The climatic conditions contribute to a slow ripening of the grapes, which emphasize the fine structure of the champagne. The alcohol content in the base wine is only about 11%, which is why it is balanced during the second fermentation in the bottle or with the shipping dosage (wine-sugar mixture). The recipe is usually a trade secret of the producers and determines the taste.
Since the grape varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier complement each other well with the geological conditions, such as chalk and clay soils, these varieties are mainly used for Champagne.
For those who would like to delve even deeper into the world of this luxury drink, more detailed information is provided below:
Champagne is a luxury brand
Not every sparkling wine is allowed to call itself champagne. In many parts of the world, this special sparkling wine is considered the most festive drink par excellence. It is served at weddings and anniversaries and is used to celebrate life's greatest achievements. Its special reputation results from the rarity of the drink and its special taste. In order for a sparkling wine to bear the name Champagne, it must meet strict criteria. The term "Champagne" or in French "le Champagne" is a protected name.
The criteria for a champagne
In order for a sparkling wine to be allowed to bear the name Champagne, it must meet firmly prescribed requirements. The name "Champagne" has also been a protected trademark since 1936. Compliance with the criteria is verified by independent bodies. First of all, only grapes harvested in the French wine-growing region of Champagne may be used for a Champagne. Strict cultivation regulations must be observed, such as plant density and a yield restriction. The harvest must be done by hand and the grapes must then be immediately and gently pressed. The wine undergoes a second, bottle fermentation. In this way, carbonic acid is formed. The Champagne Shop lists only sparkling wines that meet these criteria.
Aromatic and fine bubbles: the taste of champagne
Champagne is a special product not only because of its limited quantity. Another quality characteristic is the special taste. The difference in taste between sparkling wines on the one hand and champagne on the other is due in particular to the different fermentation process. For a real champagne the bottle fermentation process is given, while other sparkling wines usually ferment by tank fermentation or by the transversal process. Bottle fermentation is not only particularly elaborate, but also ensures the sparkling-fine taste of the drink. This is also noticeable visually. The bubbles in champagne are much finer than those in sparkling wine or any other sparkling wine. In addition, they bubble much longer in the glass after pouring.
Where are the grapes for champagne produced
As the name suggests, champagne comes from France. The growing area has been strictly regulated since 1927. It covers a little more than 33,000 hectares and is called Champagne. This area is located in the northeast of France and includes the regions of Aisne, Aube, Haute-Marne, Marne and Seine-et-Marne. It extends for more than 150 km and one cannot speak of a homogeneous area. In addition, there are different soil types. Therefore, Champagne is divided into different wine-growing areas. Among the most important are the Montagne de Reims, Cote des Blancs, Cote des Bar and Vallee de la Marne. Recently, the enlargement of the production area has been considered.
Which grape varieties can be used for Champagne?
In a sparkling wine called Champagne, basically only three grape varieties are used. These are the white grape variety Chardonnay and the red grape varieties Meunier and Pinot Noir. Other grape varieties are mentioned in the approval criteria, which are practically hardly used today. The blend of these varieties determines the character of the champagne. Experts believe that it is the interplay of the varieties that gives the sparkling wine its special taste. By the way, only the grape juice and not the skins with the color-giving pigments are used for the production of a champagne.
Special features of the grape
If you want to buy a particularly rare champagne, look around the champagne store for the specialties Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs. A Blanc de Blancs is a champagne that consists only of light grape varieties. It develops a particularly exquisite aroma after a long storage period. A Blanc de Noirs, on the other hand, is made exclusively from red grapes. The grapes are pressed immediately after harvest. This results in a full-bodied sparkling wine.
What should be considered in the cultivation, harvesting and pressing of champagne?
The quality criteria for a champagne do not only refer to the growing area. Strict standards also apply to the cultivation itself, the grape harvest and pressing, which must be met if the product is to bear the Champagne designation. Although the planting density in Champagne is particularly high, with up to 8000 vines per hectare, the harvest yield per hectare is regulated. In normal years, the yield is 15500 kg per hectare. The grapes are harvested only by hand. The red grapes must be pressed quickly. Otherwise, the red colorants of the skins also settle into the base wine. During pressing, the first must is also qualitatively distinguished from the multiple-pressed remainder. The special climatic conditions of Champagne contribute to the slow ripening of the grapes. Through this, the fine structure of the champagne is emphasized.
