Tuesday, February 3, 2015

France Unit 2 - Champagne

Champagne from guildsomm on Vimeo.

In December 2013 I posted my notes on the Champagne region of France from the Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center. Those notes are sufficient for the Certified Sommelier Exams.
The following are my more in-depth notes for studying the wines of the Champagne region including information about the history, topography, climate, soils, important red and white grapes and extensive information on the AOCs of the region. I also include notes on the wines tasted during class in the French Wine Scholar class (FWS - 02) which was taught by Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis.
The Viticultural History of Champagne
The first vineyards in Champagne were first planted about 50 years after the birth of Jesus Christ when the Roman Empire ruled the land via a treaty. But this came to an end when when the Roman emperor decreed that the vineyards be uprooted. It was not until about 200 years later when Marcus Aurelius Probus Augustus (19 August 232 A.D. – September/October 282 A.D.) lifted the ban and the Romans soon began drinking Champagne wine again.[1]

During the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire (200s), the land was sieged by the Vandals, Teutons, the Franks and the Huns. The Franks, a Germanic tribe, invaded Gaul (as France was known at the time) under the leadership of King Clovis. Clovis united all the tribes during his rule changing the form of leadership from a group of royal chieftains to rule by a single king, established a kingdom that would be passed down to his heirs and founded of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Franks for the next two centuries.[2] King Clovis was later converted to Catholicism by Bishop Remi which was encouraged by his wife Clotilde, a Burgundian princess.[3] Bishop Remi promised Clovis that he would have victory over his battles so long as the King kept the Bishop’s barrel full of wine.[4] The Bishop never lacked for wine and King Clovis paraded through Rheims uniting the country and was baptized on Christmas Day in 496 A.D..[5] But this was still wine, made from Gouais (white berried) and Fromenteau (pink/gray) grapes.
Champagne still wines were the wines of kings as the crowning of King Louis I, son of Charlemagne, at Reims in 816 established a precedent for future French monarchs and a reputation for the wines of the area with vineyards date to at least the 5th century. But the goal of winemakers during this time was to produce white wines from red grapes in an effort to improve quality and their competitiveness with the wines of Burgundy. In fact, they even added elderberry to their red wines in an attempt to have deeper hues.
For the next 600 years 27 French kings, from Louis VII (1120 – 18 September 1180) to Charles Philippe X (9 October 1757 – 6 November 1836), were crowned in the Cathedral of Rheims.[6] During this time the wines of Champagne played an important role in the lives of royalty and those associated with wealth, privilege and power. But Rheims also became the center of conflict for any war including the Hundred Years War, during Napoleon’s conquests, and both World War I and World War II. In fact, the land is so battle-riddled that bullets are still found in the vineyards today.[7]
The Development of Champagne Sparkling Wine
In the early years of deliberately producing sparkling wine, Champagne was made by the Méthode Rurale (also known as Méthode Ancestrale) in which the wine was bottled before the initial fermentation had finished. This left a residual of yeast in the wine so in order to hide the unsightly appearance it was served in colored glassware.[8] What follows are the most important advancements beyond the Méthode Rurale and the five most important innovators in the history of Champagne sparkling.
Adolphe Jacquesson: Inventor of The Muselet (Wire Cork Cage)

Although unintentional residual carbon dioxide has been found and undesired in wines since ancient Greek and Roman times, the sparkling wine we know today as Champagne was first produced in the French region of the same name around 1700. The first sparkling Champagne was providentially created when the fermentation of a wine stopped during the winter leaving unfermented sugar and yeast in the bottle which would later resume fermenting during the warmer months of Spring. This resulted in the pressure in the bottle to cause the thin wood-fired French glass to explode or the corks to pop often causing a chain reaction throughout the cellar. This led to the wine being named le vin du diable or “the devil’s wine”.[9] Consequently bubbles in the wine were an undesired byproduct of the winemaking process. In 1844 Adolphe Jacquesson solved the problem of the untimely popping of corks by developing the muselet, a wire cage, but initial versions were difficult to apply and inconvenient to remove.[10]
Dom Pérignon: Developer of the Champagne Cuvée 
Dom Pérignon (December 1638 –14 September 1715) began his career as the cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers in 1668. From the very beginning he struggled with the problem of natural re-fermentation in the bottle as he was trying to make a still wine. So his original goal was to decrease the probability of re-fermentation, rather than create a sparkling wine.  In 1718, the Canon Godinot published a set of wine-making rules that were said to be established by Dom Pérignon. Among these rules was the rule that fine wine should only be made from Pinot Noir because white grapes had a greater tendency to begin re-fermentation in the bottle. He also advocated the aggressive pruning vines so that they grow no higher than three feet and produce a smaller crop. Likewise, he asserted that harvest should be done in cool conditions in the evening or early morning. He asserted that every precaution should being taken to ensure that the grapes are not bruised or broken and that careful berry selection should be made to ensure only the best are used to make wine. Pérignon did not allow grapes to be trodden and favored the use of multiple presses to help minimize maceration of the juice and the skins.[11] Pérignon was also an early advocate of wine-making that used only natural processes, without the addition of foreign substances.[12] Dom Pérignon’s other contributions include inventing the coquard press, making clear wine from red grapes, adopting English glass bottles, and reintroducing cork as an effective closure. But probably one of his greatest contributions to the making of Champagne wine was the development of the practice of the assemblage of grapes from a variety of vineyards, and vintages to produce the best Cuvée.[13]
Brother Jean Oudart: Inventor of the Liqueur de Triage
Brother Jean Oudart (1654 – 1742) developed the practice of insuring a second fermentation with predictable sparkle production experimented by placing liqueur de triage, small amounts of sugar and yeast, in capped bottles. This enabled winemakers to have a controlled and predictable secondary fermentation for creating bubbles inside the bottles.
The Champagne Bottle
In the late 17th century, cider maker from Gloucester named Christopher Merrett not only developed the method of fermentation which gives champagne its sparkle, he also invented the stronger glass needed to stop the bottles exploding under pressure. In 1632, six years before Dom Perignon was born and 100 years before the first champagne house was created, Christopher Merrett delivered a paper to the Royal Society in London in setting out his discovery. The British Royal Navy needed the wood used to fuel the fire for making bottles to build ships so King James I required bottle makers to use coal. Coal provided a better source of heat which enabled bottle makers to create thicker bottles.[14] These new coal-fired glass bottles could contain the pressure and provided a means of successfully producing sparkling Champagne but the results were inconsistent as some bottles continued to explode while others developed no effervescence.
The Champagne Houses
In the 18th century the major Champagne houses were founded. However, until the 1800s sparkling Champagne production was a haphazard process until several important production methods and developments to produce and preserve sparkling wines including the invention of the Pupitre and a better understanding of sugar and yeast in the fermentation process.
Major Champagne Houses
Champagne House
Year Founded
Chanoine Freres
Moët et Chandon
Besserat de Bellefon
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Louis Roederer
Heidsieck & Co Monopole
Piper- Heidsieck
Jacquesson & Fils

