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: The history of champagne wine

Wines from the Champagne region were known before the Middle Ages. There were church vineyards, and monks made wine for use in the sacrament of communion. The anointing of the French kings traditionally took place in Reims. Champagne wine was part of the coronation celebrations.

The kings appreciated the still, bright and invigorating wines and sent them in deference to other European monarchs. In the 17th century, non-sparkling champagne was given preference at celebrations in European countries. The British were the largest consumers of sparkling wines and also consumed a lot of sparkling wines.

The first commercial sparkling wine was produced in the Limu region in the Languedoc around 1535. [source not specified for 1898 days] It was not invented here; it is not known who made it for the first time, although the British make very reasonable statements on this score. It should be noted that many have contributed to the history of champagne. In contrast to the legend and popular opinion, the French Benedictine monk of Oviller Abbey Pierre Perignon, who lived in the XVII century, did not invent champagne, although it is known that he made many improvements in the production process of this drink, in particular, discovered the secret of blending, combining juice of different grape varieties , and began to pour the wine into bottles with cork plugs made from the bark of the cork oak, which made it possible to keep the carbon dioxide that had previously exploded the barrels.


In the abbey next to Oviller, it was noticed that dark glass bottles explode less frequently, but it was not until 1800 that the pharmacist Francois from Chalon invented a modern bottle, which also takes into account the thickness and shape, and not just the color of the glass. At the beginning of the XIX century. The winemaker’s widow, who later became famous Madame Clicquot, eliminated Pierre Perignon’s other significant flaw: her master, Antoine Miller, developed a “remoutage” technology, thanks to which the champagne became crystal clear.

The decisive breakthrough was made by the winemaker Victor Lambert, who in 1874 developed a fermentation technology that turns malic acid into lactic acid. Because of this, brut appeared – very dry champagne, which soon became the most popular variety in the world. And the specialists of the wine house “Laurent-Perrier” went even further and released an extra-brut, super-dry champagne [1].

Around the end of the XVII century. The method of producing sparkling wine became famous in Champagne at the same time as special production procedures (soft pressing, dosing …) and stronger bottles, invented in England, that could withstand extra pressure. Around 1700 sparkling champagne was born.

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The British loved new sparkling wine and spread it around the world. “Brut”, a modern champagne, was made for the British in 1876. The Russian Imperial Court also consumed a lot of champagne, preferring more sweet varieties.

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In accordance with the Madrid Treaty (1891) in Europe and most other countries, the name “champagne” (French vin de Champagne) is protected by law as the name of a sparkling wine produced in the same name region of France and satisfying the standards set for such a wine. This exclusive right to designation was confirmed by the Versailles Treaty of 1919 at the end of the First World War. Even the term “champagne method” (Fr. methode champenoise and “champagne method”) as of 2005 is prohibited for wines not from Champagne in favor of the term “traditional method” (“methode traditionelle”). Sparkling wines are made all over the world, and in many places their own terms are used to define their own sparkling wine: in Spain it is “Cava”, in Italy – “spumante”, in South Africa – “Cap Classique”. Italian sparkling wine made from Muscat grapes, produced in southeastern Piedmont, is called “Asti”. In Germany, the most common sparkling wine “Sekt (him.).” Even other regions of France are forbidden to use the name “champagne”. For example, winemakers of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace make wine called “Cremant”.

The term “sparkling wine” is used to refer to the labels of sparkling wines not from the province of Champagne. Although many countries have laws protecting wine-producing regions, such as Champagne, some countries, including the United States, still allow wine producers to use the name “champagne” to designate products that do not originate from Champagne. In order to provide such an opportunity, the United States Congress passed a law indicating that the term “champagne” is “partially specific” (semi-generic). The name “champagne” was used in the Soviet Union, it is used in Russia and in other countries of the former USSR, in the trademarks “Soviet Champagne”, “Russian Champagne”, “Ukrainian Champagne” and so on registered in these countries.

