André Arquette


Champagne is one of the world's most iconic and luxurious wines, known for its elegant bubbles, crisp acidity, and complex flavors. It is made exclusively in the Champagne region of France, located in the northeast part of the country. The region's cool climate and chalky soils provide ideal growing conditions for the three grape varieties that are used to make champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.

It wasn't until the 17th century that the sparkling wine we now know as champagne was created. Before that time, the still wines of Champagne were known for their high acidity and lack of sweetness, making them less popular than the wines of other regions. In an attempt to make their wines more appealing, winemakers began experimenting with secondary fermentation, a process that creates bubbles and gives the wine a lighter, more effervescent character. One of the early pioneers of champagne was a Benedictine monk named Dom Pierre Pérignon. Although he didn't actually invent champagne, as is commonly believed, he did make significant contributions to its development. He is credited with perfecting the blending of different grape varieties, as well as with several other important innovations.

By the 18th century, champagne had become a popular luxury item among the aristocracy of Europe. The wine's light, refreshing character and association with celebration made it a favorite at royal courts and among wealthy elites. It was also during this time that the famous champagne houses, such as Moët and Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, were established. Despite its growing popularity, champagne as a whole had numerous challenges. The wine was difficult to transport, as the pressure from the bubbles would cause many bottles to explode during long journeys. To solve this problem, champagne producers began using thicker, reinforced bottles and storing the wine horizontally, which helped to kept the cork moist and prevented air from entering the bottle.

Champagne also faced competition from other sparkling wines, particularly those made in England. English sparkling wine had become popular thanks to the efforts of a man named Christopher Merret, who had discovered that adding sugar to still wine before bottling would create bubbles. However, by the mid-19th century, champagne had established itself as the premier sparkling wine, thanks in part to the efforts of champagne houses to protect the region's name and reputation.

The 20th century brought both triumph and tragedy to the world of champagne. In 1911, the Champagne Riots broke out, as growers protested the dominance of the champagne houses and their control over prices. The riots were eventually quelled, but the incident highlighted the tensions between the region's growers and producers. Champagne also faced challenges during the two World Wars, as production and distribution were disrupted by conflict. But the post-war years saw a resurgence in the popularity of champagne, as people celebrated the end of the war and the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity.

The process of making champagne has changed fairly little in the centuries since its creation. The first step, of course, is harvesting the grapes. The grapes used to make champagne are typically Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, and they are picked by hand to ensure they are not damaged. The grapes are then pressed to extract the juice, which is used to make the wine. Once the juice has been extracted, it is placed in tanks for the primary fermentation process. Yeast is added to the juice, and the sugars in the grape juice are converted into alcohol, creating a dry still wine. This process typically takes around 1-2 weeks, and the resulting wine is known as the "base wine." After the primary fermentation, the base wines are blended to create the unique flavor profile of the champagne. This is where the skills of the winemaker come into play, as they must balance the acidity, sweetness, and tannins of the different wines to create a harmonious blend.

Once the blend has been created, it is bottled, and a mixture of yeast and sugar, known as the "liqueur de tirage," is added to the bottle. This triggers a secondary fermentation process, which creates the bubbles in the champagne. The bottles are then sealed with a crown cap and placed in racks for aging. Champagne must be aged for a minimum of 15 months, but many champagne houses age their wines for much longer, sometimes up to 10 years. During this time, the yeast cells that were added to the bottle during the secondary fermentation die and break down, creating complex flavors and aromas.

The yeast cells are removed from the wine in a process known as "riddling". The bottles are placed in special racks that hold them at a 45-degree angle, and they are gradually turned and shaken over a period of weeks or months. This causes the yeast cells to settle in the neck of the bottle. Once the yeast cells have settled, the bottles are opened and the yeast sediment is removed in a process known as "disgorgement." The neck of the bottle is frozen, and the sediment is ejected by the pressure of the carbon dioxide in the bottle.

The final step in making champagne is the "dosage." This is the addition of a small amount of sugar and wine to the bottle, which determines the sweetness level of the champagne. The bottles are then corked and wired shut, and the champagne is ready to be aged further or enjoyed immediately.

There are a number of types of champagne, each with its own unique flavor profile, sweetness level, and aging process. It is classified according to its sweetness level, which ranges from extra brut (the driest) to doux (the sweetest). Most champagne falls somewhere in between, with brut being the most popular style.

Brut champagne is the most common type of champagne and is known for its dry, crisp flavor. It is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes and is aged for a minimum of 15 months. The dosage, or the amount of sugar added to the wine during the final stage of production, is typically less than 12 grams per liter, making it a dry champagne.

Extra Brut champagne is even drier than Brut champagne, with a dosage of less than six grams per liter. It has a very crisp and refreshing taste, and is best paired with seafood or light appetizers. Extra Brut champagne is often enjoyed as an aperitif before a meal.

Sec champagne is a sweeter champagne than Brut or Extra Brut, with a dosage of between 17 and 35 grams per liter. It has a fruity flavor and is often paired with desserts or rich, creamy dishes. Sec champagne is a popular choice for weddings and other special occasions.

Demi-Sec champagne is even sweeter than Sec champagne, with a dosage of between 33 and 50 grams per liter. It has a rich, fruity flavor and is often paired with desserts or cheese. Demi-Sec champagne is a popular choice for those who prefer a sweeter taste.

Rosé champagne is made from a blend of white and red grapes, giving it a pink hue. It can be made in a variety of sweetness levels, from Brut to Demi-Sec, and has a fruity flavor with a hint of spice. Rosé champagne is a popular choice for romantic occasions, such as Valentine's Day or anniversaries.

Vintage champagne is made from grapes harvested in a single year, and is aged for a minimum of three years. It has a rich, complex flavor and is often more expensive than non-vintage champagne. Vintage champagne is a popular choice for special occasions, such as weddings or milestone birthdays.