Veuve Clicquot: Inventor of the Pupitre
After the turn of the 19th century Madame Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, the Veuve (“widow”) Clicquot, assumed control of the house that bears her name after her husband died. Under her leadership, the house invented the Pupitre (A-Frame) and pioneered the process of riddling (remuage) which enables sediment to be easily removed from a bottle during disgorgement.[15]
Jean-Antoine Chaptal and André François: The Understanding of Sugar and Fermentation
In 1801 Jean-Antoine Chaptal, the French chemist and statesman for whom the process of chaptalization is named, identified the relationship between sugar and fermentation. A fundamental understanding of the connection between sugar and the second fermentation, coupled with the pharmacist André François’ measurement of the precise amount of sugar required to induce it without breaking the bottle, allowed Champagne houses to produce sparkling wines with greater confidence.[16]
The Expansion of the Champagne Sparkling Wine Market
With the improvements in the production of sparkling wine (the liqueur de triage and the Pupitre) and the innovations for containing it (cork and improved glass bottles), Champagne quickly developed into a large international industry. But smaller individual growers without expensive equipment for making sparkling wine sold fruit to the larger houses who could afford the costs of production and marketing.
By 1883 Champagne production jumped from 300,000 bottles to 36 million. In 1874 Louise Pommery, widow of Monsieur Pommery, put the first dry Champagne on the market with a dosage of 6-9 grams of sugar per liter.[17]
Champagne also became particularly popular amongst the Tsars of Russia, the kings of Belgium and Greece, and most of the English aristocracy.

During this time posters advertising Champagne were flamboyant as they became associated with the enjoyment of women, leisure, sport, and all celebrations.
In 1908, in order to protect Champagne’s traditions and history, the French government delimited the Champagne region further defining the region and its means of production and viticulture.
In 1911, after being excluded from the Champagne region, the Vignerons from the southern Aube, who had long supplied Champagne houses with base white wine, protested and nearly rioted. In 1927 the Aube was reinstated as a full region of the appellation.[18]
In 1935 the Commission de Châlons, a consortium of growers and merchants, was formed to develop quality standards and regulate pricing.
In 1936, Champagne was added to the new Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée system and today it remains the only AOC/AOP that does not need to include Appellation Contrôlée (or Protégée) on the label.[19]
The Phylloxera Epidemic, WWI and WWII
In the 1890s the Phylloxera epidemic plagued France and in an attempt to maintain production some producers imported sparkling wines which they then re-labeled as Champagne. In 1908 Champagne became a delimited region in order to, among other things, to protect name from other wines from using the name “Champagne.” This became a source for conflict between French merchants and growers while international sparkling wine producers continued to use the name. Many producers sought to drive down Champagne grape prices by sourcing fruit from the Loire, the Languedoc, and foreign countries. In 1911 the growers finally rioted and plummeted Champagne houses until the French military intervened and restored order.
World War I
In 1914 World War I had begun and the German army entered Reims and cut right through the region. For four years Reims was under constant bombardment and yet the wives, children, and anyone not serving in the military risked their life to work in the vineyards. Even though they lacked the necessary manpower, horses and fertilizer, the year was one of finest vintages of the 20th century. After WWI ended wine inventories being stock piled up as prices rose and the lucrative German, American, and Russian export dried up the wake of the Great Depression (1929 - 1932) and Prohibition (1920 - 1933) in the United States.[20]
World War II
Then during World War II Champagne was under German occupation and producers took various measures to resist having their library of wines depleted by the Nazi’s who, upon their invasion, plundered many of the best vintages. [21]
Some Champagne houses hid their wines by sealing millions of bottles in their cellars networks to hide them from looting soldiers and the Nazi-appointed “Weinführer” Otto Klaebisch who had taken up residence at the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin estate.[22] They also labeled many of their inferior wines as “Reserved for the Wehrmacht” but such stunts could be various dangerous. In fact, François Taittinger ended up in prison.[23]
The Creation of the CIVC
In 1941 Count Robert-Jean de Vogüé of Moët et Chandon and the Commission de Châlons organized the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) to represent the Champagne industry and protect its interests in the face of Nazi occupation.[24] Today the organization remains continues as a mediator between the large Champagne houses and the numerous smaller grape growers. Today the CIVC is the French regulatory organization responsible for mediating relations between grape growers and Champagne producers. It doing so it recommends, rather than regulates pricing, and supervises the exchange between growers and Champagne houses in order to promote fairness. It also oversees organizes and controls the production, distribution, and promotion of the wines of Champagne. The CIVC regulates the size of harvests and authorizes the reserve and release of wine stocks for use in future vintages known as the blocage and deblocage. The CIVC also safeguards the name “Champagne” and conducts research.[25]
Échelle des Crus
While Bordeaux is classified according to wine estates originally established in 1855 and Burgundy Grand is classified according to Cru vineyards, Champagne is classified according to what village in which the vineyards are located.[26] A percentile system, established in 1919, known as the Échelle des Crus (“ladder of growth”) acts as a rating system for determining grape prices.[27] In this system vineyards located in villages with high rates will receive higher prices for their grapes than vineyards located in villages with a lower rating. The areas authorized for cultivation within each commune are strictly defined. In the system, the villages are rated from 80% - 100% as follows:
Number of Villages
Grand Crus
(There are 6 in Côte des Blanc, 9 in Montagne de Rheims and 2 in Valle de la Marne)
Premier Crus