The grapes for the production of champagne should be white chardonnay or red pinot noir or pinot meene (allowed, but very rarely practiced, adding a small amount of grapes of other varieties that were previously used in the manufacture of champagne). Champagne made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes is called “white from white” (fr. Blanc de blancs), exclusively from red grapes – “white from black” (fr. Blanc de noirs). Champagne is usually white wine, even if it is made from red grapes, because the juice is squeezed out of the grapes very carefully, only minimal contact with the skin of the grapes, which gives the color of red wine, is allowed. Rose wines are also produced: either by extending the time of juice contact with the skin, which will give the wine a pink color, or by adding a small amount of red wine at the blending stage.

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Main article: The sweetness and dryness of the drink

The amount of sugar added after secondary fermentation and aging (“dosing”) varies, yielding varieties:

the highest level is “doux” (meaning “sweet”);

“Demi-sec” (“semi-dry”),

“Sec” (“dry”);

“Extra sec” (“extra-dry”);

“Brut” (“the driest” or “brut”)

“Extra brut” / “brut nature” / “brut zero” (“extra brut”, “brut cuvee”; sometimes too dry – sugar or liqueur is not added at all).

Brut is the most common (in the world, but not in Russia), although at the beginning of the 20th century champagne was usually much sweeter, and in the 18th — 19th centuries the sugar content in the bottle reached 200 g per bottle.

The grapes used in the manufacture of champagne, usually harvested ahead of time, when the level of sugar in it is lower and the level of acidity is higher. The juice from the harvested grapes is squeezed out quickly enough so that the wine remains white (this does not apply to the production of pink champagne). The traditional champagne production method is known as “Methode Champenoise”.

The initial fermentation begins in the same way as for any other wine – in stainless steel barrels or tanks, where the natural sugar in the grapes is converted into alcohol, while the carbon dioxide byproduct disappears. So get the “base wine.” This wine is too acidic and not very pleasant in itself. At this stage, blending is performed using wines from different vineyards and different years (this does not apply to the production of certain types of champagne, specially made from grapes of the same year).

Blended wine is bottled, a mixture of the same blend, with yeast and a small amount of sugar is added to the same place. Bottles in a horizontal position are placed in a wine cellar for secondary fermentation. During secondary fermentation, carbon dioxide remains in the bottle, dissolving in the wine. The amount of added sugar affects the pressure in the bottle. To achieve a standard level of 6 bar, 18 grams of sugar and “Saccharomyces cerevisiae” yeast in an amount set by the European Commission must be inside the bottle: 0.3 g per bottle. Such a mixture of sugar, yeast and still sparkling champagne is called in French “liqueur de tirage” (“circulation liqueur” in the national classification).

After aging (the minimum aging time on the lees is 12 months), the wine bottles undergo a process of “re-mash” (fr. Remuage), during which they turn every day at a small angle and are gradually transferred to the “neck down” position. neck and could be removed. The process of sludge removal is called “degrading” (fr. Degorgement), and in the recent past it was a lot of manual work to remove the cork and remove the sludge without losing a significant amount of wine. At the same time, “dosage” is carried out (a certain amount of sugar solution in wine, called “expedition liqueur”, is added). Then the bottle is sealed again and kept for a short time, about 2 weeks. Prior to the invention of this process (by all accounts, this was done for the first time by the manufacturers of “Veuve Clicquot” in 1800) the champagne was muddy. Currently, the majority of manufacturers produce degrading using automatic machines: a small amount of liquid at the bottleneck is frozen, and a piece of ice along with the sediment frozen in it is removed.

Champagne wines must be aged in the cellar of the manufacturer for at least 15 months, from this time at least 12 months, the wine must be aged on its lees. Approved rules for making champagne require aging of a vintage cuvee in the cellar for three or more years before degorging, but many well-known manufacturers significantly exceed this minimum requirement, leaving bottles in the cellar before degorging for 6 to 8 years.

Even among the experts there is no unequivocal opinion about the effect of the aging of champagne after deglazing. Some like the freshness and energy of a young, barely degraded champagne; others prefer the taste of baked apples and caramel, which appears after a year or a longer period of exposure of champagne after degrading.

