Champagne is one of those wines that every person in every part of the world has heard about. However, it is the French sparkling wine that has the world in awe. Isn’t it funny that this sparkling wine was technically founded by the British and not by the French?
A Brief History of Champagne
Before the Bubbles
The Romans initially planted the first vines of Champagne in 57BC. For a long time, wines from the region were seen as lesser quality than France’s. The quality, however, got progressively better over the following century as Champagne was constantly trying to upstage Burgundy and surpass their quality. This rivalry between the regions intensified to a point where civil war seemed inevitable.
However, the great feud finally came to an end with the discovery of sparkling wine and the region’s dedication to producing this new, innovative style of wine.
Popular to contrary belief, the discovery of sparkling wines was not intentional. Instead, sparkling wine was created after a shipment of wine from Champagne reached England, and it had refermented inside the barrel. Since the Carbon Dioxide had nowhere to go, it was trapped inside, and thus, sparkling wine was born.
Although there were very mixed feelings about this sparkling wine, the consumers who enjoyed the bubbles bought copious amounts of the wine, thus pushing Champagne into producing more of this style. With time and a lot of refinement over the years, wine producers could better quality wine and packaging solutions for these complex wines.
Not All Bubbles are Champagne
The Wine Region of Champagne
The first thing to note about authentic Champagne wine is that it has to come from the region of Champagne in France. The rules regarding the production of Champagne are stringent and specific – but it’s what you expect from one of the world’s most prestigious wine producers.
Many places in the world, and even regions in France, create sparkling wines exactly. But, unfortunately, those wines can’t be called Champagne.
Most people (including many sommeliers) think Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier are the only grapes. That is incorrect. The obscure varietals Arbane, Petit Meslier are allowed, as are Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.
The Traditional Method
During production, only the traditional sparkling method is allowed to be used. This method is considered the best method for high-quality sparkling wines. A secondary fermentation wine occurs inside the bottle, trapping carbon dioxide within the wine. When the wine is opened, that dissolved gas rushes out, creating bubbles.
This production method is also extremely labor-intensive. Each bottle has to go through a process of riddling, disgorgement, and topping up. These processes include turning each bottle upside down over a period of days or weeks to allow the dead yeast cells to settle in the bottle’s neck. Thereafter, the bottle-neck is frozen, and these yeast cells are shot out, and the wine is topped up with more wine and a bit of sugar.
Champagne comes in a few different styles that allow some diversity. Here are the top three.
Blanc de Blanc
Blanc de Blanc (white from white) refers to white grapes used for this white wine. In this case, it can only be Chardonnay.
Blanc de Noir
Blanc de Noir (black from white) means that they have used red grapes to produce these whites. In Champagne, this can be either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier but is often a blend of the two. It’s important to note that only the skin of a grape is red – so white wines can be produced just by preventing the juice from coming into contact with the skins.
Rosés are the product of blending these whites and reds before the wine is bottled. In France, only Champagne producers can make Rosés in this fashion.
The accidental production of Champagne was probably one of the greatest things to happen to the world’s wine industry. With great complexity and uniqueness, Champagne will forever be the drink of celebration.