The Contrôle des Structures prohibits company from farming more than 15 hectares (37 acres) so merchant houses own just over 10% of Champagne’s vineyards. Consequently the approximate 22,000 growers have a great deal of influence even though they sell less than 1/4 of all wine produced.[28]
The Tête de Cuvée
In the second half of the 20th century, the popularity of Champagne expanded. Co-operatives became major suppliers to the domestic market in France and the largest houses their businesses and sales. Following the inaugural 1921 vintage of Moët et Chandon’s “Dom Pérignon,” many houses released a premier bottling often carrying a vintage date known as a tête de cuvee (prestige cuvée). These represent the most expensive and the highest quality wines produced by the Champagne house.
Tête de Cuvée
Champagne House
Prestige Cuvée
Inaugural Year
Moët & Chandon
Dom Pérignon
Louis Roederer
Pol Roger
Sir Winston Churchill
Comtes de Champagne

Beginning in the 1970s, Champagne’s biggest names began establishing wineries in other countries to produce sparkling wine. These wineries have been so successful that successful Champagne now accounts for less than 10% of sparkling wine produced in the world.
Champagne-Owned International Sparking Wine Houses
Louis Roederer
Roederer Estate
Anderson Valley, CA USA
Moët et Chandon
Domaine Chandon
Napa, CA USA
G.H. Mumm et Cie of France and Seagram.
Mumm Napa
Napa, CA USA
(Sold to Starwood Capital in 2005.)
Domaine Carneros
Carneros, Napa Valley USA

In 2007, the Champenoise shipped a record 338.7 million bottles worldwide.[29] In 2009 the INAO decided to meet the burden of demand and broaden the Champagne appellation’s area. The number of villages that can grow grapes for the appellation has increased from 319 to 357 but the effect on the market is not expected to been seen until the year 2021.
The Champagne Method of Making Sparkling Wine
The Méthode Champenoise is known outside of Champagne as méthode traditionnelle or méthode classique elsewhere in France or classic method (Metodo Classico in Italy. While the term “Champagne” in the past was used universally to simply refer to sparkling wine (similar to the way in which some people refer to all tissues as “Kleenex” or all photocopying as “xeroxing” even though these are brand names), the name Champagne is now a protected designated by the European Union (EU) and may only be used to refer to sparkling wines produced according to the prescribed method within the Champagne AOC/AOP.
Méthode Champenoise
Making traditional sparkling wine involves a complicated multiple-step process which is as follows:
(1) Extraction of Juice
White and red grapes are immediately pressed after harvest in order to avoid obtaining and color form the skins and adding color to the must. The extraction of juice is limited to 102 liters from 160 kg of grapes, or 2,550 liters from 4,000 kg.
(2) Division of Juice
The extracted juice is then divided into two parts:
[A] The vin de cuvée  - the first 2,050 liters.
[B] The vin de taille - the following 500 liters which tends to have more pigment and tannin so it is often sold to other producers of wine or it us used as a minor proportion as a structural element in a blend.
(3) Third Extraction
This is known as the rebêche and is required by law and must consist of 1-10% of the total juice extracted from the grapes, but it is used for distillation and not producing Champagne.
(4) Racking
After pressing, the juice is allowed to settle (débourbage) at a cool temperature for 8 to 15 hours and the remaining solids (bourbes) in the must are racked out of the must prior to fermentation.
(5) Primary Fermentation
The must, which is often chaptalized, will then undergo primary fermentation, resulting in high-acid base wines (vins clairs) with an approximate alcohol content of 11%. Primary fermentation may occur in either stainless steel or oak—typically used barrels, although some producers do use a percentage of new wood. The base wines often undergo malolactic fermentation, although this is not a universal practice.
(6) Clarification
After both the primary and malolactic fermentations have been completed the base wines will then be fined, filtered, or go through a centrifuge to clarification.
(7) Primary Ageing
The clarified base wines remain in either stainless steel or barrel until late February or March of the year following the harvest.
(8) Blending
Most Champagnes are a blend (assemblage) of various grapes, vineyards, and vintages. The goal is to produce a wine that reflects the winery’s consistent hallmark style. For Rosé wines, a small amount of base red wine is also added to the blend.
(9) Cold Stabilization
Cold stabilization causes tartrates to crystallize and precipitate out of the wine. This process is referred to as cold stabilization because it is the act of cooling the wine that causes tartaric acid to form tartrate crystals, also known as wine crystals or wine diamonds.
(10) Second Fermentation
At this stage the blend will be racked and bottled with a mixture of still wine, yeasts, sugar, and fining agents (liqueur de triage) added to begin the second fermentation (prise de mousse). Each bottle is affixed with a crown cap (equipped with a bidule, a plastic capsule that will serve to capture the sediment during remuage) or a cork after the liqueur de triage is added, and yeast begins its work. The secondary fermentation lasts up to 8 weeks, as the yeast slowly converts the additional sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. The alcohol content of the wine rises approximately 1.2-1.3%, and the carbon dioxide creates a pressure inside the bottle of 5 to 6 atmospheres. During the second fermentation, the bottles are usually stored horizontally (“sur latte”). Autolysis, the breakdown of dead yeast cells, forms sediment, or lees, in the bottle as second fermentation occurs. The wine will be aged on the lees for a minimum of 12 months, which is required for non-vintage wines.
(11) Riddling
At this stage the sediment must first be trapped in the neck of the bottle. Historically, producers performed an operation called pointage, in which each bottle would be briskly shaken in order to prevent the sediment from sticking to the sides of the bottle. Newer strains of yeast generally preclude the need for pointage, and most houses have abandoned the practice. Instead, producers proceed directly to remuage, or riddling, which manipulates the sediment into the neck and bidule through sharp twists and inversion of the bottle. The bottles are placed in the pupitre, an upright “A” shape frame, with sixty angled holes cut into each plank of wood. A remuer would fractionally turn and tilt each bottle over a period of about eight weeks, slowly inverting the bottles with the neck pointing downward. Today a more efficient methods is used whch shortened to a week or less through the use of a Spanish invention, the gyropalette, an automated device that holds 504 bottles. Today only a few prestige cuvée bottlings are still handled manually.
(12) Settling
Once the sediment is successfully collected in the neck of the bottle, the bottles remain in the upside-down vertical position (“sur pointe”) for a short period of time prior to dégorgement, although some houses will age the wine in this position for a number of years. Bollinger’s “RD” (“Récemment Dégorgé”) is kept sur pointe for a number of years, and only disgorged upon order.[30]
(13) Dégorgement
The modern method of dégorgement à la glace involves dipping the neck of bottle in a freezing brine solution. The bottle can then be turned upright. The force of internal pressure will expel the semi-frozen sediment (and a small portion of wine) as the crown cap is removed. An older method, dégorgement à la volée, utilizes the same principle; however, without freezing the sediment excess wine is invariably lost along with it. As the wines are fully fermented to total dryness, the bottles are then topped off with dosage, or liqueur d’expédition, a liquid mixture of sugar syrup and wine. Rarely, bone-dry non-dosage styles are produced. The amount of sugar in the dosage is determined by the desired style of the wine. Brut is the most common sweetness level and the level at which most houses bottle vintage and prestige cuvées.
(14) Ageing
After the addition of dosage, the bottle is secured with a cork and 6 half-twists of a muselet, or wire cage. The Champagne is then aged in bottle prior to release. Non-vintage styles must remain in the cellar for a total minimum of 15 months (including the period of lees aging), whereas vintage wines require 36 months in the cellar. Many top vintage wines and prestige cuvées age in the caves of Champagne for much longer prior to being sold on the market. Some bottle aging, whether in one’s personal cellar or the cellars of a producer, is usually critical as sulfur and youthful austerity can make recently bottled Champagne unpleasant to drink.