The fermentation process
Following the harvest, the so-called base wine is produced from the must by alcoholic fermentation. The alcohol content in the base wine is only about 11%, which is why it is balanced out again during the second fermentation in the bottle or with the shipping dosage (wine-sugar mixture). The recipe is usually a trade secret of the producer and determines the individual taste of each champagne. As a rule, a champagne is composed of the basic wines of different vintages. This mixing is also called assemblage. This results in vintageless champagnes. In comparison, a champagne produced from the grapes of one vintage is called vintage champagne. Typical and mandatory for champagne production is bottle fermentation. To make this fermentation possible, cane sugar and a little yeast are added to the base wine. The bottle fermentation lasts about three weeks. The champagne can be stored for several years. This luxury sparkling wine gets its aromas through the process of autolysis. Autolysis refers to the decomposition process of dead yeast, which is also responsible for the long bubbling of the champagne. There is a specified aging period of 15 months for a vintageless Champagne and three years for a vintage Champagne.
The mysterious dosage
If you want to buy a champagne, you should pay attention to the dosage. It gives a champagne the defining note and thus the flavor. Dosage is the replenishment of the liquid loss before closing the bottle with the champagne cork. Which dosage is used is the secret of the producers. It decides whether the champagne tastes very dry or sweet. The dosage can be a sweet wine or the sweet reserve, or it can consist of only sugar. You can recognize the flavors by the following additional designations:
- Doux: very sweet, with more than 50 grams of residual sugar per liter.
- Demi Sec: sweet, with 32 to 50 grams of residual sugar per liter
- Sec: here a dosage of 17 to 32 grams per liter is used
- Extra Dry or Extra Sec: the residual sugar content is 12 to 17 grams per liter
- Brut: fine-tart, with a residual sugar content of 0 to 12 grams per liter
- Extra Brut: tart, with a residual sugar content of 0 to 6 grams per liter
- Ultra Brut, also Brut integral and Brut nature: very tart with no residual sugar content
By specifying the dosage, you can determine the flavor and buy the champagne that suits best. In the champagne store, of course, you can find champagnes in a wide variety of dosages.
Where does the champagne come from?
The thesis that champagne was invented by a monk named Dom Pérignon persists. However, the 18th century monk did not discover the bottle fermentation that makes champagne so unique. In fact, this particular drink was invented, probably in error, by the English. And it came about this way: Wine has always been grown in Champagne. Moreover, the region was ideally located, logistically speaking. It was not far from Paris or the ports of Le Havre and Calais. Accordingly, wine from Champagne was often exported to England. Possibly the wines were not yet fully fermented or sugar and spices were added: In any case, this is how Champagne was born. However, at that time, secondary fermentation could not be controlled. This is where Dom Pérignon, mentioned at the beginning of this article, comes into the picture again. It was he who invented several improvements in the production of sparkling wine. For example, the blending of grapes from different vineyards goes back to him.
What the size of the bottle does
Champagne is available in many different bottle sizes. These also have to meet certain conditions in order to be allowed to house this noble drop. Basically, champagne bottles have a conical depression in their base. This improves the pressure resistance. Since the distinctive feature of champagne is bottle fermentation, the bottle size also affects the taste. The usual bottle size is the 0.75 liter bottle, which also has the size designation 1/1. Twice as large are the magnum bottles with a capacity of 1.5 liters. Also known is the bottle size Piccolo, which comprises 0.2 liters. Champagne bottles are opened in style with a champagne saber. Using the champagne saber is called sabering. Alternatively, of course, you can use a champagne bottle opener. The largest known champagne bottle called Midas or Melchisedech contains 30 liters. However, these sizes are very rare, as quality assurance is difficult with this volume.
The cork in champagne
For the cork of a champagne bottle, a combination of natural cork and pressed cork is used. Only very large champagne bottles are closed with a cork made of pure natural cork. The shape of the corks corresponds to the closure of a mushroom with a conical foot. With the help of a wire mesh or a metal bracket, the cork is secured to the top of the bottle.
Why the champagne must be shaken
It is well known that yeast has been added to champagne for the fermentation process. The remains of this yeast must be removed before sale. In order to separate the deposited yeast from the wall of the flaxhe, the bottle is shaken. This is done according to a set schedule and lasts about 21 days. During a continuous daily rotation of the bottles, they are gradually turned upside down. Experienced shakers manage up to 40000 bottles a day. Robots are being used more and more frequently. When the bottle is finally upside down, yeast has collected in the neck of the bottle. In order to remove this from the bottle, sludge is removed.
What does disgorging mean?
