The ultimate champagne guide/everything want to know about champagne

champagne is french sparkling wine the champagne term comes from the champagne region where it is produced. it is produced under the rules of the appellation. champagne is produced from some specific types of grapes grown in the champagne region of France. 

This northwest french territory has chalk and limestone-rich soil that gives the grapes there a higher acidity. This, in turn, gives Champagne its fizz or slight effervescence with lower alcohol content.

glass of champagne

The type of grapes used in the production of champagne are
pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, and chardonnay, these are the three main grapes are used to produce almost all champagne.

The black grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier provide a fruity flavor and body to the wine. On the other hand, the white grape, Chardonnay, contributes fineness and elegance to the wine.

Champagne is mostly made up of black grapes, although the final product is crystal clear and sparkling white wine. It is expensive as it takes three to seven years to produce a bottle of champagne.

Méthode Champenoise is used to make champagne by which it gains its fizz. The champagne region is located in northeast France.


Romans were the first known inhabitants to plant a vineyard in the champagne region of France. The champagne name came from the Latin word Campania, 


In this guide you will learn --
 

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The production of champagne

This is the most complicated process of making sparkling wines and is followed in the champagne region of France. The best sparkling wine of this region is champagne, which is made by the method Méthod Champenoise. It is the traditional method of making champagne which is made according to Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne regulation.

The production of champagne involves two stages -- primary fermentation and secondary fermentation.

Primary fermentation

Pressing the grapes
Pressing: The grapes are harvested at the correct ripeness and pressed quickly. The freshly pressed juice is separated from the skin immediately, so as to avoid the must from taking the color of the skin.


First fermentation:  The first fermentation occurs in a wooden vat. Up to racking and fining, the method followed is similar to that involved in the making of white wine.
  
Blending:  After fining, the clear wine is blended with wines from different vineyards of the champagne region, in varying proportions, to achieve the desire balance of flavors and acidity. Blending is the most critical phase in any winemaking,   
blending champagne
Stainless steel container for wine blending

Liquer de tirage:
  A small amount of cane sugar and yeast in old wine, term as liquer de tirage, is added to the wine to introduce secondary fermentation. the wine is then bottled and sealed with a good quality cork. Then they are stacked one above the other in a cellar
 
The bottles are stacked after Liquer de tirage


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Secondary fermentation

Second fermentation stats in the bottle about six weeks after bottling. Bottles are stored horizontally for the second fermentation. Champagne requires fifteen months to develop completely and this is best carried out at 10-10℃. 

The yeast turns the sugar into alcohol and gives off  CO2 which dissolves into the wine. It produces a stream of bubbles known as mousse. The gas exerts an extremely high pressure in bottles. Therefore, the bottle must be strong enough to resist the pressure.


Riddling (Remuage):  The lees must be consolidated for removal after aging. The bottles go through a process called Remuage. In this stage bottles are placed in special racks with oval holes with their neck, tilted slightly downward at a 45-degree angle. these racks are term as pupitre.
Riddling (Remuage)

The specialist worker, called Remueur. give a slight shake of the bottle by grasping its bottom. After every shake, the bottles are placed at a slightly higher angle in the Pupitre. This process is done by hand taking several months.

This happens to each bottle every three days, for about six weeks, till the bottles stand vertically with the neck downward, term as sur le pointe. This position is left for one or several years for slow ageing.

The purpose of the Remueur process is to collect the sediments in the cock.


Disgorging (Degorgement):  
It is the process of removing the sediment and dead yeast from the bottle which has collected the cork. The bottleneck is dipped in a freezing brine solution, which freezes a small amount of wine in the cork containing the sediments. The pressure inside the bottle expels the ice with the sediments when the cap is removed.

Dosage: The champagne which was lost during Degorgement is replaced with still wine and cane sugar solution term as Liqueur d’ expedition. The amount of sugar added determines the degree of sweetness in the final product. Generally, sugar is added to balance the high acidity of the champagne, rather than to produce the sweet taste
Dosage
Dosage by machine


Re-corking: After the addition of dosage, the permanent cork is forced in and secured with agraffe

Shaking: The bottles are given a final shake-up, either manually or mechanically to ensure even distribution of dosage.

Bottle ageing: Wine is rested for four to six months to allow it to settle. Non-vintage Champagne must age in the bottle for a minimum of 15 months and a vintage champagne age for 36 months. although some prefer the freshness and vitality of young, recently disgorged Champagne, and others prefer some flavors that develop from years or more of bottle ageing.


Packing and shipping: Finally, the wine bottles are cleaned, labeled, and dispatched.


The sweetness level of champagne

Different sweetness levels, derived from the amount of sugar added during dosage. The following terms are used to denote the sweetness on champagne levels.

Brut, Nature:       Very dry, a little amount of sweetness is added to removed complete dryness

Extra sec:            Dry champagne (1-2% sugar)

sec:                      Medium-dry (2-4% sugar)

Demi-sec:            Medium sweet (4-6% sugar)

Demi-doux:          Sweet (6-8% sugar)

Doux:                    Rich, very sweet (8% and above sugar)




champagne vs sparling wine

Champagne

  • All champagne is sparkling wine but all sparkling wine is not champagne, 
  • By law, all Champagne must come from the Champagne region of northern France.
  • Only seven stipulated varieties of grapes must be present in the blend. 
  • Champagnes are more expensive as compared to other sparkling wines. 
  • Méthode Champenoise is used to make champagne

Sparkling wine

  • Sparkling wine is not held to very stringent regulations. 
  • It may comprise several grape varieties, with wide-ranging flavors and styles.
  • Sparkling wines are also less expensive as compared to Champagne  
  • Champagne comes from anywhere in the wine-making world.
  • cava is a sparkling wine from Spain and Prosecco sparkling wine from Italy.