Other Traditional Method Sparkling Wines
While the exact aging requirements and grape varieties may change, the “traditional method” follows the Méthode Champenoise and it utilizes the principle of a second fermentation in the bottle.
AOC/AOP Regions for Crémant
There are 7 AOC/AOP regions for Crémant wines produced by the traditional method:
Crémant de Bordeaux
Established in 1990. There are 500 in the appellation, making it one of the largest in France in terms of geographical area. However, only 250 acres (100 ha) of vineyards are currently devoted to producing these wines. The classic Bordeaux grape varieties dominate including Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle and the Bordeaux red varieties.
Crémant de Bourgogne
Established in 1975. Wines may be white or rose and can vary in sweetness levels from brut (dry) to demi-sec (medium-dry). White Cremant de Bourgogne can be either Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay, Aligote, Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Blanc) or Blanc de Noirs, (Gamay, Pinot Noir). The rosé wines are produced from Pinot Noir and Gamay.
Crémant de Loire
Established in 1975. It is the regional appellation for sparkling wines from Anjou, Saumur and Touraine. Chenin Blanc is the primary grape in Cremant de Loire wines, but other permitted grapes include Chardonnay Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pineau d'Aunis, and Grolleau Noir.  Despite Sauvignon Blanc’s high acidity Loire Sauvignon is not thought to be well suited to sparkling wine production even though it is included in Cremant de Bordeaux.
Crémant de Limoux
Established in 1990. It is made from vineyards around the town of Limoux, in the Pyrenean foothills of southern France. The primary grapes are Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Mauzac.
Crémant de Die
Established in 1993. It is made from vineyards around the town of Die, in the Rhone region of France. Cremant de Die wines are made from a minimum of 55% Clairette, finished with an addition of Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains and Aligote.
Crémant du Jura
Established in 1995. The appellation is for sparkling wines from the Jura region of eastern France. White Cremant du Jura is produced from a minimum of 50% Chardonnay, with the remainder provided by Savagnin. The rosé wines are made from Poulsard and Pinot Noir, which must constitute at least half of the encepagement. The wines are made in the methode traditionelle, aged in bottle with their lees for a minimum of nine months.
Crémant d’Alsace
Established in 1976. The appellation is for sparkling wines from Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Auxerrois Gris.  More than 500 producers are united under the Syndicate of Producers of Crémant d’Alsace. Crémant d’Alsace is currently the top AOC sparkling wine to be consumed in homes across France. Crémant d’Alsace AOC represents 22% of the region’s wine production.

Other appellations in France producing traditional method sparkling wines include Vouvray, Montlouis-sur-Loire, and Saumur in the Loire; and Vin de Savoie and Seyssel in Savoie. Fully sparkling wines will be labeled mousseux whereas lightly sparkling wines are labeled pétillant. Blanquette de Limoux AOP wines from the Languedoc region are also produced by the traditional method, from a minimum 90% Mauzac, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc.
Climate of Champagne

Champagne has a Continental climate with Maritime influence. The region of Champagne is located along the 48th parallel. With a mean annual temperature of only 50°F, ripening is extremely variable, and quality can differ greatly from year to year, requiring the houses of Champagne to blend between vintages to achieve a consistency in their house styles. Grape acidity usually remains markedly high—an important attribute for sparkling wines. Frost, rain, fungal disease and hail are serious concerns for growers in the cold, Atlantic-influenced climate. Rain often interrupts flowering, resulting in a bouvreux, or second crop, that rarely ripens and is left on the vine.


Porous, Belemnite chalk subsoil is pushed to the surface on the appellation’s slopes, absorbing heat to protect the vines at night and providing excellent drainage in the wet climate. Belemnite chalk, derived from the fossilized remains of millions of extinct cephalopods, has a high limestone content, which allows vine roots to dig deeply and is linked to increased acidity. A second layer of Micraster chalk, named for an extinct sea urchin, characterizes the valley vineyards. The Champagne region is renowned for its huge network of cellars carved out of the chalk and limestone subsoil, which provides a perfect natural storage environment of 53-54° F for millions of bottles. A thin layer of clay and sand covers much of the chalk in Champagne; in the Aube to the south clay is the dominant soil type. The houses of Champagne are quick to assert the importance of the region’s soil, but slower overall to embrace the tenets of modern organic and sustainable viticulture. Visitors to the region will no doubt notice shreds of blue plastic scattered throughout many of the vineyards—remnants of bags used to ship composted trash. The Champenoise have a long history of relying on recycled Parisian garbage to fertilize their vineyards. Composting is admirable, but the portion of inorganic and toxic waste grew over time, and the practice was outlawed in 1998. Les bleus de ville remain, a reminder to a new generation of growers and caretakers.

