I decided to create a brief guide to champagne as I’ve been privileged to visit this region and Reims, its main city, a few times and to work both with Champagne Bureau UK and some big Champagne houses. Scroll to learn more!
1. Not everything with bubbles is champagne.
Real champagne is produced only from the grapes grown in Champagne. This might sound obvious but I still see some people calling sparkling wine (like prosecco, frizzante etc) champagne, which is simply wrong.
2. Champagne is at the rise.
According to the Comité Champagne, total shipments of champagne in 2021 increased up to 32 per cent compared to pandemic 2020 year making up 322 million bottles.
3. Champagne making is quite complex.
It’s not easy to make a champagne: it’s a complicated process that requires lots of experience, knowledge and is strictly regulated by Committee Champagne. The grape collected by hand from the specialised vineyards of private growers is usually bought by a big Champagne house (some houses have been working with the same grower families for generations!). Grape should arrive intact before being pressed. The juice is bottled, first and second fermentation with yeast and sugar follow. Then the deposit left after the yeast autolysis (when all the sugar has been consumed by the microorganisms) is removed and maturation turns grape juice into the divine drink. Sugar may be added as a final step too before the bottle is corked.
4. Good champagne has a crown.
You can recognise that you’re drinking a good champagne by the bubbles that stay near the sides of your glass – they are called ‘a crown’.
5. Grapes come from different crus.
Crus in other words is a village or a vineyard where grapes grow. There are over 300 crus in Champagne, which are divided into a few groups such as grand cru (the best ones), then premier cru (second best) and the others. Champagne houses tend to produce their best champagne from the grand crus – look for the table on your bottle to check!
6. The UK is one of the largest markets for the champagne producers.
The top country list for the champagne export also includes the USA, Japan, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Australia, Switzerland, China, Spain, and Canada.
7. Champagne tends to get less sweet.
Historically, champagne was a really sweet liquid. But as the time passed, the varieties with less sugar or no added sugar at all were invented and became popular. So, when choosing a champagne, look for the dosage!
8. The Champagne region is focused on sustainability.
One of the goals of champagne producers is to protect the environment, and for this they’re taking care of the biodiversity of nature and reducing the carbon footprint of the industry.
9. Perfect shape of champagne glass is not what you think.
Actually, the perfect way to experience your champagne is to drink it from ballon flute or small white wine glasses. Coupe glasses and flutes might look nice but they don’t allow you to experience the whole pallet of aromas, colour and bubbles.
10. The champagne bottles are very unique.
The shape of champagne bottles didn’t appear out of nowhere. It has been invented to hold the pressure the drink creates. Bottles shaped other way would’ve just exploded. Actually this was a major problem for the champagne of the past: the drink was produced in very small quantities until the English glass-makers innovated the production of glass inventing really strong bottles that enabled the transportation of champagne.
11. Good champagne is about silence.
Do you like a nice popping sound when you open a bottle of champagne? If yes, it means you’re not professional! A properly trained sommelier should be able to open a bottle silently, without any noise.
12. Grapes are really expensive.
Ever wondered why champagne is not cheap apart from being a luxurious drink for the special events? The grapes are all collected by hand, and one kilo of the raw product from a cru is about 5-6 euros (and even more for the grand crus!)! On average, 1,5 kg of grapes are needed to produce 1 bottle of champagne (1,2 kg is needed for one bottle, and 300ml goes into distillation).
13. Age matters.
Good champagne is not produced quickly. According to the rules, all champagne stays in the bottle for at least for 15 months for non-vintage and at least 3 years for vintage cuvees. In reality vintage champaign can easily spend up to 10 years in a bottle. Not to mention that the plant itself should be at least three years old to produce the grapes appropriate for champagne making…
14. Are you an enotourist?
Enotourism, or vinitourism, or wine tourism describes the type of tourism when people are travelling to explore the wines and the wine regions, tasting, learning and acquiring expertise in wine drinking.
15. Champagne is not only the big names.
Champagne wines are frequently attributed to the big Houses but you can also try champagne from a smaller less known producer, for instance a family who has a vineyard in Champagne, decided to run its own business and has compiled to all the rules and regulations to produce the product good enough for the production standards.
Thanks for Champagne Laurent-Perrier and Comité Champagne during press trips which whom I’ve been able to learn more about champagne and to take those photos.
Check my other blogs about France:
- Photoshoot in Paris: the basics
- Remembering Notre-Dame de Paris
- Paris: festive edition 2021/2022
- Christmas in Nice
- Loire Valley
- Trip to Champagne region
Hope you enjoyed this blog!