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Learn more about Champagne

How Champagne is made 

In 1668, in the village of Hautvillers, the monk turned cellar master, Dom Pérignon, is said to have discovered how to make sparkling wine; while the same technique is used all over the world today, the region of Champagne continues to make some of the finest.

So what makes wine sparkle? Adding a solution of sugar and yeast to a white wine starts another fermentation in the bottle which results in the bubbles. Once the yeasts have done their job, a sediment known as ‘lees’ collects on the side of the bottle; contact with this deposit during maturation gives the wine its characteristic flavours of freshly-baked bread, toast and biscuit. Once this sediment is isolated (remuage) and removed (dégorgement), the Champagne is topped up with a sugar solution to make it dry or sweet.

The Champagne Wine Region

Champagne is the most northerly wine region in France and is situated north-east of Paris. There are three main vineyard areas: Côte des Blancs, Vallée de la Marne and Montagne de Reims.
 
Ripeness of the grapes is often a problem, which is one reason why a blend of grape varieties is usually used: the white Chardonnay to give fruit and elegance, and two reds – Pinot Noir (particularly to provide a ‘backbone’) and Pinot Meunier.

In Champagne there are around 15,000 growers and 290 Champagne houses. Traditionally, growers have sold their grapes to the Champagne houses which account for 70 percent of production and 90 percent of exports. Recently, increasing numbers of growers are making growers’ Champagnes themselves, using their own grapes.

  • Champagne Styles
  • A Champagne Blanc de Blancs blends only the white grapes of Chardonnay.
  • A Champagne Blanc de Noirs blends only the black grapes of Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier.
    • Dosage:
        • The term "brut", which names more than 90% of Champagne wines, refers to a dosage. It is simply the particularity that Champagne acquires at the end of its vinification, when the dosage is carried out, i.e. the addition of a sweet touch necessary for the perfect expression of the aromas.This sweet touch, which differs from one wine to another, makes it possible to establish a scale from the least sweet to the sweetest Champagne, i.e. from natural raw to raw, dry and semi-dry.
        • The dosage liquor, also known as "expedition liquor", is most often composed of cane sugar dissolved in wine at a rate of 500 to 750 g/l. The quantity of liquor used for the dosage depends on the type of wine that is to be obtained:
          • Doux means sweet, more than 50 grams of sugar per litre
          • Demi-sec means half dry, between 32 and 50 grams of sugar per litre
          • Sec means dry, between 17 and 32 grams of sugar per litre
          • Extra Dy, between 12 and 17 grams of sugar per litre
          • Brut, less than 12 grams of sugar per litre
          • Extra-Brut, between 0 and 6 grams of sugar per litre. For a content of less than 3 grams and if the wine has not been subjected to any addition of sugar, the words 'brut nature','pas dosé' or 'zero dosage' may be used.
        • Process for the vinification of bleeding rosé champagne The vinification is done in red from red grapes. After a short maceration of 4 to 30 hours, the vat is "bled", so part of the must is extracted. Very few champagne houses use this vinification method, which requires a high quality of grapes and a real mastery of the process because the current trend is more towards light rosé wines, which is not the case with the often darker bleeding rosé.
        • Non Millésimé = None Vintage In Champagne, the tradition is to blend wines that are several years old. During blending, the winemaker creates the harmony that corresponds to his vision of Champagne thanks to the diversity of the wines at his disposal: diversity of wines, grape varieties but also of years. The so-called "non-vintage" blend thus allows the expression and perpetuation of a style specific to a brand..
        • Millésime = Vintage Sometimes, the blended wines are made from a single year, known as a "vintage". The choice to vintage your wine belongs to the winemaker alone if he decides that the typicality of the harvest deserves to be magnified. A vintage Champagne will therefore always be a wine of character marked by its year.
        • AgeingAll Champagne wines blossom for a minimum of 15 months in the cellars of their producers. It takes three years for vintage wines and much longer for special vintages. Because time allows to enrich the aromas of the wine.

         

        See the Champagne aroma guide



         Source: Champagne.fr