Champagne

The beauty and heritage of Champagne is truly awesome!

The wine centres of Epernay and Reims are a magnet for all wine lovers, and to spend a day and evening there to take in the history and culture one could be lost for hours just walking and soaking up the atmosphere... especially the Cathedrals.

The other towns and villages are picturesque and each one has its own character, we stayed recently in the town of Aÿ, the centre is so pretty and the streets tiny and narrow. Hardly seems possible that a wine industry could not only survive but thrive in these cramped situations

Everyone knows Champagne, I am sure it was the first wine we sampled, generally to celebrate some ones wedding, christening, birthday, or general celebration.

Today it has a cult following, we find ourselves enjoying it more with friend, for that bit of extravagance we can afford.

Champagne The Facts: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier are the three grape varieties allowed to make Champagne. Blanc de Blancs is made with just Chardonnay, whilst Krug is made with 100% Pinot Noir (red grapes).

 

The Grandes Marques Houses

There are around 28 champagne houses in the Grande Marques The classification system in Champagne is based on Vineyards. The land is graded according to it's suitability for black and white grapes, ranging from 100 per cent for the 17 finest Grand Cru villages, through to 99-90 percent for the 38 Premier Cru villages, and on to 80 per cent for the least favoured. Champagne houses boast how high their average percentage of grapes is. Some Champagne will have words like Premier Cru or 100 per cent and a village name like Avize on the label, meaning the wine comes from that single top village.

The appellation for Champagne is very strict and certain vineyards are only allowed to grow certain grapes, eg; if 90% of the grapes are from Grand Cru vineyards and Pinot noir from another site is blended to it it cannot be called Grand Cru Champagne.

Vintage Champagne is carefully selected and aged in the bottle in the cellars to gain flavours before being sold. These wines are of better quality and will have different aspects' to the non vintage wine. Generally more bolder flavours to start with, and will lessen with age and keep harmonious all the way through.

Champagne Production in a Nutshell...

The key to Champagne production is to note that the wine is made in the bottle... bottle fermentation!

After primary fermentation and bottling as normal wine, a small amount of yeast is added to the wine to encourage secondary fermentation. The wine is sealed with a crown cap (as in beer bottle) then stored upside down .The wine is manipulated daily by hand or machine to gather all the waste product of the fermentation in the cap.

On clearing out the small waste, the bottle is placed in iced water to freeze the solution. The cap removed and the pressure forces the waste out, this is known as “Degorgement”

A small solution of syrup then replaces the Champagne, and at the same time completes the total flavour by adding the necessary amount of sugar called Dosage.

The wine maker is always aware that different methods today are being tried and tested to enhance the quality of champagne, we the consumer are told that 'Zero dosage' is the new kid on the block. If that is what makes you happy it is all out there!

House Favourites

Champagne Lallier, Grand Cru NV

Pol Roger Champagne Brut Reserve

Champagne Gremillet

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UK Wine Merchant of the Year IWC 2022