Okay, this is for the wine geeks or aspiring wine geeks out there. We know you want to know more than just “how Champagne is made.” Here’s enough to get you through a serious Champagne discussion!
First, Champagne is a Viticultural Twilight Zone
No other wine growing region can challenge Champagne’s claim to produce the world’s greatest sparkling wines because no other area can duplicate Champagne’s austere growing conditions. In Champagne the vines struggle to ripen their grapes each year. This results in a balance of richness, extract, and acidity that can only be achieved through the long-drawn-out ripening process that occurs when the vine is grown on a knife-edge between success and failure.
The Champagne terroir, which includes a cold, sometimes mean, northern climate and lime-rich chalk soil, is the key to the wine’s intrinsic superiority. Yet if such an area were discovered today, contemporary vintners would quickly say “no thanks” and dismiss it as unsuitable for viticulture.
Unlike Burgundy, its neighbor, with 110 AOCs…
Shockingly, today Champagne is only one AOC even though Champagne totals 34,000 hectares (84,00 acres). Of these, 31,000 hectares are planted in 300 villages. In contrast, the Côte d’Or in Burgundy has over 110 AOCs for 8,450 hectares – with the AOCs reflecting unique characteristics and competing for acclaim. Only having one AOC for Champagne is largely driven by the commercial influence of the Grandes Marques who blend wines from throughout the Region and do not want regional & vineyard differences profiled.
However, there are five major districts in Champagne – each with unique varietal focuses and preferred villages (see ratings below)
Villages are Rated- Grand Cru , Premier Cru, etc….
When the Échelle des Crus was first established only 12 villages received Grand Cru status. In 1985 that number was expanded to 17 with the promotion of five villages (Chouilly, Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Oiry and Verzy). Less than 9% of all the planted vineyard land in Champagne has received a 100% Grand cru rating. All of the Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages are located in the Marne department. (Large scale production Champagnes by practice are not Grand Cru or Premier Cru as Grandes Marques require vast quantities of grapes and blend from hundreds of vineyards throughout Champagne.)
Grand Cru Villages of Champagne include:
There are five agricultural factors that affect Champagne’s quality and taste. They are;
Okay, got ‘em with your Champagne PhD!