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Champagne – Its Fascinating History and Origin

 

The term Champagne is a popular and one that carries almost mystical properties for wine lovers. The name refers to two things, one being the most sought after sparkling wine while, on another front, this is one of the wine producing regions in France. Champagne (the wine) is undeniably a classy drink that remains a top favourite for a majority of wine enthusiasts, and which is mainly used during celebrations. The wine has associations with luxury considering the brilliant winemaking techniques employed in its production.

So, how much do you know about this top notch wine? This post will walk you through some of the specifics that you probably haven’t heard or thought about Champagne including its history, the climatic and topographic conditions of the wine producing region, among others.

A brief history of Champagne

Well, long before Champagne was a considered a sparkling wine, it was a region lying at the crossroads of northern Europe in France. This is the area from where the wine borrows its name and which lies north of Paris. Similar to most other developments in wine production, the earliest Champagne came about in a happy accident sort of situation. Initially, the Champagne region had always been producing low-quality wines that were not as competitive in the market as most other rival brands such as Burgundy wines. The region’s cold weather was seen as the main impediment to production of quality wine since it interfered with the wine’s fermentation process as well as its storage. For example, it facilitated increased secondary fermentation that resulted in the production of carbon dioxide thereby causing unwanted bubbling.

By the turn of the 18th century, the bubbling problem had not yet been solved. This prompted a recognition of the Champagne as a sparkling wine that could represent a specialty drink in its own right based on its bubbling tendency. Notably, the demand for this kind of sparkling wine was gaining pace in Britain, and this encouraged the Champagne makers to advance their production methods. This later yielded in the establishment of “methode champenoise” in the 19th century that enhanced the secondary fermentation process.

The demand for Champagne continued growing in the 20th century, gaining prominence among the European nobility. Much of its marketing appeal strategy focused around aristocracy while also positioning itself as an accessible drink for the middle class. Besides, the wine was also associated with celebrations and luxury while also emphasizing on a romantic appeal targeted towards the female buyers. Its expanding market was, however, to be put under threat after the Champagne region was greatly devastated by the First World War.

Since then, the champagne market has been expanding through the 20th and 21st centuries with an inclusion of premium brands such as Dom Perignon and Cristal besides other inexpensive vintages used on different occasions. Today, Champagne is a well-established wine that serves as a default choice for nearly all celebrations ranging from competition victories’ celebrations and other parties.

Champagne Wine Region

 

Drive North-East of Paris about 90 miles from the French capital and you will be at the central point of Champagne. This is a region that has over 83,000 acres covered with vineyards and whose daily production averages at a million bottles of Champagne.

The five districts of Champagne region

  1. Côte des Blancs

This district has chalk-based soils which facilitates production of more elegant and racy wines with a higher acidity. The main type of grapes grown in this area is Chardonnay.

  1. Montagne de Reims

This district produces most of the tête de cuvée wines, making it very popular with the major Champagne houses in the world. The main type of grapes grown in this region is the Pinot Noir.

  1. Vallée de la Marne

Here, the main grapes grown are the Pinot Meunier that are known for their fruity flavours.

  1. Côte de Sézanne

The soils in this district are both chalky and marl. However, the Chardonnay grapes grown here produce aromatic wines with less acidity compared to that in Côte des Blancs.

  1. Aube

Has marl soils and mainly grows the Pinot Noir grape type. The wines produced in this district are aromatic and with lower acidity.

Additional information

The three key factors that influence the characteristic taste of Champagne (and which makes it a popular choice) are:

The cool climatic conditions of the region that facilitate the secondary fermentation process and grape production.

The quality grapes cultivated in the region including the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier varieties.

The distinctive white, calcareous soils that provide excellent drainage due to their loose structure, and which also facilitates strong and deep grapes’ root development.

Photo source Annie Roi
{ 3 comments… add one }
  • ahouse4 June 3, 2015, 3:45 pm

    Thank you for explaining the difference between each of the regions! Because of my tastes, it appears to me that, when looking for champagne, I will be looking for some from the Aube region! It is interesting to me that the secondary fermentation stage that makes champagne, champagne was a fortunate accident. I can’t even begin to fathom what the average bottle production a day would look like if it is a million daily for the region as a whole! Although there are many inexpensive options today, I’d say that champagne to this day is still seen as a drink of luxury and romance.

  • jentyree July 31, 2015, 2:59 am

    Who knew it was totally an accident!? Very cool. Sometimes the best things are made on accident. Great article explaining the history!

  • Tipes August 15, 2015, 8:37 pm

    I’m not really that shock that champagne was created by accident. I have cease to be amaze by the production of alcohol ever since I finish reading ‘The World in Six Glass’ it was very informative, but took all the fun out of my imagination. Any way this was very informative I felt like I was on a tour – thanks. Thought I was a bit disappointed that you didn’t describe some of the process of the actual champagne process. Nevertheless, I love the grand mini-tour this article has given me! 🙂

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