Why Champagne is so expensive?


There is a number of reasons why champagne is so expensive. It often cost double the price of other sparkling wine. The grapes are used to produce champagne are harvested by hand as machines are forbidden by law this impacts cost. 


Northern France's variable conditions are the first factor for elevated prices. freezing weather continental front makes the winemaking process more difficult than other dependable ecosystems which increases the grape price.

Champagne is produced via the méthode champenoise, where the wine undergoes primary fermentation in oak or stainless-steel vats and secondary fermentation inside the bottle. this process requires hundreds of hours of manual labor, and years of aging before bottles can be released.


Opening the champagne bottle 

opening the champagne bottle
Champagne bottles should be open very carefully, to reduce the risk of spilling out the top of the bottle or spraying any Champagne. to open properly, the pressure inside the bottle needs to be handled with care. 
The champagne wine should be properly chilled around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is not chilled enough the pressure inside the bottle will cause the cork to release very quickly.

  • Using a Wine Key Cut off the Foil Below the Large Lip of the Bottle.
  • Fold a napkin or kitchen towel lengthwise and put it over the cage and the cork.
  • Hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle and untwist the cage counterclockwise. 
  • putting pressure on the cork loosen the cage all the way around the bottle.
  • Once the cage is loosened, begin to extract the cork by keeping the pressure around the cork and twisting the bottle.
  • Once the bottle starts to loosen from the cork, begin to slowly pull the cork away from the bottle.
  • Do this until the pressure of the bottle begins to push the cork out naturally.
  • Once the cork is removed, wipe the lip of the bottle quickly and then serve it.

Read the complete guide How to Open a Bottle of Champagne the Right Way

Pouring a glass of Champagne

Pouring champagne is an art. Pouring sparkling wine while tilting the glass at an angle and gently sliding in the liquid along the side will preserve the most bubbles, as opposed to pouring directly down to create a lot of bubbles. 

The best glasses for drinking champagne are:  champagne tulips, champagne flutes, and coupes. The shape of these glasses allows the champagne bubbles to accumulate and the aroma to maintain the aroma.

  • Hold the glass by the stem at a 45-degree angle towards the champagne bottle.
  • Put your thumb into the punt with spread your fingers around the bottom of the bottle.
  • Open the champagne bottle and slowly begin pouring downside of the glass with your glass 45-degree angle
  • Pour a slowly small amount of champagne into the glass and wait to let the white foam diminish.
  • Do not fill the glass more than two-thirds, so as to be able to inhale the aromas.
            
Also, read the complete guide How to Pour a Glass of Champagne with image

Types of champagne

Vintage champagne

It is the wine of a single year and is permitted to add up to 20 percent of the wine from another vintage if this can benefit and balance the wine.

Dom Perignon is a most popular vintage champagne

a bottle of pink champagne
Pink champagne

It is made either by allowing the skins of black grapes to remain in contact with the must to tint it or by blending a little bit of the red wine of certain champagne villages. 


Blanc de blancs

It is made from white grapes only and sometimes may even be labeled as Blanc de chardonnay.


Blanc de noirs 

It is made from black grapes only. This is very rare outside the region.


Cremant 

These wines have a little less fizz than ordinary champagne. They have about two atmospheres, whereas a complete sparkling wine has about four to six atmospheres of pressure behind the cork.


Deluxe champagne

These are the wines that each establishment considers the best. They may be vintage, non-vintage, blanc de blanc, etc. Some come from very fine vineyards. Dom Perignon is the most famous one.


more:  Types of wine 


Champagne producer

There are many producers involved in the making of champagne. The type of champagne producer can be identified from the abbreviations followed by the official number given on the bottle.

MN: Negociant manipulant:  It means that the merchant or producer buys grapes from other sources besides his own, and makes the wine.

CM Cooperative de manipulant: It is a cooperative of growers who blend the product of their collective vineyards to sell under one or more brands. In this situation, the individual grower may have some involvement in the winemaking process.

RM Recoltant manipulate: (Also known as Grower Champagne) It refers to a grower who makes wine from his own grape

SR: Societe de recoltants: It refers to an association of growers who are not cooperative, making shared champagne.

RC: Recoltant cooperateur: It is a cooperative member selling Champagne produced by the cooperative under its own name and label.

MA: Marque auxiliaire or Marque d' acheteur: A brand name unrelated to the producer or grower, the name is owned by someone else, for example, a supermarket.

ND: Negociant distributeur:  It is a wine merchant selling under his own name.                 


Best Champagne brand

  • Ayala
  • Charles Heidsieck
  • Moet et Chandon
  • Heidsieck Dry Monopole
  • Bollinger
  • Krug
  • G.H Mumm
  • Taittinger
  • Canard Duchene
  • Lanson
  • Joseph Perrier
  • Geoge Goulet
  • Mercier
  • Pommery
  • Pol Roger Brut Champagne
  • Dom perignon



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