The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

A Few Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Champagne

Posted on | May 25, 2011 | Written by Michael Greeson | No Comments

Before my interest in wine turned into more than just a hobby (and got a little bit out of control), I had other plans; that changed, and it was all the fault of Champagne.  I admit: I hadn’t given much thought to bottle fermentation or yeast autolysis, and I wasn’t much interested in vineyard management or microclimates.   After I fell head over heels for Champagne, I found it difficult to justify drinking anything else.  The depth and elegance that erupted behind the transparent, bubbly curtain transposed my interest into a far-away, Pandora-like place.  In juxtaposition to our upcoming Champagne Salon event, I thought I’d toss out some interesting facts about Champagne.

• Despite the fact that the process of making Champagne requires considerable investment of money and time, there are approximately 3,750 growers that sell their own Champagne.

• The very deep foil around the neck of many bottles of sparkling wine is there because in former times, when the wines were not topped up after disgoregement, the foil was used to hide the large gap between the wine and the cork.

• The term cremant used to be applied to wines with a less-than-full sparkling wine pressure, and hence a more “creamy” mousse.  It has not been permitted for Champagne since 1994, when the Champenoise agreed to leave the term for other sparkling wines from France and Luxembourg in return for their forfeiting the right to say that they were made by the méthode Champenoise.

• The average temperature during the growing season is 16 degrees Celsius.  In such a climate, it is difficult for the grapes to achieve full ripeness, and they might have no more than 8.5% alcohol by volume of natural potential alcohol.  For a vintage wine, 9.5% abv is needed.  In the new world, grapes would never achieve flavor ripeness with such low degrees of potential alcohol.

• By law the word “Champagne” must be branded on that part of the cork that enters the bottle.

For a more complete idea of the Champagne Salon events in New York City and in Aspen, read Chris Deas’s blog post on what he’s dishing up and pouring out.



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