Viticultural Practices
As in all French appellations, viticulture in Champagne is highly regulated. Every year the allowed yields are often adjusted and they are quite high in comparison with other regions of France. The maximum average vine age is approximately 20 years, as the productivity decreases in older vines which is undesirable to most houses in Champagne. The pressing of grapes is strictly monitored and the CIVC sets a limits of the quantity of liters per kilograms a marc of grapes, the amount held in a traditional Coquard basket press.

Pruning Methods
Only four pruning methods are permitted in the vineyard which are as follows:

Cordon de Royat


Vallée de la Marne

Guyot (double and simple)

There are 3 Appellation d'Origine Contrôlées (AOC)s in Champagne.

Rose de Riceys AOC
Made in the three villages of Les Riceys, a commune in the Aube département in the Champagne province of France. The wines are all rosé, produced from Pinot Noir. They are either fermented in stainless steel tanks for early drinking or in wood allowing longer ageing.

Coteaux Champenois AOC
It covers the same area as sparkling Champagne production, but covers only still wines. The grapes are the same as those allowed for sparkling Champagne: Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier for red wines, and Chardonnay for white wines.

Champagne AOC
Established in 1936. The only authorized grapes are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, plus two grapes - Arbanne and Petit Meslier. 

The Regions of Champagne and Champagne Villages
Many of the large commercial houses of Champagne are located in the city of Reims and the smaller towns of Épernay and Aÿ. There are 357 villages that are authorized to grow grapes for Champagne located in 5 districts:
Prominent Grape(s)
Vineyard Aspect
Montagne de Reims
Pinot Noir
South and north facing slopes on the higher slopes of the region’s plateau.
Vallée de la Marne
Pinot Meunier

Côte des Blancs
Southeast and East facing slopes
Côte de Sézanne

Côte des Bars (the Aube)
Pinot Meunier

Echelle des Cru
As of 1985 there are 17 All Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages are located in the Marne department. The current Grand Crus of Champagne include:
Grand Crus
Subregion of Champagne
Montagne de Reims
Côte des Blancs
Vallée de la Marne
Montagne de Reims
Montagne de Reims
Côte des Blancs
Côte des Blancs
Montagne de Reims
Mailly Champagne
Montagne de Reims
Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
Côte des Blancs
Côte des Blancs
Côte des Blancs
Montagne de Reims
Montagne de Reims
Vallée de la Marne
Montagne de Reims
Montagne de Reims
Key White Grape Varieties
In 2012, Chardonnay accounted for 30% of total plantings. It provides elegance and longevity to the Champagne blend.
Lesser White Grape Varieties
Authorized for Champagne AOP production, but is rarely encountered. As of 2006 there is less than 1 hectare (2.5 acres) left in France. The Champagne house Moutard-Diligent in Buxeuil is the only producer of a “Vielles Vignes” (Old Vines) Champagne made only from Arbane. Moutard-Diligent also produces a "Cuvée Six Cépages" which uses six of the seven authorized grapes varieties : Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, Petit Meslier, Pinot blanc and Arbane; the additional approved grape variety being Fromenteau (Pinot Gris) Champagne Aubry and Drappier, produce blends which include both Arbane and other now rare Champagne varieties such as Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc.
Pinot Blanc Vrai

