Week 1 of 4 Week France Course // Champagne
Champagne-A brief introduction to the region
“Come, for I am drinking stars!” Dom Pérignon, according to legend, when he tasted the first Champagne
In preparation for week 1 of our Online Tour De France we are briefly exploring Champagne...
Much more than a wine, Champagne is known internationally for quality and celebration making it one of the most famous wine regions in the world.
We’ve talked about why Champagne is so special before in a previous blog. The history of the region is equally important. It is alleged that the French monk Dom Perignon was the first to have invented champagne in 1697 at the abbey of Hautvilliers by putting bubbles into still wines. Unlike his Burgundian counterparts, he also favoured blending wines from different sites. This created more complexity and coupled with stronger, newly developed non-exploding bottles created the Champagne we all know and love today.
The three key grape varieties are Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Champagne can be made of a blend of any percentage of these 3 varieties. ‘Blanc de Noir’ indicates a wine made only from red grapes Pinots Noir and Meunier, while ‘Blanc de Blanc’ indicates a wine made only from white Chardonnay grapes.
Vintage Champagne celebrates a single year whilst Non-vintage (NV) is a blend of multiple years. Both styles usually mature in the cool, damp cellars. This ageing on lees (dead yeast cells) gives Champagne its unique aromas and flavours of buttered bread, hazelnut and brioche, known as autolysis.
The categorisation of vineyard quality is by premier (1er) and grand cru status. You will also see noted on the label the level of dosage (amount of sugar added just before final corking) Demi-sec (32-50 grams of sugar per litre), Sec (17-32 grams of sugar per litre), Extra Dry (12-17 grams of sugar per litre), Brut (less than 12 grams of sugar per litre), Extra Brut (3-6 grams of sugar per litre) and Brut Nature (0 grams of sugar per litre)
The Food of Champagne
The region that has given us world-famous sparkling has surprisingly few traditional dishes that garner the same status as the wines. Regional cheeses include Langres a la Cope and Chaource as well as many variations of Brie which is made in huge quantities across the farms and factories in the Champagne region
Due to the dry palate and fresh citrus spectrum, Brut Nature (zero dosage) Champagnes are particularly successful when matched with fish, whether grilled or pan-fried. Ideal as an aperitif they also pair up well with some soft goat’s cheese, the acid does well in cutting through the fat of the cheese.
French fries and fried chicken. Whilst you may think Champagne and a bucket of fried chicken are at odds with each other in the echelons of fine dining, the characteristics of Champagne cut through the crispy exterior and cleanse the palate of (delicious) lingering grease.
Which Glass to use?
- The old-fashioned coupe
The wide, flat shape of the glass made popular in the 1920s will express its aroma but the Champagne will lose its bubbles fast. The old-fashioned coupe works when we drink sweeter styles of Champagne, now they’re much drier, with a more acidity they are not as good.
- The narrow flute
The narrow Champagne flute originally came about through the hospitality industry because when they were pre-pouring for receptions, they could keep the fizz in the glass. It also traps in the aromas, meaning you’ll miss out on the Champagne’s scents and flavours.
- The Tulip
The Tulip is the hybrid between a flute, a coupe and a white wine glass. They are designed to ensure that the bubbles properly rise and carry the aromas to the surface like a flute.