Champagne – the embodiment of luxury and the French way of life
Champagne comes from a small region in Northern France which is no larger than 33 500 hectares and almost 150 kilometres long. Here, in the Champagne, a few thousand growers from 357 communities carefully tend the grapevines that provide the basis for the region's legendary French sparkling wine. The diverse conditions in each of the 20 sub-regions – or rather 6 large regions – give Champagne its unique character. The grapes used for Champagne production are approximately 38 to 34 percent red Pinot Noir (also known as Spätburgunder) and Pinot Meunier, as well as up to 28 percent white Chardonnay. Smaller percentages of the white grape varieties Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are also used.
How is Champagne made?
Although red grape varieties make up the bulk of production, you will generally buy Champagne that is white. After they are harvested, the red grapes are pressed as soon as possible in order to prevent the red colours in their skins to pass into the juice. The harvest also represents a very important quality characteristic in Champagne production: No more than 102 litres of juice may be pressed from 160 kg of grapes. The first and most valuable pressing, the cuvée, consists of no more than 82 litres, which are then used to make the very best Champagne. Less expensive Champagnes, often known as 'tradition' may contain base wines from the second and third pressings.
From Blanc de Blancs to Blanc de Noirs
The base wines are blended in the spring for their subsequent bottle fermentation. When you order Champagne for which only white grapes have been used, it is allowed to be called blanc de blancs. If the base wine consists of only red grapes varieties, then the Champagne is a rare blanc de noirs. You can buy affordable Champagne made up of base wines from two or more vintage years, which can be recognised by the lack of a stated vintage on the label.
The Méthode Champenoise - a matter of time
Champaggne sparkling wines produced with the méthode champenoise, which may only be used for bottle fermentation, time is the essence – lots of it. While a Sekt has to stay on the lees for six months, and a Crémant for nine months, 15 months are mandatory for a vintageless Champagne, and at least three years for a vintage Champagne.
After that, the bottles are riddled until the yeast collects in the bottleneck and produces a clot. This clot is then frozen, and when the bottle is opened, it is expelled. The loss of volume in the bottle is replaced with the dosage - the most carefully kept secret of every Champagne producer. It consists of sweet wines, a sugar solution, or sometimes even a very light Esprit de Cognac, which determines, among other factors, how much residual sugar you have when you buy Champagne.
Quality Classification of Champagne
Champagne is always a quality sparkling wine of controlled origin – an AOC. Its alcohol content is generally 12 volume percent, but it can be as high as 12.5 volume percent. In addition, the grapes must come from a reduced harvest of densely planted vines in order to increase quality, and the grapes must also be hand-picked for this sparkling wine speciality. A large portion of wines from older vintages also improves quality of Champagne - identifiable by the term 'réserve'. The additional specifications 'prestige' or 'spéciale' indicate the best Champagne from an individual producer.
The officially accepted quality categorisation amongst top Champagnes is based upon the price that the grapes from the individual communities fetch. If the price of the grapes from a community is equal to the highest price, then the Champagne made from them may call itself a Grand Cru. If the grapes fetch a price between 90 and 99 % of the maximum, you can buy Champagne online as a Premier Cru.
Tip and tricks for the perfect Champagne experience
How should Champagne be stored?
Ideally, Champagne bottles are stored upright in a dark place with a consistent temperature of 10 to 15 degrees Celsius. Champagne may also be stored in the refrigerator for a short period.
How long does Champagne keep?
Champagne has already gone through a long period of maturation when it lands on the shelves. It is completely mature at this time and, with extremely few exceptions, does not develop further. Nevertheless, an affordable Champagne may be kept for as long as three years when stored under ideal conditions. An excellent vintage Champagne can still be an incomparable pleasure even after ten years or more.
How long does an opened bottle of Champagne keep?
An opened bottle of Champagne does not keep. It really is that simple. Champagne has a much finer perlage than a Sekt or other sparkling wines, and this character disappears within a couple of hours. After that, you are left with a semi-sparkling wine in the bottle which can no longer be compared to the Champagne that was enjoyed right after it had been opened.
At which temperature should Champagne be best served?
The optimal drinking temperature for dry to semi-dry Champagne is between 7 and 9 degrees Celsius. An extra dry Champagne can be served right from the refrigerator in Champagne glasses, and rosé Champagne or sweet Champagne may be tempered to a good 10 degrees.
Foodpairing: What goes with Champagne?
Champagne asserts itself well with lightly poached fish in a mild sauce. The same holds true with oysters, caviar and lightly spiced seafood. It may also be served as an aperitif with light pâtés, Serrano ham or even Comté cheese with grapes or cherry tomatoes.
Buying Champagne Online from Vinello
Vinello is your specialty wine shop for every sparkling pleasure from Prosecco to Champagne. And when you buy Champagne from Vinello, you can even choose from between no less than 15 different payment methods. Unique to Vinello is that you also have the opportunity to buy on invoice - right from your very first order. We also offer you a 28-day money-back guarantee including the Vinello cork guarantee when you buy Champagne online from us. Fast delivery and individual service are a matter of course at Vinello.