Champagne

When we think of Champagne, glamour, luxury and elegance come to mind. Those golden bubbles that have become the product par excellence for the elite, are usually associated with celebrations and success. But do you know where this precious drink comes from? Let us explain it to you.

champagne

First of all, we should talk about location. The vineyards for Champagne are the ones located more to the north of France as a whole, about 150km from Paris. A cold climate. With continental and Atlantic influences, with possible frosts in winter and spring, a fair amount of sunshine, regular low temperatures and abundant rainfall. The soils mix clays and limestones, marls and chalks in different proportions, and are optimal for cultivating the vine.

The varieties authorised by Apellation de Origin Controlée, which ensures the quality and reputation of local wines, are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane and Petit Meslier.

In addition, the viticulturers and producers have to abide by strict regulations that regulate the vineyard management, the plantation density, the yields of grapes per hectare and of must per kg of grapes … Although among so many restrictions there lurks a curiosity: it is permitted to mix vintages and to mix red wine with white to make rosé.

Champagne has been the land of wines since Roman times, although sparkling wines have not always been produced in the area. It was in the mid-seventeenth century when the wine began to be bottled a little before finishing the fermentation, in order to better preserve its fruity aromas and freshness. Fermentation would often continue inside the bottle and, because of the carbon that was accumulating, many of them would burst or their corks would pop.
This resulting wine, with a little bubble, delighted the English, so the French looked for ways to control and perfect the fermentation in the bottle.
And this is where one of the most universally associated names in Champagne enters the scene: Dom Pérignon. This Benedictine monk proposed a series of measures that would help improve the quality of Champagne. Measures that nowadays are very evident to us, but that at the time were an authentic revolution: to select the grape better, to hold the cork in with a metallic staple so that it couldn’t pop out, or to use thicker glass bottles to prevent them from exploding.

And how has the production method from that distant 17th century evolved up to the present? Well in essence it remains the same. Fermentation carried out in the bottle, releasing CO2 that turns into bubbles.
To achieve this, fermentation is first carried out at a low temperature to extract and preserve the fresh and fruity aromas of the grape. From this the so-called base wine is obtained.  A second fermentation is then carried out in the bottle. The liqueur d’expedition and yeasts are added to the wine, and it is subsequently bottled.
The liqueur d’expedition is basically must that is added to the base wine to ferment under the action of the yeasts inside the bottle. This second fermentation is what causes the sparkling bubble but also produces certain sediments, basically lees or dead yeasts. To eliminate the lees the bottles are placed tilted in pupitres. and they are turned and tilted more and more so that the sediments accumulate at the stopper. The time the wine remains on its lees, ageing in stacks, will determine to a large extent the quality of the Champagne. The longer the time in stacks, the creamier it will be, and the finer and more integrated the bubble. And the more pleasant and precious the sparkling wine will be.

Lastly, the disgorgement or dégorgement is carried out, the elimination of the sediments resulting from the second fermentation. The necks of the bottles are frozen at -20 ºC, then the bottle is uncorked and the pressure of the accumulated carbon gas expels the sediments frozen in the neck. Lastly the bottle is filled with the same Champagne if a Brut Nature is being made, or with liqueur d’expedition if the aim is to endow it with the desired sweetness to make a Champagne Brut, Demi-sec, etc.

But where does Champagne’s fame come from? Apart from being a great product andtaking maximum care of its preparation, it has to be said that marketing has also contributed greatly to the universal success of this precious sparkling wine.
One of the first actions related to Champagne was to associate this drink with sporting successes. A bottle of Champagne was awarded to the winner of the Beijing-Paris car race held in 1907. Then came Formula 1 and motorcycle races, and in this way champagne was forever associated with celebrations and successes in the collective imagination.

Nowadays there is hardly a celebration in the whole world that does not include a good Champagne

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