Wine-growing region Champagne
Champagne is the northernmost wine-growing region of France and extends from the Marne valley and the Montagne de Reims to the Île de France. The continental climate, tempered by Atlantic influence, and the chalky and calcareous soils provide ideal conditions for the classic Champagne grape varieties.
The wine styles of Champagne
With three percent of the French vineyard area, the region is one of the smaller wine-growing areas in the country. Around 320 crus (sites) with more than 275,000 parcels of land produce an incredible variety of delicious sparkling wines - from the elegant Champagne Extra Brut (Champagne Irroy) to the fruity and balanced Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru (Champagne Lallier) and the multiple award-winning vintage champagne Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2007, a top product of the Taittinger House. Here are a number of criteria that you can consult when selecting a champagne:
Year cuvée or vintage:
Non-vintage champagnes (without vintage; usually marked as NV on the label) reflect the style of a champagne house even in the long term. On the other hand, a Champagne millésimé (also called vintage or vintage champagne) characterizes a specific harvest year.
Grape varieties: Cuvée or pure
Most champagnes are cuvées of two or three grape varieties. The red varieties Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and the white Chardonnay occupy almost the entire cultivated area. A Blanc de Blancs, on the other hand, consists of pure Chardonnay, while Blanc de Noirs is produced only from red grapes.
Colour: white or rosé
In Champagne, grapes are harvested exclusively by hand - a process that allows for pre-selection and prevents the skins of red berries from bursting and mixing with the pale flesh during harvesting. In this way, dark grapes can be turned into light golden to intense yellow shimmering base wines. There are two processes for the production of rosé champagne (see below).
Dosage: from Brut nature to Doux
The final stage of the champagne production is the dosage, i.e. the addition of a cane sugar solution in equivalent wine, which modifies the strong acidity of the fresh champagne. For high-quality champagne, a carefully selected sweet reserve wine (Réserve), often stored for several decades, is often used instead of the sugar solution, which gives the sparkling wine its final touch. The dosage for Champagne "Brut Zéro" or "Nature" does not contain any additional sugar; the loss of liquid during disgorging is compensated with dry still wine. For the "Doux" sweetness level, up to 50 grams of sugar solution per litre may be added.
The climate of the Champagne - perfect for slow maturing
Thanks to its location in the north-east of France, relatively close to the English Channel, Champagne has a complex mix of continental climate and oceanic influences. Maritime air currents regularly provide the AOC with sufficient precipitation and largely compensate for the extreme continental temperature fluctuations. The cool climate favours the slow growth of the grape varieties Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier ( Black Riesling) and Chardonnay, which are mainly cultivated here.
Slopes with calcareous soils for drainage, water storage and subtle minerality
The vines on the predominantly south-, south-east- and east-facing slopes of the Paris Basin benefit from uniform and optimally dosed sunlight. Chalk soils of fossil micro-organisms, partly interspersed with marl, clay and sand, form the base of the larger growing areas Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims and Vallée de la Marne. Like a sponge, chalk absorbs water from the surface and stores it as a natural reservoir. Even during the long, hot drought of 2019, the vines of Champagne were "fully in their sap".
Interesting facts about the Champagne
What is the reason for the division into Grands Crus, Premier Crus and other locations?
More than 300 wine-growing communes belong to the AOC Champagne. 17 of these are entitled to bear the designation "Grand Cru", another 43 are "Premiers Crus". All others rank as "terroir non classé". Grapes from places that do not belong to any of these groups are not allowed to be used in the production of Champagne. Relevant criteria for classification include terroir (location, soil characteristics, climate, planting, viticulture and grape harvest) and technical factors (pressing, vinification, labelling).
Who invented champagne?
The first well-meaning mentions of sparkling wines date back to the 13th century. Champagne, as we enjoy it today, was created in many individual steps over several centuries. Some pioneers in the development of the "Méthode champenoise":
- Christopher Merret (1614 - 1695), an English doctor and inventor, presented the first recipe for the controlled production of sparkling wines to the Royal Society in London in 1662.
- The Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon (1638-1715) perfected the assemblage by adding red grapes to the white varieties used exclusively at the time.
- The secret of the optimal amount of sugar in the dosage was discovered by the pharmacist Jean-Baptiste François (1792-1838).
- Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (née Ponsardin; 1777 - 1866), took over her husband's business as a young widow and was the first woman to run a champagne house. Veuve ("widow") Cliquot transformed delicious but until then cloudy sparkling wine into a beverage of noble clarity by developing the "Méthode classique" - the shaking and disgorging of bottles to remove the yeast sediment from the wine.
How is Rosé Champagne made?
Both white and red grape varieties used for champagne have naturally colourless pulp. The more or less intense colour of a red wine is due to colour pigments that come off the grape skins during fermentation and colour the must. In the production of white champagne, manual harvesting, rapid but gentle pressing and rapid draining of the must prevent colour pigments from bleeding out of the skins of dark grapes and colouring the base wine red.
Rosé champagnes owe their delicate colour nuances to one of two approved methods: either some red wine is added during the assemblage, or a small proportion of the skins of Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier remain in contact with the must during fermentation, giving the base wine a rosé tone.
Discover wines from Champagne online on VINELLO
Enjoy top wines from the Champagne region at reasonable prices from our online shop. At VINELLO you will find a representative selection of the winegrowers and wineries from Champagne. With us you can shop safely and look forward to a fast delivery of your order. We also offer a variety of payment options from which you can choose your preferred method.
Another advantage with VINELLO: Our sommeliers are available by telephone for detailed advice to introduce you to the world of Champagne wines. This makes it easier and quicker for you to find your favourites, whether for a special occasion, an evening with friends or for your own private enjoyment.