The vast majority of champagne is made from a mixture of wines from different years. Usually, the main volume is the wine of the current year, to which are added wines of past years. This blending helps smooth out some of the fluctuations in taste, caused by the borderline climate for growing grapes in Champagne. Most champagne producers compete for consistent corporate identity from year to year, and to ensure this consistency is one of the most difficult tasks for a winemaker.

The grapes for the production of millesime champagne should be 100% from the harvest of one year. To maintain the quality of the base champagne, only up to 85% of the grapes in each year are allowed to be used for the production of vintage cuvees, and at least 15% (usually more) are left for the production of the base wine. Millesime champagne is usually produced from the best grape harvest in certain, particularly successful, years, so a bottle of a prestigious brand milleSimne cuvee can be rare and costly.

Most champagne is made from a mixture of wine material from different years (the exact varietal composition is indicated on the label by only a few producers), whereas for vintage champagne produced from grapes of one year, the crop year is stamped and (in some cases) the word milleosim ( Fr. Millesime).

Quite a lot of champagne is made by well-known brands, such as “Veuve Clicquot” or “Mumm”, from purchased grapes, and not from grown in their own vineyards.

Champagne producers

Currently, more than 19,000 small champagne producers are registered in Champagne, whose vineyards occupy about 32,000 hectares in the region. The type of champagne manufacturer can be recognized by the abbreviation following the official number on the bottle:

NM: Negociant manipulant. These are companies (including most major brands) that buy grapes and produce wine;

CM: Cooperative de manipulation. Cooperatives producing wine from grapes grown by members of the cooperative, with the entire crop being combined together;

RM: Recoltant manipulant. Producers who grow their own grapes and produce wine from it. They are allowed to purchase no more than 5% of the grapes from the side;

SR: Societe de recoltants. Association of winegrowers producing common champagne but not forming a cooperative;

RC: Recoltant cooperateur. A member of a cooperative selling champagne produced by a cooperative under its own brand;

MA: Marque auxiliaire or Marque d’acheteur. Brand not related to growers or winegrowers; the name of the wine belonging to someone else, such as a supermarket (like Private Label);

ND: Negociant distributeur. A merchant selling wine under his own brand.

Interprofessional Committee of Champagne

All involved in the production of grapes: more than 15,000 winegrowers, cooperatives, and more than 300 enterprises are members of the Interprofessional Committee of Champagne Wines (fr. Comite Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne (CIVC)). In this organization, there is a system in which both producer enterprises and winegrowers are represented at all its levels, including joint chairmanship, when a representative of winegrowers and a representative of manufacturing companies share powers. This system is designed to ensure that the committee’s main mission is to promote and protect champagne, which is achieved by finding consensus in this professional community. This strong structure has played an important role in the worldwide success of champagne.

Champagne and Caviar: Love in French

When Europeans recognized black caviar as a delicacy (and it happened at the beginning of the last century, of course, Champagne became the “legitimate” companion of black caviar. Since then, champagne and black caviar are perceived as a classic wine-gastronomic union and a symbol of luxury. Speaking of ideal compatibility wines with food in general, two most successful options can be noted: a) champagne and food are ideally combined in their characteristics and seem to melt into each other; b) everything works in contrast, i.e. characteristics are opposite, but complement each other perfectly. Again, a classic example is black caviar. For its fatty and brackish taste, champagne adds acid and freshness. A spoon of caviar – a sip of Krug, another of caviar – more champagne … Endless pleasure: you take one sip with bubbles – and your palate is again ready to accept the caviar. To achieve the perfect balance of balance between champagne and caviar, full-bodied wine should be served, which maintains its salty taste. Only the best wines will be an ideal partner of caviar: Cuvee Dom Perignon (Moet & Chandon), La Grande Dame (Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin), Krug Grande Cuvee, Cristal (Louis Roederer), Sir Winston Churchill (Pol Roger), Grand Siecle (Laurent- Perrier), Clos de Goisses (Philopponnat) and other special cuves and millezyme.

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