CHAMPAGNE STYLES: THE MOST FAMOUS BUBBLES
Practical outcome: what will you know
what means Grand Cru in general and in Champagne in particular
what styles of Champagne are there
how to understand which style fits you the best
I decided to start the blog with Champagne. To celebrate the beginning, so to speak.
All in all sparkling wines are always connected to our best days. And among the names Champagne is the most renown. We take this name as something we accustomed to long ago and usually never think about the things it covers – great history, champagnists’ hard work, caves keeping millions of bottles, lost fortunes and even derailed trains...
When you start discovering the very first facts about Champagne you right away realize that everything here is surprising. The land, its climate, its history, the prices, how it is produced, etc. For now I’m going to rather chaotically cover some of these issues, with no exact plan and maybe touch other topics later.
It is a common knowledge that at the very beginning there was Dom Perignon,
a Benedictine monk whom some myths even credit with the invention of sparkling Champagne. Indeed this guy had done a great job working with wine and he absolutely deserves the honor to be the name of the world most famous Champagne. But the more I researched the more I realized that with the shining glory of Champagne the world should credit Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, commonly known as Madame de Pompadour.
This story started with the insult, when in 1760 Madame de Pompadour lost a bidding war for domaine Romanée to prince of Conti. She was angry with this fact but she not only was very powerful lady, she also was very smart. She understood that Romanée – though very valuable and as we now know one the most expensive wines in the world – was just a battle.
The war was not over and it was the war for Paris. So she just bought all the lands north of Paris with the idea to produce wines to pour the Paris and the king’s court.
The details might be slightly different, but we definitely know that exactly at this time the ways of Madame de Pompadour and sparkling wines from Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers established by Dom Perignon have crossed.
Looking at Champagne history of that period I was getting more and more surprised with how competent was this project management. Great marketing, easy memorable slogan, setting of supply chains, opening foreign markets…
The history of these first decades of expantion is full of amazing fact. Most of them connected with the issue that from time to time bottles and barrels used to explode. This sounds rather funny, though not for the guys were nearby. Ones a wine dealer from London lost all he possessed after carelessly placing a barrel into his shop cellar.
He was lucky – he kept his life, less lucky were many other champagnists. For whom a special protactive uniform was invented, masks and gloves – actually looked more of a knight.
Well. As we now know Champagne successfully got through all these troubles. Now it is rather safe to open a bottle, the wine itself is very clean, its aromas are miracle and tastes are wonderful. So let’s touch some practical issues – what do we have to choose from and how to make the best choice.
There are some Champagne styles. The most common is non-vintage wine, a blend of several vintages and several allowed grape varieties. There are also vintage Champagne – a product of single vintage, these wines are produced when the harvest was really good, which does not happen very often here. Among others: pink Champagne Rose, Blanc de Blanc (made from single white variety, like Chardonnay), Blanc de Noir (made from single red variety, like Pinot Noir).
There are 17 Grand Crus in Champagne – 17 vineyards on the best lands – where the highest quality vines are being planted. Naturally the best in terms of quality and highest in terms of price Champagnes are made using the grapes produced there.
Just below Grand Crus are Premiere Crus. These vineyards selected by the same approach (land quality) and very-very good too.
How to make distinction? Simply check the bottle label.
Very important to know that all Champagne styles come with several degrees of sweetness – from zero-dosage (less than 3 g of sugar per liter) to Doux (sweet) containing 50 g of sugar.
Finally there are brands – they are widely known all over the world. Bollinger, Deutz, Laurent Perrier, Moet&Chandon, Veuve Clicquot – to name a few. They all produce exclusive quality wines as well as wines for “basic” segment so to speak. This, by the way, means that you can start researching the magic world of Champagne by purchasing good quality wines made by the greatest producers and paying rather moderate amount of money.
Ok, now the question I answer often – I’m just an ordinary person, not a specialist, not a super rich, what should I look for to be satisfied?
My answer is as follows. If we speak of satisfaction, then first of all, define what degree of sweetness of Champagne is yours. I mean you can drink fashionable expensive brut all life long but you would never really enjoy Champagne if your type is demi-sec, for example.
Try different types, do not purchase first names and crus, just something in a range of $15-30, get half-bottles of 375 ml.
On this base you will be building your further approach. You may next like to taste a not-so-expensive Grand Cru (there’re some from time to time) or something special like Blanc de Blanc or other style. But you’ll be doing it knowing yourself, with your eyes open.
ADDING TO "I AM MY OWN SOMMELIER" PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE BASE
there're 17 best vineyards in Champagne called Grand Crus where the best and most expensive wines are made
there are several styles of Champagne which all come with different degrees of sweetness
it is very important to find out which degree of sweetness best responds to ones personal taste
Find out what is Champagne and why the name belongs to France, what is Grand Cru and the names of best Champagne producers. Also find the best food to pair different style - from rose Champagne to brut.