Champagne: do sparkle your cellar
It rhymes with great opportunity and party, with elegance and refinement. Champagne and its fine golden bubbles invite contemplation as well as tasting. Renowned the world over, yet it is produced on a set of plots gathered mainly around Reims and Epernay, there where the most beautiful wineries and the most prestigious Champagne houses. Before you lift your Cup, we will learn more about this sparkling wine.
Champagne, sparkling wine that inevitably rhymes with celebration and refinement, is produced in the region whose name it bears. On some 30,000 hectares of vines are grown the three main grape varieties that allow its manufacture: chardonnay, pinot noir and the Miller. According to the traditional champenoise method, champagne is the result of Assembly of these varieties, to which may be added the arbane, little Marshall, true gray pinot (Fox) and white pinot true. This is one of the characteristics of champagne: here, award-winning Assembly, be it at the level of the grapes, but also of the vintages of the wines.
In Champagne, the vine is cultivated since antiquity and it's 17e century, notably through the use of the bottle of wine and the Cork, a naturally "bubbly" wine is discovered. At the same time, the famous dom Pérignon assembles for the first time in the grapes of wines and different varieties; He also laid the foundations for making foam, essential phenomenon to make sparkling wine.
Since then, the champagne proudly gained its letters of nobility. Large houses are sounding their brand of prestige all over the world: Ruinart, Bollinger, Laurent-Perrier, Mumm, Pannier, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot... to name but a few. Small houses and winemakers also produce of quality champagnes and animate this landscape of their know-how and their vision for the future.
The vineyard of Champagne
The area where champagne is produced is clearly marked by an act of 1927. It has 4 major production areas:
- The whites (Marne) coast and the coast of Sézanne: South of Epernay, it's the most famous Champagne region. Here reigns supreme chardonnay, which is used to produce white champagnes of exceptional whites.
- The mountain of Reims (Marne): between Epernay and South of Reims, pinot noir which dominates. The power and nobility of champagnes make the reputation of this region.
- The Valley of the Marne (Marne, Aisne and Seine-and-Marne): the Miller is grown largely in this area located to the West of Epernay, and pinot noir. It offers a wide variety of champagnes.
- The vineyard of dawn and the side of the Bar: this region is located more to the South and it is often regarded as a land of second choice. However, she is originally from wines of character and complex aromas.
The champagne vineyards has 30,000 hectares of vine, spread across these 4 large areas very different from each other. More than 630 Commons make up this vineyard northernmost France.
An appellation and terroirs
The Champagne is the only region in France, claiming only a single name. Some 320 wines benefit from the AOC Champagne. However, the mention of origin is not required. The 34 000 hectares of vineyards are divided in addition to 270 000 plots, each with its own peculiarities. This unique fragmentation gives rise to a wide variety of terroirs and vintages. These are classified into three categories:
- The "grands crus": 17 villages benefit from this appellation. These are the most prestigious, most wanted. Among them, we can cite Aÿ, Louvois, Oger, Puisieulx or Verzenay.
- The "first growths": 42 villages are affected, including Bezannes, Champillon, Coligny, Mutigny, Sacy, Trepail, Voipreux...
- The "other wines".
The champagne vineyards is also at the origin of "still" wines, i.e. that doesn't sparkle: the champagne hillsides and the pink of the Riceys.
How to choose a champagne?
Here is some information that will help you better understand the world of champagne and make your choice. First, be aware that different types of champagnes are offered:
- White white: this champagne is made only from chardonnay.
- Black White: only pinot noir, Miller pinot or a blend of these two grapes give birth to this champagne.
- Rose: only champagne can be pinkish due to Assembly of white and black grapes.
- Vintage: vintage champagnes are rare, insofar as, in most cases, this is a wine that assembles different varietals and vintages from different years. A vintage champagne must be composed of grapes of the same year, a single or several grape varieties, and must be aged at least 3 years in the cellar.
- Extra-Brut, gross, sweet, semi-dry...: this indication reflects the concentration of sugar in champagne, which is the amount of "liqueur de dosage" it has made to the wine before its final corking. The 'soft' reference refers to a champagne containing more than 50 g of sugar per litre, while a champagne is said "extra-brut" when it contains between 0 and 6 g of sugar per litre. When the wine has received no addition of sugar and there is less than 3 g/l of sugar, the mention "brut nature", "zero dosage" or "non dosed" can be added.
Initials that you identify the bottler are mentioned on their label:
- RM, Tapper Manipulant: the winery cultivates its vines, vinifies its harvest and develops his champagne bottles, and sells under its own name/brand.
- RC, Tapper cooperator: the winemaker says his grapes to the cooperative and get back them after the 2e fermentation in bottle to then market its production under his name/brand.
- NM, trader Manipulant: a company buys grapes to vintners, vinifies them and develops his champagne.
- CM, Cooperative of Manipulation: members bring their grapes and cellar press, vinifies them and developing assemblies. The wines are then sold under the name of the cooperative or a common brand.
- SR, society of collectors: it comes to groups of producers who market their production under a common brand.
- MA, brand of buyer: the retailer, as a large area, sells a champagne which is not the producer.
Alongside the large and prestigious champagne brands, you will find a rich mosaic of references, more or less confidential, so who will also sparkling moments during which you can enjoy them.