If Champagne as a wine category seems complicated, it’s not an isolated case. You’re fortunate to be in the right place. Nicolas Rainon, winemaker at the family-owned manufacturer Champagne Henriet Bazin, says Champagne is more enjoyable to share with newbies because “most of the time, they don’t have bias.”
“Champagne is my soul, simply because it’s just the rhythm of my life, [like] the beats of my heart. I see nature and every single day through Champagne — the seasons are drawn by the vines and the wine,” Rainon describes. “The weather is interpreted according to its impact on my estate. I work the soil, take care of the vines, respect nature, harvest, do the winemaking, and sell my bottles, so I really have to say that it’s simply all my life.”
With advice from Rainon, who is co-owner and producer of wines with his wife Marie-Noelle Rainon Henriet (Champagne Henriet Bazin’s 5th generation), and his team at the Champagne Bureau’s U.S. department, here’s everything you should be aware of Champagne as well as how it’s produced.
What is Champagne?
Champagne is a sparkling wine named after the region it originates from. To have the name on the label, Champagne must be produced following a strict set of rules that govern every stage of the production process, from the grape to the glass. This includes details such as the allowed wine grapes, which we’ll go into a bit more later, as well as pruning, yields of the grape, the method used to make wine (the Methode Champenoise or Traditional Method), minimum alcohol levels, a minimal storage time of (15 days) before release and many more.
How do you make Champagne made?
We’ll look deeper at how to make the Methode Champenoise — the method of producing Champagne over the centuries. It is one of the main factors that set the region and its category apart from other champagnes, such as Prosecco, which goes through an entirely different dual fermentation process in a pressurized tank. In both cases, the initial fermentation occurs in producing the dry, still-base wine. The secondary fermentation begins with an introduction to a mix of sugar and yeast, often referred to in France in France as “liqueur de tirage.”
Rainon writes: “In Champagne, you leave it to nature to create the process of the effervescence during the second fermentation, which happens inside the bottle — the natural carbonic gas that results from fermentation cannot escape because the bottle is sealed, so it will naturally mesh with the wine and make it sparkling. When you let nature work, it’s always better!”
Based on the Champagne Bureau (Comite Champagne), There are around 16,000 wine grape growers as well as 4,300 producers and 370 houses, which are companies that make Champagnes made from grapes of various growers within the region. Producers and houses are denoted by two main French terms: Recoltant-Manipulant and Negociant-Manipulant. A Recoltant-Manipulant independently makes their wines onsite under their label using grapes grown exclusively on the house’s vineyards (Rainon and his wife fall under this definition). The wines of these producers are often called “grower Champagnes” and makeup only a tiny portion of the global market.
Which grapes can be used in the making of Champagne?
Put, although there are seven varieties of grapes permitted to be utilized in Champagne, only three main grapes comprise the majority of the wines they are known to us. ” Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Meunier are the most commonly used, and at Champagne Henriet-Bazin we are lucky to have those varieties,” Rainon clarifies. “As organic farmers, our goal is to harvest grapes that carry the taste of the soil they are coming from — this means that our flavor profiles will depend on the grape variety, but also the soil, subsoil, gradient, and all the terroir elements of the vines involved in the blend.”
The Champagne region, located in the northeastern part of France (about 1 hour away from Paris via automobile) Subsoil (or the layer beneath the surface) is mainly limestone, with sedimentary rock outcrops made of chalk, limestone, and marl, based on the vineyard’s location in the area. This soil type not only acts as a drainage system for the vineyards but also provides a distinct mineral quality in the final product, distinguishing Champagne from other sparkling wines and other characteristics.
Champagne is also renowned for its oceanic-continental climate and steep slopes, providing excellent sunlight exposure in the daytime. Each vineyard, as per the Champagne Bureau, has its distinctive appearance due to the different terroirs.
What are the regions that make up this region?
Geographically geographically, it is geographically divided into three regions. Champagne region is split in three regions (Grand Est, Hauts-de-France, and Ile-de-France) and are further subdivided in five départements (Aube, Aisne, Haute-Marne, Marne, and Seine-et-Marne). Within each of the four significant areas that are growing, which include The Montagne de Reims, the Cote des Blancs et the Cote de Sezanne, the Vallee de la Marne, and the Cote des Bar, and the four regions comprise 319 villages, or crus (yeah that’s a lot!). It is also possible to be familiar with Reims and Epernay as two of the major cities of Champagne.
What is the difference between Champagne styles?
Don’t be afraid of using the term “sugar” when it comes to sparkling wines and Champagnes. Wines. It’s standard to add a dosage or a certain amount of sugar into sparkling wines before the corking. It is possible to assess how sweet Champagne is using a scale using grams of dosage per liter.
Champagnes at the dryest (least sweet) at the lower end are very popular in the wine world. Compared to the last 100 years of history, the typical drinker’s palate tends to be dry. Sweeter Champagnes were famous during both the late 18th and 19th centuries. However, their dosage has been reduced in response to the demand. Don’t be opposed to the sweeter champagne until you’ve tried them. Sweeter Champagne can be very enjoyable when served with desserts.
Also, specific Champagne generally includes a year on the label, while others don’t. If a specific year is mentioned, it signifies it was made with grapes exclusively harvested from one harvest, thereby being a single vintage. Non-vintage (or the NV) Champagnes are produced using grapes harvested from multiple crops. The latter group makes up most of the market. In contrast, vintage Champagnes are made frequently, as they depend on the best growing conditions throughout their respective seasons and require three years of maturing in bottles (the minimum for non-vintage champagnes can be 15 months).