The disgorging is the process used in the production of champagne to remove the remains of the fermenting yeast. It involves dipping the neck of the bottle in an ice bath so that the yeast in the neck of the bottle freezes into a plug. The crown cork is then opened and the yeast plug is allowed to escape. The bottle is then closed with a cork and is ready for sale.
What is the shelf life of champagne?
For the answer to the question of shelf life, a distinction is made between vintage champagne and sparkling wine without a particular vintage. The latter reaches its best taste after about two years of storage. The vintage champagne, on the other hand, may be stored for ten or more years without losing quality. Special sparkling wine is sensitive to light. In particular to lighting by fluorescent tubes. This releases hydrogen sulfide, which impairs the quality of the sparkling wine. This is called a "light taint" in champagne. Champagne should therefore be stored in a cool place and as dark as possible. Cellars and vaults are best suited for this. However, a good wine cabinet will do just as well. An opened champagne bottle should be drunk as soon as possible. If the bottle is well secured against pressure loss, a well-chilled opened bottle can be kept for another 24 hours without losing quality.
What does the label of a champagne reveal?
From a label on a champagne bottle you can take all the important information. In this way, you always choose the perfect sparkling wine in the champagne store. As a minimum, the label contains data on the name of the brand and the manufacturer. In addition, on the champagne bottle label belongs the indication of the bottle content and the alcohol content. A real champagne bears, and is allowed to bear, the name "Champagne". In addition, other specifications may be noted on the label. For example, the dosage or a quality specification such as cuvée or réserve.
The most important brands
Who wants to buy a champagne, meets a variety of brands. These varieties usually belong to the few large cooperatives. Many smaller winemakers sell their grapes to these cooperatives. In recent times, young, modern winemakers are increasingly trying to produce their own brands again. The abbreviations of the cooperatives can be found on the label. The most important champagne houses include Bollinger, Drappier, Krug, Henriot, Marie Stuart and Vranken.
The champagne brands
When you browse the champagne store, you can be sure to buy real champagne. Not every sparkling wine or champagne, even other products that obviously have nothing to do with wine, may bear the illustrious name. Thus, a sparkling wine produced in Germany can never receive the name Champagne. What's more, the use of any expression reminiscent of the word is now forbidden and strictly reprimanded. Common, however, is the colloquial expression "Schampus". However, it refers equally and indiscriminately to sparkling wine, sparkling wine and champagne.
Yield and consumption
Due to the limited cultivation area, the annual yield remains quite stable. Just under 400 million bottles are newly bottled each year. If bottles in storage are added, there are currently about 1.5 billion bottles of Champagne. More than half of the bottles of champagne sold each year remain in France. In addition, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Italy are among the largest buyers worldwide. Total sales amount to about 4 billion euros.
Quality designation Cuvée
It pays to pay attention to the subtleties when buying a champagne. Despite all the manufacturer's conditions, there are significant differences in quality between the various types of champagne. Champagne Cuvée, for example, refers to the champagne made from the first must produced during pressing. This first pressing gives a pleasant, very mild taste. In comparison, the base wine, which has been pressed several times, is much more bitter. This juice is called Première Taille. It contains more tannin and is darker than the Cuvée. The Cuvée de Prestige is one of the noblest and most valuable champagnes.
Quality designation vintage champagne
Vintage Champagne is a sparkling wine produced exclusively from grapes of one year. The taste of such a vintage champagne can never be reproduced. Accordingly, it contains a unique taste. Unlike champagne, which is composed of different vintages, a vintage champagne must mature for at least three years. Only after this time the flavors have developed sufficiently. At the moment, vintage champagnes from the 1970s and 1980s are in high demand.
Quality designation vintage champagne
We have noted above that on the label of the champagne bottle is sometimes also the abbreviation of the producer. If it is the abbreviation RM, which stands for récoltant Manipulateur, it is the so-called Winzerchampagner. This abbreviation designates a champagne that has been produced only from the grapes of one winegrower. The small editions as well as the homogeneity of the so limited cultivation area produce top champagnes. As a rule, these are Grand Cru grapes that the winemakers harvest for a vintner's champagne. There are even vintner champagnes that produce very rare champagnes that are entirely without a dosage.
Quality designation reéserve
A champagne with the addition réserve is a popular quality certificate. Only champagnes made from the must of older vintages may receive this addition. These sparkling wines show a particularly mature and full aroma.
The restrictive, the limited quantity and the particular method of production make a champagne a unique drink. It is therefore suitable for the special moments in life and stands for luxury. Let the corks pop - best with a quality champagne from delicando.