I can’t think of a better way to ramp up for December than to explore the wines, region and history of Champagne. The truth is, I drink more bubbles and more often than just about all other styles of wine put together. Why? The modest alcohol (usually around 12-12.5%) enables me to enjoy a glass of bubbly with a wide range of food. In addition, the light carbonation inherent in a glass of sparkling wine is extremely refreshing and bright, and offers a kind of a “pick me up” if you will. Like an ice cold beer, a glass of bubbles is most often my wine of choice at the end of the day when I need to unwind.
Below you’ll find a primer and some key factoids on the region of Champagne and its most famous wine. Please read on!
A.O.C. granted: 1936
Location: Northeastern France a.k.a. the Ile de France or Paris Basin, 90 miles from NE of Paris.
Latitude: 49-50 degrees
Climate: Continental (cold winters, warm summers, moderate precipitation)
Soil: Predominantly Kimmeridgean chalk divided into 2 zones:
Upper Zone: Belemnite chalk (Tertiary Period-65 million to 2.588 million years)
Lower Zone: Micraster chalk (Cretaceous Period-145 to 65 million years)
Sub-regions: Aube, Cote des Blanc, Cote de Sezanne, Montage de Reims, Vallee de la Marne
Chief Hazards: Cold winters, Late spring frost, chlorosis,
Principal Varieties: Pinot Meunier 30%, Chardonnay 25%, Pinot Noir 45%
Authorized Varieties: Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Gris-Fromenteau, Gamay (include restrictions on re-planting)
Vine training/pruning: Taille Chablis, Cordon de Royat, Guyot, Valle de la Marne
Total area under vine: 33,500 hectares / 76,000 acres
Echelle de Cru: Grand Cru = 17 villages Premier Cru =39 villages
Winemaking: methode traditionelle
Minimum ageing requirements for non-vintage: 15 months
Minimum ageing requirements for vintage: 36 months
Styles: Non-vintage, Vintage, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Rose, Rouge (Bouzy), Single vineyard
- No Dosage / Brut Zéro (less than 3 grams of sugar per liter)
- Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of sugar per liter)
- Brut (less than 15 grams of sugar per liter)
- Extra Sec or Extra Dry (12 to 20 grams of sugar per liter)
- Sec (17 to 35 grams of sugar per liter)
- Demi-sec (33 to 50 grams of sugar per liter)
- Doux (more than 50 grams of sugar per liter)
This entire month I will dive into more specifics, including the geography, winemaking, viticulture, wine styles and reviews of Champagne. More to come..