Even if the coronation of the kings of France in Reims was at the origin of the prestige given to wines from Champagne, during Antiquity, Pline was already describing them as follows: "The other wines from Gaul recommended for the kings’ table are those from the countryside of Reims, called Ay wines".
Much appreciated in France, Champagne was idolized in England when the Marquis of Saint-Evremond introduced it in 1661. It was a still wine until the end of the 17th century, an English author mentions sparkling Champagne in 1664 and the word “bubble” appears in France in 1712 for the first time. Since then, the first customer has always been Great Britain. At the end of the 18th century, only 10% of Champagne wines were sparkling and it is only at the end of the 19th century that the market exploded.
This appellation, which bears the name of its region of origin, covers 27,500 hectares where an ancient sea covered with a 200-meter-chalk layer used to lie. This soil allows a good drainage of the roots as well as a thermal accumulation needed by the vine in this region. The old cray quarries forming galleries at 11°C and 80% humidity are ideal conditions for wine. Influenced by northern and continental climates softened by the Normandy maritime emanations, the vines are located between 130 and 180 meters above sea level. Frequent spring frosts and a mild summer are crucial for the wines finesse. The "Champagne" appellation is restricted to wines produced in the limited area of Champagne with grapes grown exclusively in this region.
There are three grape varieties in Champagne: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Harvesting is done at maturity and the grapes are handled with great care to avoid the colouring of musts especially when using black grapes. The grapes are never crushed before being pressed. In January the cuvée elaboration begins. In general, it is roughly composed of wines from the following regions: Ay region, Marne Valley, Côte de Blanc.
Legend attributes to Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon the sparkling wine principle, developed at the end of the 17th century. The aim is to provoke a secondary fermentation in a closed bottle by adding a blend of sugar and old wine to the basis wine. The sugar decomposes by giving carbon dioxide which remains trapped in the wine because it has no air to escape. This delicate method also includes riddling the bottles which brings the sediment to the neck and the disgorging, which aims to eliminate the sediment formed near the cap. It is expelled at low temperature.
Blanc de Blancs: 100% Chardonnay
Blanc de Noirs: only Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier
Rosé: a small quantity of red wine is added to the cuvée before bottling
Vintage: in excellent vintages, only grapes from one year are used
Crémant: less sparkling champagne, produced with less blend of sugar and old wine