The “true” Pinot Blanc, a white form of Pinot Noir, it is authorized for Champagne AOP production, but is rarely encountered.
Pinot Gris
Authorized for Champagne AOP production, but is rarely encountered.
Petit Meslier
Authorized for Champagne AOP production, but is rarely encountered. Petit Meslier is the result of a cross between Gouais Blanc and Savagnin. It is valued for its ability to retain acidity even in hot vintages. Duval-Leroy uses this grape to produce a single varietal Champagne and Champagne Moutard use 1/6th of Petit Meslier in their unique “Cuvée Six Cépages”.
Key Red Grape Varieties
Pinot Noir
In 2012, Pinot Noir accounted for 38% of total plantings. It supports the wine’s structure, richness and body approachability in the Champagne blend.
Pinot Meunier
 In 2012, Pinot Meunier accounted for 32% of total plantings. The name means “miller’s” Pinot after the dusty appearance of its leaves. The grape provides a youthful fruitiness and approachability in the Champagne blend.
Styles of Champagne
Non-Vintage (NV)
Generally brut in style, the NV cuvée represents a house’s signature style, and the blender’s job is to ensure its consistency from year to year. Non-vintage Champagne makes up at least three-quarters of the market.
100% of the blend must come from the stated vintage, yet a maximum 80% of a year’s harvest may be sold as vintage Champagne. The better houses declare a vintage only in exceptional years. These are usually brut in style, and good examples can age for a decade or more.
Blanc de Blanc
100% Chardonnay is required, but it is not always sourced from the Côte des Blancs. They may be vintage-dated or NV. The Blanc de Blancs category represents some of Champagne’s most ageworthy bottlings; while austere and often steely in youth, better examples develop an intense bouquet with maturity.
Blanc de Noirs
White wine produced solely from black grapes. The wine usually displays richness, intensity, and weight, although it can lack the supreme elegance and finesse of Blanc de Blancs.
Prestige Cuvée (Tête de Cuvée)
Usually the finest and most expensive bottling that a house offers, the prestige cuvée is typically (but not always) vintage-dated and aged for a number of years prior to release. Prestige Cuvées are usually only released in superior vintages, and may undergo more traditional vinification procedures, such as barrel fermentation, riddling by hand, and cork-finishing during the second fermentation. Many of the large houses produce prestige cuvées from their own vineyards—even single vineyards in exceptional cases. Prestige cuvées may be Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs or rosé in style. Not all houses produce a prestige cuvée, and some produce several. Classic examples include Moët et Chandon "Dom Pérignon," Taittinger "Comtes de Champagne," Louis Roederer "Cristal," Laurent-Perrier "Grande Siècle," Perrier-Jouët "Belle Époque" (bottled as "Fleur de Champagne" for the US market), Pol Roger "Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill," Ruinart "Dom Ruinart," and Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin "La Grande Dame."
Single Vineyard Champagne
Single Vineyard Champagne bottlings may be produced by a large house or a smaller grower-producer, and may or may not be advertised as a prestige cuvée. Single Vineyard wines are not required to carry a vintage date, although they invariably do, and the style represents a stark departure from the blending philosophy of the region. Philipponnat’s “Clos de Goisses,” originally released for the 1935 vintage from one of the few walled vineyards of the region, remains a benchmark bottling.
Special Club Prestige Cuvée
The “Special Club” concept originated in 1971, with a dozen grower-producers. Lacking the marketing budgets of larger houses, these producers banded together to promote their prestige cuvées through identical packaging. Today, the Club Trésors comprises over two-dozen RM producers as members. The Special Club bottlings are estate-bottled, vintage-dated wines that represent the pinnacle of each individual grower’s style and production. Special Club bottles and labels share identical design. Current members include Marc Hébrart, Pierre Gimmonet, Paul Bara, J. Lassalle and Gaston Chiquet.
Rosé Champagne
Vintage, NV, and prestige cuvées may also be produced in pink versions. The traditional saignée method, in which the wine gains its hue through extended skin contact, is less common than blending. Champagne is the only AOP in France that allows a rosé to be produced by blending red and white wine. A rosé prestige cuvée, a novelty in years past, is usually the most expensive and rare product a house offers.
Alternative Sparkling Winemaking Methods
Méthode Ancestrale
Also known as the méthode rurale, this is the oldest and most rudimentary of sparkling winemaking procedures. A single fermentation begins in tank, but the wine is transferred to bottles before the process is complete—liqueur de triage is unnecessary. Yeasts continue to ferment the remaining sugars in the bottle, giving the wine its sparkle. The residual sweetness of the finished wines varies by appellation, but dosage is not allowed. Typically, the wine is disgorged, filtered and rebottled in clean glass prior to sale. Bugey Cerdon, Clairette de Die Méthode Dioise Ancestrale, and Gaillac Mousseux Méthode Gaillaçoise are examples of the style.
Charmat Process
Also known as Cuve Close/Tank Method: Developed by Eugene Charmat in the early 20th century, the Tank Method is quicker, cheaper, and less labor-intensive than the traditional method. After the wine undergoes primary fermentation, liqueur de triage is added to the wine, provoking a second fermentation, which occurs in a pressurized enamel-lined tank, or autoclave, over a matter of days. Once the appropriate pressure is reached (usually 5 atmospheres), the wine is chilled to arrest fermentation. Some appellations require the wine to remain in tank for a minimum period of time, such as one month for Asti DOCG. The wine is then filtered and bottled, usually with a dosage. The lack of extended lees contact in the tank method is not suitable for making quality wines in the style of Champagne. The bubbles, or bead, in tank method wines will be larger and coarser, and the wine will have a less uniform texture than wines made by the traditional method. However, this method is appropriate and even preferred for sparkling wines emphasizing fruit and varietal aromatics rather than the flavors derived from autolysis. Most Asti DOCG and Prosecco bottlings are produced in this method.
Continuous Method
Developed in the USSR, this method is similar to the tank method, but the base wine is pumped through a series of interconnected (continuous) tanks while undergoing the second fermentation. Liqueur de triage is constantly added to the wine, and lees accumulate in the first several tanks, offering a higher degree of autolyzed flavors than the standard tank method. The majority of German Sekt is produced by either the tank method or the continuous method.
The cheapest method of sparkling winemaking involves a simple injection of carbon dioxide into still wine. The bubbles do not integrate into the texture of the wine at all, and fade quickly upon opening. This method is not used for quality wines.
Sweetness Levels for Champagne
One of the most confusing items on a Champagne label is the indication of dryness or sweetness of the wine which defined by the amount of sugar in the dosage, not the amount of sweetness perceived by the consumer. After January 1, 2010 producers are allowed a margin of +/- 3 grams per liter
Extra Brut
0-6 grams per liter
0-6 grams per liter
0-15 grams per liter
0-12 grams per liter
Extra Dry
12-20 grams per liter
12-17 grams per liter
17-35 grams per liter
17-32 grams per liter
33-50 grams per liter
32-50 grams per liter
50+ grams per liter
50+ grams per liter
Champagne Bottle Sizes
Champagne is bottled in a range of bottle sizes. For bottle sizes larger than a Jeroboam and smaller than a half bottle Transfer Method (Transvasage) is permitted. In this method, riddling (remuage) is unnecessary as the wine is disgorged into a pressurized tank and filtered. Dosage is then added and the wine is transferred to a clean bottle under pressure. Larger sizes such as the Sovereign and Primat are extraordinarily rare. Many sources refer to the 18 L bottle as a Melchior, as it is called in Bordeaux.
Origin of Name
Quarter Bottle (Piccolo)

187 ml
Half Bottle (Demi)

