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CHAMPAGNE

Overview

The process of creating Champagne is known as the "Champagne Method," or "Méthode Champenoise." This method involves a second fermentation process in the bottle, which gives the wine its bubbles. The wine is then aged for a minimum of 15 months, during which time it develops its complex flavors and aromas.


One of the most important steps in the production of Champagne is the process of riddling, or remuage. This is the process of turning the bottles by hand or machine, in order to collect the sediment that forms in the bottle during the second fermentation process. Once the bottles are turned, they are then disgorged, which is the process of freezing the sediment and removing it from the bottle.


After the disgorgement, the bottles are then corked and sealed with a wire hood, known as a "muselet." This is the final step in the production of Champagne, and it ensures that the wine retains its bubbles and stays fresh for years to come.



History

The creation of Champagne was a gradual process that took several centuries to perfect. The first sparkling wines were made by accident in the 17th century, when winemakers noticed that their still wines were re-fermenting in the bottle. They soon realized that this second fermentation process was giving the wine bubbles!


However, it wasn't until the 18th century that the process of creating Champagne was perfected. A winemaker named Dom Pérignon, who was the cellarmaster at the Abbey of Hautvillers, is credited with revolutionizing the production of Champagne. He discovered that by using a specific blend of grapes and by adding sugar and yeast to the wine, he could achieve a consistent and controlled fermentation process.

In the 19th century, Champagne became increasingly popular among the European aristocracy and wealthy classes. The invention of the cork stopper in 1844 also helped to improve the quality of Champagne and make it more widely available.


Today, Champagne is enjoyed around the world and is often associated with celebrations and special occasions. It is produced by a variety of producers, from large, well-known brands to small, family-owned wineries.


REGIONS

The Champagne region is divided into five main areas:

The Montagne de Reims, the Cote des Blancs, the Vallee de la Marne, the Aube, and the Cote de Sézanne.


Each area has its own unique terroir, or soil and climate conditions, which contribute to the distinct characteristics of the wines produced there. The most important of these regions are the Montagne de Reims, the Cote des Blancs, the Vallee de la Marne.


Cote des Blancs:

This region is located just south of the city of Epernay and is known for its high-quality Chardonnay grapes. The wines produced in this region are often described as elegant and refined, with a distinct floral and citrus character.


Montagne de Reims:

Located just north of Epernay, this region is known for its Pinot Noir grapes and is famous for producing full-bodied and rich champagnes. The wines from this region are often described as having a deep red fruit character, with a hint of spice and smoke.


Vallée de la Marne:

This region is located on the western edge of the Champagne region and is known for its Pinot Meunier grapes. The wines from this region are often described as having a fruity and floral character, with a hint of red fruit and a soft, creamy finish.




STYLES

Non-Vintage Champagne: This is the most common type of Champagne and is made from a blend of grapes from different vintages. It is designed to be consistent in taste and quality from year to year. Non-vintage Champagne is typically aged for a minimum of 15 months before it is released.


Vintage Champagne: This type of Champagne is made from grapes harvested in a single year and is considered to be of higher quality. It is aged for a minimum of three years before it is released. Vintage Champagne is typically more expensive than non-vintage Champagne.


Rosé Champagne: This type of Champagne is made by blending red and white grapes together. The red grapes give the Champagne its pink color and add a hint of fruitiness to the taste. Rosé Champagne is typically aged for a minimum of 15 months before it is released.


Blanc de Blancs: This type of Champagne is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and is known for its crisp, dry taste. Blanc de Blancs Champagne is typically aged for a minimum of 18 months before it is released.


Blanc de Noirs: This type of Champagne is made from 100% Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes and is known for its full-bodied taste and rich color. Blanc de Noirs Champagne is typically aged for a minimum of 18 months before it is released.


Prestige Cuvée Champagne: This is the highest quality Champagne, made from the best grapes in the best vintages. It is aged for a longer period than other Champagnes and is often made in limited quantities. Prestige Cuvée Champagnes are the most expensive and are often produced by the most famous Champagne houses.


VARIETALS Each grape variety contributes its own unique characteristics to the Champagne, making the blend a complex and nuanced product. Champagne is the result of a careful and precise blending process, where the winemakers combine the grapes to create the perfect balance of flavors, acidity, and structure.


Chardonnay is a white grape variety that provides Champagne with a crisp and citrusy flavor. It is known for its high acidity and bright fruit notes, making it an important component of many Champagne blends.


Pinot Noir is a red grape variety that is used in the production of Champagne. It provides the Champagne with a rich and complex flavor profile, with notes of red fruit, such as cherries and raspberries, and a subtle hint of spice. Pinot Noir is known for its depth of flavor and tannins, which give Champagne its structure and balance.


Pinot Meunier is another red grape variety that is used in Champagne production. It is less common than Pinot Noir, but it is still an important component of many Champagne blends. Pinot Meunier provides the Champagne with a fruity and floral flavor, with notes of cherries and strawberries.


AGING REQUIREMENTS

Champagne must be aged for a minimum of 15 months before it can be sold, with most non-vintage champagnes aged for at least three years.


Vintage champagnes must be aged for at least three years and often for much longer. The length of aging can have a significant impact on the wine's character and is one of the factors that determine its quality and price.


In addition to the minimum aging requirements, champagne producers often choose to age their wines for much longer, some for up to a decade or more. The length of aging can greatly influence the wine's character, giving it a deeper, more complex flavor profile and a finer mousse, or bubbles.


TERROIR

Climate: Champagne has a cool continental climate with mild summers and cold winters. The region is located at a northerly latitude, which means that the growing season is shorter than in many other wine regions. This cool climate is essential for producing high-quality sparkling wine, as it helps to preserve the acidity in the grapes.


Soil: The soil in Champagne is primarily made up of chalk, which is a sedimentary rock composed of the skeletal remains of marine organisms. The chalk in Champagne is unique because it contains a high proportion of tiny, fossilized shells that can hold onto moisture and nutrients. This chalky soil is essential for growing the grapes used to make Champagne, as it provides good drainage and reflects sunlight back onto the vines.


Topography: Champagne is a hilly region with gentle slopes and rolling hills. The vineyards are planted on the slopes of the hills, which helps to protect them from frost and cold air drainage. The hills also provide good drainage, which is important for growing healthy grapevines.


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