Wednesday, October 17, 2012

3rd Annual Champagne Day on October 26th, 2012, France

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller Having a Glass of Champagne in Reims, France

The 3rd Annual Champagne Day on October 26th, 2012 is coming up on October 26th, 2012. All you have to do to participate is get some Champagne in your glass on October 26th 2012 and share your photos, tasting notes, experiences or videos on any social media site. Be sure to add the #ChampagneDay hashtag, so your friends from around the globe can share in the fun.

You'll be able to search what other wine lovers are sharing by searching posts using tools like Tweetdeck, Google,, or to name a few.  This is a global event set to run 24 hours in order to give everyone time to share a glass when it makes sense in their time zone.

To get going, here is a short introduction to Champagne.

Champagne – An Introduction


Champagne is the name of the world’s most famous sparkling wine. It is also the wine region in France from which Champagne comes and an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée according to French Law.

Picture: The Wine Regions of France

The Champagne region lies at the northern edge of the world’s vineyard-growing areas. So, Champagne’s grapes bear the hallmark acidity of a cool climate region. In 1927, the viticultural boundaries of Champagne were legally defined and split into five wine producing districts - The Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The Champagne area covers 33,500 hectares of vineyards around 319 villages that are home to 100 Champagne Houses that buy grapes and make their own Champagne, 5,000 growers who grow grapes and  make their own wine and 14,000 growers who only sell grapes. The region is set to expand to include 359 villages in the near future.

Pictures: Ambonnay in the Montagne de Reims region. Grapes from Ambonnay are the source of Krug's Clos d'Ambonnay Champagne. This single vineyard Champagne is the rarest (and most expensive) in the world. Produced from 1 1/2 acres of Pinot Noir, only 3000 bottles are made from 11 tiny 200 liter Krug casks. The Clos has been around since the year 1700, and the Krug family has been getting the grapes from here for three generations. In 1994 they bought the vineyard and changed the pruning methods and made their first single vineyard wine from the Clos the following year- the 1995, which currently sells for $ 2500.

Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay are the primary grape varieties used to make Champagne.  Champagne may be either Blanc de Noirs (made from red grapes), Blanc de Blancs (made from white grapes, most often Chardonnay - A famous example is Ruinart) or Rose, either by adding red wine to a white blend or sometimes by fermenting the juice in contact with the skins.

Champagne comes with varying degrees of sweetness, due to the addition of a dosage just before the wine is finally bottled. The most common is brut, although throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century Champagne was generally much sweeter than it is today.The sweetest level is doux and then, in increasing dryness, demi-sec, sec (dry), extra sec, brut (less than 12 grams of sugar per litre), extra brut ((less than 6 grams of sugar per litre), brut nature/brut zero/ultra brut (less than 3 grams of sugar per litre).

Typically, Champagne is made of still wine from several vintages (non-vintage, NV). Champagne's AOC regulations further require that NV Champagne cannot legally be sold until it has aged on the lees in the bottle for at least 15 months and  vintage Champagne be aged for three years. Most top producers exceed the requirement for vintage Champagne, holding bottles on the lees for 6 to 8 years.

EU law and the laws of most countries reserve the term "Champagne" exclusively for wines that come from the Champagne region.

Champagne also makes still wines: Rose des Riceys and Coteaux Champenois, typically high in natural acidity.

Méthode Champenoise

Méthode Champenoise is the (traditional) method by which Champagne is produced: After primary fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by the addition of yeast and sugars. It is this that generates the carbon dioxide bubbles responsible for the pop and sparkle that are the symbols of Champagne.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller Having a Glass of Champagne in London: The Amazing Champagnes of the St. Pancras Grand Champagne Bar in London – But no English or Other Sparklers

After aging, the bottle is manipulated, either manually or mechanically, in a process called remuage, so that the lees settle in the neck of the bottle. After chilling the bottles, the neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide in solution. Some syrup (le dosage) is added to achieve the desired level of sweetness in the Champagne.


The remuage technique was invented by Veuve Clicquot and her German cellar master Anton Mueller.They revolutionized sparkling wine drinking. Until the beginning of the 1800s, the appearance of Champagne was marred by the lees, the sediment of dead yeast cells that remained suspended in the wine following the secondary fermentation in the bottle. In consuming a bottle of Champagne it was thus necessary to either decant the sparkling wine before serving it or to leave it in the glass for some time so the sediment could settle before drinking the Champagne. The remuage technique put an end to that. See: "German Wine Makers in the World: Anton Mueller Invented the Remuage Technique Revolutionizing Sparkling Wine Drinking, 1800s, France"

Picture: Lunch with Champagne in the Champagne - Bordeaux Trip September 2012, France

Types of Champagne

The type of Champagne producer can be identified from the abbreviations followed by the official number on the bottle:

NM: Négociant manipulant. These companies (including the majority of the larger brands, such as: Ayala, Billecart-Salmon, Bollinger, Canard-Duchêne, Deutz, Heidsieck & Co., Henriot, Krug, Lanson, Laurent-Perrier, Moët et Chandon, Mumm, Perrier-Jouët, Joseph Perrier, Piper Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Pommery, Louis Roederer, Ruinart, Salon, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot) buy grapes (hence négociant) and make Champagne themselves (hence manipulant).

CM: Coopérative de manipulation. Cooperatives that make Champagne from the growers who are members, with all the grapes pooled together.

RM: Récoltant manipulant. (Also known as Grower Champagne) A grower that makes Champagne from its own grapes.

RC: Récoltant coopérateur. A co-operative member selling Champagne produced by the co-operative under his or her own name and label.

SR: Société de récoltants. An association of growers making a shared Champagne but who are not a co-operative.

ND: Négociant-Distributeur. A wine merchant selling Champagne under his own name, but not producing it.

MA: Marque auxiliaire or Marque d'acheteur. Increasingly common, such wines are essentially own-brand Champagnes, bottled for specific retailers under a specific label (usually owned by the retailer), usually produced by a co-operative.


Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the French Court. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power in the 17th, 18th and 19th century.

The Ruinart Champagne House was the first Champagne House founded in 1729, soon followed by Taittinger (1734), Moët et Chandon (1743), Veuve Clicquot (1772) and others.

Pictures: Taittinger in Reims

Sparkling wine houses sprung up all over Europe in the 1800s. In Germany, Kessler, was the first Sekt house, founded in 1826 by Georg Kessler, who had worked for Veuve Clicqot. Fürst von Metternich started to produce Sekt in a beautiful castle overlooking the Rhein river in the Rheingau. Von Metternich received the castle from the Austrian Emperor Franz I in 1816 as a gift for his skillful negotiations as his Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Vienna congress (1814 -15). In Austria, the German Robert Schlumberger moved from the Champagne region with his future wife to Vienna and established in 1842 a Sekt House there. Schlumberger was born in Germany, worked in Reims in a Champagne house and married an Austrian, who brought him to the capital of Austria. There, he rose quickly and became the “father” of the Austrian Sekt industry - see: German Wine Makers in the World: Robert Alwin Schlumberger--the Father of Austrian Sekt (Austria)

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