375 ml

750 ml

1.5 L (2 bottles)
The first king of the northern Israelite Kingdom of Israel after the revolt of the ten northern Israelite tribes against Rehoboam that put an end to the United Monarchy (975-954 B.C) (1 Kings Chapter 11).
3 L (4 bottles)
(Discontinued in 1989)
He was a son of King Solomon and a grandson of King David. Initially he was the king of the United Monarchy of Israel but after the ten northern tribes of Israel rebelled in 932/931 BC to form the independent Kingdom of Israel he was king of the Kingdom of Judah, or southern kingdom.
4.5 L (6 bottles)
Methuselah is mentioned in one passage in the Hebrew Bible as part of the genealogy linking Adam to Noah (Genesis 5:21–27). He died at the age of 969, seven days before the beginning of the Great Flood.
6 L (8 bottles)
He is an 8th century B.C.. king of Assyria mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (2 Kings 17:3).
9 L (12 bottles)
A name commonly attributed to one of the Biblical Magi (Three Wise Men), who are not actually named in the Gospel narrative (Matthew Chapter 2). It is also an alternate form of Belteshazzar, the name given to Daniel by the Chaldeans (Daniel 1:7).
12 L (16 bottles)
He was the king of Babylonia (605 BC - 562 BC) and according to the Hebrew Bible he served as God’s instrument of judgment on Judah for its idolatry, unfaithfulness, and disobedience (Jeremiah 25:9).
15 L (20 bottles)
Son of King David, author of Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and many of the Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible.
18 L (24 bottles)
Champagne Producers Codes
Every bottle of Champagne bears a code assigned to each producer by the CIVC. This code consists of set of initials preceding a series of digits which indicate the type of producer that made the wine. There are 7 different initials which are as follows:
Négociant Manipulant - A house that purchases grapes and or base wines from growers and other smaller houses. Some NM houses own a significant portion of their own vineyards; others own none at all. Large Champagne houses with the most international presence are invariably in this category: Moët et Chandon, Louis Roederer, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Billecart-Salmon, Lanson, Taittinger, Pol Roger, Perrier-Jouët, Mumm, and Laurent-Perrier. Quality varies widely, although prices are uniformly high. Many houses often fall under the same corporate parentage; for example, Moët et Chandon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, and Mercier fall under the umbrella of the luxury conglomerate LVMH.
Récoltant Manipulan - A grower-producer who makes Champagne from estate-grown fruit. 95% of the grapes must originate in the producer’s own vineyards.
Coopérative Manipulant - A growers’ co-operative that produces the wine under a single brand.
Récoltant Coopérateur - A grower whose grapes are vinified at a co-operative, but sells the wine under his own label.
Société de Récoltants - A firm, not a co-operative, set up by a union of often related growers, who share resources to make their wines and collectively market several brands.
Négociant Distributeur - A middleman company that distributes Champagne it did not make.
Marque d’Acheteur - A buyer’s own brand, often a large supermarket chain or restaurant, that purchases Champagne and sells it under its own label.
Top Large Champagne Producers
A medium-sized champagne house in Mareuil-sur-Ay, France. It was founded in 1818 with the marriage of Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon. It is one of the few to remain family owned. 
Founded in 1829 in Aÿ by Hennequin de Villermont, Paul Renaudin and Jacques Bollinger, the house continues to be run by members of the Bollinger family. It produces several labels of Champagne under the Bollinger name, including the vintage Vieille Vignes Françaises, Grand Année and R.D. as well as the non-vintage Special Cuvée. In Britain Bollinger Champagnes are affectionately known as “Bolly”.
It was founded in 1584 by Pierre Gosset, the oldest wine house in Champagne. Gosset wines are made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The house is known for its slightly sweet Brut Excellence and its vintage prestige cuvee Célebris and Grand Millésime. The house also produced a commemorative wine the Quatrième Centenaire.
The house was founded in Châlons-sur-Marne in 1798 by Memmie Jacquesson making it the oldest independent Champagne house. It is based in the Dizy region of Champagne. The reputation of the house grew after it was rumored that it was a favorite of Napoleon, who bestowed upon the house a gold medal for its fine cellars. The Champagne house Juglar was absorbed into Jacquesson in 1829. By 1867 annual sales of Jacquesson bottles had reached one-million but a period of decline followed the death of Adolphe Jacquesson, inventor of the muselet (wire collar) when the descendants ceased to continue the family business, and ownership changed hands over several decades, until in 1974 when it was bought by Jean Chiquet. Today it is directed with brothers Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet. Jacquesson vineyards are located in the Grand Cru villages of Aÿ, Avize and Oiry and in thePremier Cru villages of Dizy, Hautvillers and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, with approximately 15% of the fruit sourced from growers in these villages as well as the Grand Cru village of Chouilly and the Premier Cru village Cumières. The main wine is a numbered cuvée, for example Cuvée 733, which is a blend of 2005 vintage with 30-40% older reserve wines. Other wines are vintages, the best known from Avize Grand Cru and single vineyard wines from Ay, Dizy and Avize.
Founded by Joseph Krug in 1843. It is based principally in Reims, the main city in France’s Champagne region and is one of the famous Champagne houses that formed part of the Grande Marques. Today the house is majority owned by the multinational conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton S.A. whose portfolio includes other wine known wine brands such as Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Château d'Yquem and Ruinart. Despite LVMH’s majority ownership, the Krug family is still actively involved in all the key decisions of the house but does not manage the day-to-day operations.
Pol Roger 
Founded in 1849 the brand is still owned and run by the descendants of Pol Roger. It based around the town of Épernay in the Champagne region and the annually produces around 110,000 cases of sparkling wine. he house's prestige label is the vintage Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. They also release three non-vintage cuvées, the Pure Brut, Brut Réserve and Rich (sweet), as well as three other vintage wines, the Brut Vintage, Blanc de blancs and Rosé Vintage. Pol Roger Brut Vintage is typically a blend of about 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay.
Louis Roederer 
Founded as Dubois Père & Fils in 1776. Louis Roederer inherited the company from his uncle in 1833 and renamed it in 1776. With concentrated efforts in several countries, including Russia. Tsar Nicholas II nominated Louis Roederer as the official wine supplier to the Imperial Court of Russia. Though the Russian Revolution and the U.S. Prohibition caused financial difficulties during the early 20th century, Roederer was re-established as a leading Grandes Marquesproducer and remains in descendants’ Rouzaud ownership. Cristal is a precursor prestige cuvée brand and was made commercially available in 1945. Two-thirds of the grapes needed for production are sourced from a 214 hectares (530 acres) vineyard and the remaining third is sourced from established farming contacts. The Roederer non-vintage cuvées include the extra dry Brut Premier, Grand Vin Sec and the demi-sec Carte Blanche, all Pinot noir and Chardonnay blended approximately in 2:1 proportion, with a small portion of Pinot Meunier. The vintage cuvées include the Brut Vintage, Rosé Vintage, with Pinot noir and Chardonnay in an approximately 7:3 proportion, and the 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs. The rosé is made by red wine addition rather than by saignée method. The prestige cuvée Cristal, approximately an equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, is also available as a rosé, which contains more Pinot noir and is also made by addition of red wine. The total annual production of Roederer is approximately 3.2 million bottles, of which 70-80% is Louis Roederer Brut Premier.
