The Basics of Bubbly
has a unique story to tell. It is the result of a special
culmination of the French Champagne region's climate, soil,
and strict regulations that govern every step of the production
process to ensure the highest quality in the world. This
focus on quality is integral to its success and the importance
consumers and connoisseurs place on a bottle of Champagne.
Whether you focus on rating wines, informing others about
its people and production, or the food that goes so well
with Champagne, we are here to help you tell that story.
Champagne Varieties & Pairing Suggestions
One of the beauties of Champagne is the remarkable diversity
of styles that come from such a small corner of the world.
Each style and type of Champagne is designed to please the
various preferences in taste. The primary types of Champagne
include Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé.
de blanc means "white from white" — or white
Champagne from a white grape. By law, blanc de blancs can
only be made from a single grape variety, Chardonnay.
While it is somewhat counterintuitive to make Champagne
from a single kind of grape, blanc de blancs have become
very popular as an apértif due to their light, dry
taste. They are also ideal for light first courses including
seafood and soups.
de noirs are white Champagnes made only from the black grape
varieties of Pinot
Noir and Pinot Meunier. Typically, these sparking wines
are full-bodied and deeper yellow-gold in color. They are
ideal for full-flavored foods, including meats and cheeses.
or rosé Champagnes are produced by one of two methods.
The traditional method involves the addition of a small
amount of Pinot Noir still wine to the base wine or cuvée
prior to the second fermentation. The maceration method,
or skin contact method, involves the pressing of the grape
skins, allowing them to soak with the juice of the grapes
prior to fermentation. While the popularity of rosé
Champagnes comes and goes, rosé undoubtedly brings
a special element of romance because of its romantic hue.
vs. Non-Vintage Champagne
(or sans Année Champagne) accounts for 85 to 90 per cent
of all Champagne produced and it is less expensive than
those produced in a Vintage year. It is designated as non-Vintage
because it is composed of several different vintages, rather
than from a single harvest. Each year, all Champagne producers
must set aside at least 20 per cent of their wine for use
in future non-Vintage Champagne. Because this was the only
type of Champagne sold for the first 150 years of Champagne
production, it is typically referred to as "Classic
Vintage Champagne is one in which all grapes used have been
harvested from a single year. There is no law governing
when a year is vintage. Instead, each house decides for
itself whether it will produce a Vintage Champagne in any
given year. In a good year, no more than 10 to 15 per cent
of the total Champagne made is Vintage Champagne. According
to regulations, Vintage Champagne must be aged for at least
of Champagne Producers
bottle of Champagne has to carry an indication of the status
of the producer and the brand owner. The various types are
NM Négociant Manipulant: A firm or person
that buys grapes, juice or wine and completes its production
on the premises.
Récoltant Manipulant: A firm or person that
produces wine on his own premises exclusively from grapes
he has grown.
Récoltant Coopérateur: A grower who
gives her grapes to a co-operative and takes back the wine
at any stage of the production and sells it.
Coopérative de Manipulation: A co-operative
which vinifies and sells wine from grapes supplied by its
Société de Récoltants: A family
business which produces wines from grapes harvested exclusively
by members of the family.
Négociant Distributeur: A merchant who buys
finished wines and labels them in its own premises.
Marque d'Acheteur: Buyer's Own Brand (BOB) The
wine is made and labeled in Champagne, the name of the
producer appears on the bottle but the brand name belongs
to a client (wholesale buyer, supermarket, restaurant, VIP,
Tips for Storing and Chilling Champagne
Storing your Champagne: Champagne is more
sensitive to temperature and light than most other wines.
For that reason, it is typically bottled in a light-resistant,
dark green glass. Champagne should be stored between 40
and 60 degrees Fahrenheit and may be kept upright or horizontally.
Chilling: Ideally, Champagne should be chilled to a temperature between
40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature can be attained
by placing the bottle in a refrigerator for a couple of
hours or a freezer for 15 minutes. Finally, the classic
way to chill a bottle of Champagne is to place it in an
ice-bucket, half filled with ice, half with water, for 20
a Champagne Bottle: The trick to opening a bottle of
Champagne while maintaining its integrity is to avoid "popping"
the cork. Begin by scoring the foil around the base of the
wire cage. Then, carefully untwist and loosen the bottom
of the cage, but do not remove it. In one hand, enclose
the cage and cork while holding the base of the Champagne
bottle with your other hand. Twist both ends in the opposite
direction. As soon as you feel pressure forcing the cork
out, try to push it back in while continuing to twist gently
until the cork is released with a sigh.
Article courtesy of the Office
of Champagne USA / Image courtesy of Jean-Philippe/SIPA PRESS BALTEL, Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne
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