck, etc.) and contribute to the international reputation of Champagne. Ruinart is the first house created in 1729.
Champagne is divided into 4 major production areas: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs & Sézannais, Côte des Bars.
The semi-continental climate is harsh. The soils with a high limestone component are made up of marl, clay and chalk rich in mineral matter and very porous. This terroir contributes to the good balance between the acidity and the sugar of the fruit contained in the Champagne and brings finesse and minerality.
The vineyard, planted on hillsides, is made up of the 3 grape varieties authorized in Champagne: pinot noir (39%), pinot meunier (32%) and chardonnay (29%). "Blanc de blanc" is made from the white Chardonay grape variety and "blanc de noir" from the red Pinot Noir and Meunier grape varieties.
Champagne is made using the traditional method known as the Champagne method. Here are the different steps:
× Manual harvesting so that the grapes are harvested in whole bunches.
× Alcoholic fermentation: with this first fermentation we obtain a still wine.
× Blending the cuvées: the winemaker blends different grape varieties, crus and vintages. If the Champagne is produced from a single vintage it is a vintage Champagne.
× The prize de mousse: the effervescence of the wine comes from the second fermentation obtained from the liqueur de liqueur; mixture of sugar, yeasts and old wine.
× Aging on lees: Champagne aged in the bottle on lees (dead yeast following the second fermentation) for a minimum of 15 months for non-vintages and 3 years for vintages.
× Riddling: the bottles are placed on desks, upside down, and stirred so that the deposits (dead yeast) settle in the neck.
× Disgorging: this manipulation consists of freezing the neck of the bottle by plunging it into brine (about -25°) to trap the deposit and expel it from the neck.
× Dosage: in order to rebalance the natural acidity of Champagne, dosage liqueur or expedition liqueur made up of old wine and cane sugar is added. The type of Champagne is determined according to the amount of sugar: Extra brut (less than 6g of sugar /L), brut, extra dry, dry, semi-dry, sweet (up to 100g of sugar /L).
Thanks to a method perfected over the centuries and an enterprising trade, the wine of Kings has become the symbol of luxury and great occasions. It is a refined, complex and subtle wine.
Many Champagne houses are known throughout the world, the most famous are: Dom Pérignon, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Bollinger, Krug, Pommery, Ruinart, C. Heidsieck, Roederer, Perrier Jouet…
The Champagne appellation has produced exceptional vintages combining finesse, tension, maturity and aging potential such as: 1928, 1929, 1934, 1937, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1970, 1975, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1996, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2008.
The non-vintage brut Champagne, the most consensual, will be served throughout the meal. For more complex champagnes we offer the following pairings:
Aperitif and starters: an extra brut blanc de blanc Champagne (low sugar level = savory dishes) with a cheese tart, seafood, salmon toast, foie gras... Blanc de noir quant à lui will go very well with charcuterie or pan-fried foie gras.
The main dish: The blanc de blanc goes easily with all dishes based on fish and white meat in sauce, while the blanc de noir goes more well with roast poultry, salmon or a leg of pink lamb.
Cheeses: whether they are cooked (comté, parmesan, beaufort) or soft, not too strong (camembert, brie), the cheeses go very well with all types of Champagne.
Desserts: dry, semi-dry or sweet champagne will go perfectly with fruit-based desserts.