Wine Education and Tailor made French Wine Tours – Come Wine with me!
Champagne, ‘The Good, The Bad and The Bubbly
So much difference, both in quality and opinion, divides this most individual of
wines. Only by taking the time to understand the way it is made and the history
of Champagne, can a true appreciation of it’s delight and originality be realised.
A real gift from nature, this most inspiring of wines was discovered by accident
and eventually harnessed by man to create a unique and noble wine to bring pleasure
the world over.
No other wine has adapted itself to satisfy so many different occasions, and so many
different reasons to enjoy it, the best being to my mind is ‘for no reason at all‘.
‘The Day They Invented Champagne’ was back in the 17th century, quite young in terms
of wine history. It was originally a still wine, usually red with a smaller amount
of white and even today some quantities of these are still produced, mainly for local
drinking with the still red wine of ‘Bouzy’ being famous for being added to Champagne
in some cases, to make Rose Champagne.
The English can take the credit for this discovery as wine drinking, especially in
the Café Society in London, was a very popular choice. As many wines had to travel
great distances in barrels from area like Portugual, southern Spain [Sherry] and
Madeira, it was frequently ‘fortified’ with a little brandy and sugar to keep the
quality during these long sea voyages. This was not the case with wines from the
Champagne region of France of course, as it was the nearest wine producing region
to the British Isles.
These high acidic wines experienced one major problem , in the colder climate of
northern France and deep in the chalk cellars under the Champagne region, the fermentation
process would be interrupted and the yeasts would lie dormant. Then, when temperatures
increased in the springtime and after bottling, these yeasts would begin to feed
on the residual sugars and carbon dioxide would be released into the wine. Many times
this would cause bottles to explode and also this style of ‘effervescent wine’ was
not acceptable to French tastes.However the ‘trendy set’ of London loved them and
this ‘nouveau style’ of wine became immensely popular. The British wine merchants
realised it’s potential and a stronger bottle was made to safely contain this new
fashion in drinking. A disaster considered by the French became a phenomenal success
by the cultural acceptance of English tastes.
However in these early days the man responsible for mastering this natural process
was a monk at the Abbey in Hautvilliers, the now famous Dom Perignon. He also realised
that blending wines from different grape varieties produced in different villages
from the area created a more interesting and complex wine. The 3 main grape varieties
have remained to this day in the quality controlled ‘Applellation Controlee’ system
as a part of the Champagne creation process.Two black varieties, Pinot Noir and Pinot
Meunier and the white Chardonnay grape make up this classic trio.Oddly enough this
is only AC wine production region in France that does not have to show this on the
label. [See our section on ‘The Wine Quality Control Laws of Europe‘]
These grapes, along with strict and specially perfected method of production is called
‘Methode Champenoise’ now re-named Methode Traditionelle. This system is used everywhere
in the world, including the UK, where the best sparkling wine is made, but only one
is allowed to be called ‘Champagne’. So much has been developed over the years with
supermarket brands produced by co-operatives, to the famous names of the Grande Marques
Houses such as Moet et Chandon, Krug, Veuve Cliquot, Lanson etc and the smaller producers
of lesser known brands, many of which achieve the great quality standards as the
big names, sometimes even better. Knowing the difference is an adventure not to be
missed. Come with me on this journey of discovery and I will show you how to become
confident in the understanding and appreciation of the wonderful world of ‘Champagne‘.
Happy Drinking and to learn more about ‘Champage and All Things Wine‘, please join
my ‘WineHunters Simply Wine Course’ for a Full Years Membership - ‘A Great Wine Adventure’