Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Origins of Champagne - Happy 2016


What celebrates a special occasion more than cracking open a bottle of good Champagne with that special someone, or a boatload of friends.

 But, how do you know what Champagne to buy, or where it came from. If the occasion is significant, like bringing in 2016, a splurge on a good bottle is a must.  I save the cork from my bottles to remember the moment. I believe it's good luck  because Maybelline was born when my Auntie Mabel took a match to a cork, made ash and mixed with a little Vaseline over 100 years ago.

No matter what the reason to pop a good bottle of Champagne, remember to make a wish and kiss the cork.

              The Origins of Champagne

Champagne is a sparkling wine which is produced from grapes that are exclusively grown in France’s Champagne region. To be classed as champagne, it must follow particular rules that include the wine’s secondary fermentation in a bottle which creates carbonation, the sourcing of grapes which are from particular parcels within the Champagne appellation, as well as specific pressing regimes which, once more, are unique to the region.

Many utilize the term champagne to describe sparkling wine generically. However, in the majority of countries, it is now illegal to label any product as champagne officially unless it hails from the region of Champagne and is produced according to the particular appellation’s rules. 

Primarily, the grapes that are used in champagne production are black Pinot noir together with Pinot Meunier. The appellation laws governing the production of champagne only permit grapes that have been cultivated in accordance to the appellation regulations, which apply to specifically designated plots.

In the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, various royal families became associated with champagne. The leading manufacturers made particular efforts in order to associate their own champagnes with royalty and nobility by way of packing and advertising. This led to the drink’s popularity within the emerging middle classes.

Types of Champagne

The majority of the good champagne that is produced these days is in fact non-vintage, which means that it is blended using grapes from numerous different vintages.

The base is mostly from a single year vintage whereby producers will blend between, generally 10 percent and 15 percent of wine from vintages that are older. Should the conditions of a particular vintage be more favorable, various producers will create a vintage wine that must combine 100 percent of the grapes from that particular year.

Under the regulations for champagne wine, houses that produce non-vintage and vintage wines are permitted to utilize no greater than 80 percent of the entire vintage’s harvest to create vintage champagne.

This then allows the remainder from the harvest to be reserved and used in non-vintage champagne. It’s a method of ensuring consistent style that consumers have come to expect from champagnes that are non-vintage, and it is not altered radically through the quality of the vintage.

Some producers will create a wine from a single, less than ideal vintage, but will label it as non-vintage, given that the wine is of lesser quality and those producers prefer not to reserve this wine for blending in future. 

Prestige cuvée

A blended wine which is normally a champagne, cuvée de prestige is said to be the very best of a producer's selection. Prestige cuvee is no doubt a good champagne, and a few preeminent examples include Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle, Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, and Louis Roederer's Cristal.

Blanc de noirs

This French term, which literally means "white of blacks" or "white from black," is used to describe a white wine which has been produced solely from black grapes. 

Blanc de blancs

This French term literally translates to "white from whites," and designates champagnes which are made wholly from Chardonnay grapes. Perhaps on rare occasions the champagne is made using Pinot blanc, for example, Cedric Bouchard’s La Bolorée.

Champagne’s rosé wines, which are also referred to as pink champagne, are created by either leaving the juice from black grapes to liquefy on its skins for a short period of time – referred to as the saignée method – or, by combining some Pinot noir red wine together with the sparkling wine cuvée.


The amount of sugar which is added upon the conclusion of the second fermentation, known as the dosage, and the ripeness of the grapes, varies. This will impact the quantity of sugar still remaining within the champagne when it is bottled to be sold, and thus, also the sweetness of the wine

Those wines that are labeled with Brut Zero, which are more commonly found among the smaller producers, are normally very dry as they have no sugar added. They have no more than 3 grams of residual sugar for every liter of finished wine.

The terms below are utilized in order to describe the sweetness of the final product and apply to a liter:

-          Extra Brut (no more than 6 grams of residual sugar)

-          Brut (no more than 12 grams)

-          Extra Dry (between 12 and 17 grams)

-          Sec (between 17 and 32 grams)

-          Demi-sec (between 32 and 50 grams)

-          Doux (50 grams)

Visit my goddaughter, Hana-Lee Sedgwick's blog,
 Wander and Wine to learn more about Wine and Champagne.

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