by Sommelier Robin Obert
This month we are going to delve a bit into Champagne. A delicious and exciting treat that (in my opinion) is welcome anytime! All Champagne is sparkling but, not all sparkling is Champagne.
“Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes, the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of Champagne in the fridge.” – Hester Browne
For the beverage to be called Champagne there are two criteria that must be met. First, the grapes must be grown and the wine produced in a legally defined region in Northern France. Secondly, the method in which Champagne is developed must be a double fermentation. The second fermentation must take place in the bottle in which it will remain for distribution. This method is referred to as method champenoise or method traditionelle.
The traditional grapes used to produce Champagne are Blanc de blanc (white on white) which is a Chardonnay grape that adds a brightness and sophistication to the wine. Pinot Noir know to add structure and body. And finally, Pinot Meunier which is used to round off the wine with a beautiful fruitiness and aroma.
In early times Champagne was actually a still wine, not at all like it is today. It wasn’t until a French monk by the name of Dom Perignon developed the process of a second fermentation which made it into sparkling.
The formal development of vineyards began in the Champagne region in the 5th century. The sparkling wine industry was developed in the 1700’s. Ruinart developed the first Champagne house. In 1743 Claude Moet established what is now considered the largest Champagne house today!
Sparkling wines and Champagnes are either vintage or non-vintage (NV). Non-vintage wines are blended with various vintages of grapes (up to two or three different vintages). These wines do not benefit from cellaring. Vintage wines are produced from an exceptional (single) vintage harvest. Few and far between, a very luxurious indulgence, to develop complexity these wines benefit by cellaring.