If you’re like me and love Champagne (or sparkling wine), you’re going to love the December issue of Wine Spectator magazine. The cover story is dedicated to Champagne and details how France is trying to demystify the legend and focus more on the wine itself. As I was reading the article, I was reminded of the sparkling wine tasting I was so fortunate to attend in September and, most recently, the Champagne tasting I attended just a few weeks ago. The tasting was officially sponsored by the Champagne Bureau, USA, the official US representative of the Comité Champagne, a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France.
The tasting was the first of its kind in Chicago, celebrating those wines produced in Champagne, France, which can only be called Champagne. During the tasting, I had the opportunity to sample more than 100 unique wines from 36 different Champagne producers (although I really only sampled 10-12). I also had the opportunity to learn some very interesting facts about this amazing wine:
- Champagne is a location located 90 miles northeast of Paris; the area has been clearly defined and delimited since 1927.
- Champagne production relies on a unique combination of natural factors, including climate, soil, and topography.
- The Champagne production zone spreads across four main growing regions and 319 villages – also known as “crus” of which 17 traditionally rank as “Grands Crus” and 44 as “Premiers Crus”.
- There are 3 main types of grapes that account for nearly all Champagne production – Pinot noir 39%; Meunier 33%; and Chardonnay 28%.
- The word “Cuvée” has two meanings when referring to Champagne. It refers to the first 2,050 litres of juice extracted from the marc of 4,000 kilos of grapes or the precise blend of several base wines.
- You can tell a true Champagne from the label, which should include the following: the word “Champagne” written in bold; the brand of Champagne; the type of wine (ie. brut, demi-sec); percentage of alcohol by volume; bottle capacity; name of producer or company; and a few other registration details.
Want to learn more about what makes a sparkling wine worthy of the name Champagne? Check out the Champagne Bureau, USA.