Champagne Salon
Produces sparkling wine in the blanc de blancs style. The winery was founded by Eugène Aimé Salon in the early 20th century. Salon became convinced that the Chardonnay grapes from the Le Mesnil-sur-Oger vineyards could produce wine with the desirable levels of finesse and elegance without the need to add Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. Around the turn of the 20th century, he began producing a Chardonnay-only cuvée that he shared privately with friends. The first commercial vintage of Champagne Salon was in 1921 and by 2006, the house has released only 37 vintages under the Salon label. Following Eugène’s death in 1943, his sister inherited the company which was eventually sold to Laurent-Perrier in 1989. Since then, Salon is effectively part of the combined Salon-Delamotte house.
Champagne Taittinger
originally Château de la Marquetterie which was founded in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux. Jacques worked closely with the Benedictine Abbeys who owned the finest vineyards in the region. After the WWI, the wine-house was moved to a large mansion on the Rue de Tambour. In 1932, Pierre Taittinger bought the Château de la Marquetterie from the wine house of Forest-Fourneaux. The vineyards of the château had been planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir since the 18th Century. This property had been developed by Brother Jean Oudart, a Benedictine monk, one of the founding fathers of champagne wine, and later it had belonged to the writer Jacques Cazotte. From 1945 to 1960 the business was run by Pierre’s third son François. Under his direction, the Taittinger cellars were established in the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise, built in the thirteenth century in Gallo-Roman chalk pits dating from the fourth century. After François’ death his brother Claude took over and directed the business from 1960 to 2005. It was during this time that Taittinger became a champagne house of world renown. Champagne Taittinger was sold in July 2005 by the Taittinger family, along with its subsidiary Société du Louvre, to the U.S. hotel group Starwood. On 31 May 2006, the Northeast Regional Bank of the Crédit Agricole, in collaboration with Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, bought the business for 660 million euros ($906,444,000 U.S. dollars). The area covers 288.84 hectares (713.73 acres) of vineyards and has 12 to 13 million bottles in stock. The Château de la Marquetterie and its cellars were part of the overall purchase. The Starwood group retained some hotels, including luxury hotels Crillon, Lutetia and Martinez, and the hotel chains Campanile and Kyriad. Claude Taittinger retired in 2006 and his nephew Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger replaced him as head of the business.
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
 champagne house based in Reims. In 1772, Philippe Clicquot-Muiron established the original enterprise which in time became the house of Veuve Clicquot. In 1775, it was credited to be the first Champagne house to produce Rosé Champagne, and the method of adding red wine during the production of Rosé Champagne. Philippe’s son, François Clicquot, married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1798 and died in 1805, leaving his widow (veuve in French) in control of a company variously involved in banking, wool trading, and Champagne production. She became the first woman to take over a Champagne house. Under Madame Clicquot’s guidance the firm focused entirely Champagne production. During the Napoleonic Wars, Madame Clicquot made strides in establishing her wine in royal courts throughout Europe, notably that of Imperial Russia, thus becoming the first Champagne House to ship Champagne past The Blockade to Russia in 1811.The 1811 comet vintage of Veuve Clicquot is theorized to have been the first truly “modern” Champagne due to the advancements in the méthode champenoise which Veuve Clicquot pioneered through the technique of remuage. With the assistance of her cellar master, Antoine de Müller, Clicquot invented the riddling rack that made the crucial process of dégorgement both more efficient and economic. By the time she died in 1866 Veuve Clicquot had become both a substantial Champagne house and a respected brand. Easily recognized by its distinctive bright yellow labels, the wine holds a royal warrant of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Since 1987 the Veuve Clicquot company has been part of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy group of luxury brands, and today owns a controlling interest in New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay Vineyards.
Top Small Champagne Producers
Pierre Peters Champagne
For six generations the Pierre Péters Estate has been home in the heart of the Côte des Blancs in the village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger where they have been producing Champagne Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru, since 1919. The grapes come exclusively from their own vineyards and they currently operate just over 18 hectares (44.5 acres) of Chardonnay, mainly located in the communes of Mesnil sur Oger, Oger, Avize and Cramant.
Pierre Gimonnet Champagne
Didier Gimonnet is the second generation of growers to direct this superb estate, with 28 hectares (69 acres) of holdings in grand and premier cru villages, predominantly in the Côte de Blancs. The winery is in the premier cru village of Cuis where Didier’s family has been growing grapes since 1750. Pierre Gimonnet, Dider’s Grandfather, started bottling estate champagnes in 1935. In addition to the 13.5 hectares (33 acres) in Cuis, Gimonnet owns 11 hectares (27 acres) of Chardonnay vines in the grand cru villages of Cramant and Chouilly, plus another hectare (2.47 acres) in Oger and two in Vertus. Gimonnet also owns half a hectare of Pinot Noir (1.23 acres), split between the grand cru of Aÿ and 1er cru of Mareuil-sur Aÿ. The high percentage of old vines at this estate sets it apart in a region suffering from a plethora of very young vineyards. About 70% of Gimonnet’s  holdings are over 30 years old, of which some 40% are over 40 years old, with 100+ year old vines in the lieux-dits of Le Fond du Bateau, planted in 1911, and Buisson planted in 1913, both in the Grand Cru village of Cramant. The annual production is about 20,000 cases and the vines consist of 98% chardonnay and 2% Pinot Noir
Cédric Bouchard Champagne
Cédric Bouchard began his career in 2000 with only 1.37 hectares (3.38 acres) of vines in the village of Celles-sur-Ource in the Côte des Bar region of Champagne. Eight years later he was awarded the title of Champagne’s finest winemaker for the year 2008 by one of the most influential French restaurant guides, the Gault Millau. Bouchard focuses on single vineyard bottlings of a single variety (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc), and single vintage cuveés. Each wine is made only from juice from the first pressing, fermented only with indigenous yeast.  Cédric farms organically, dramatically restricts yields (among the lowest in Champagne) and places extra emphasis on picking at the optimum moment. There are three distinct bottlings from his own vineyards which are all bottled under his Roses de Jeanne label. Bouchard has grown his initial holdings by working 1.47 hectares (3.63 acres) of vines owned by his father from which he produces Blanc de Noirs cuvées bottled under the Champagne Inflorescence label. The two distinct lineups include the following wines:
Inflorescence Val Vilaine – This wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir from the 1.5 hectare lieu-dit of Val Vilaine with a total production of 300-500 cases annually.
Inflorescence La Parcelle - This wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir from the 1.5 hectare lieu-dit of Côte de Bachelin. Spends a full three years on the lees is always bottled as a vintage cuvee with a total production of 150 cases produced annually.
Roses de Jeanne Les Ursules - This wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir from the .9 hectare lieu-dit of Les Ursules.  This wine is currently unavailable as Bouchard aims to release it as a vintage bottling in 2014 and it is resting sur lie. Approximately 250-300 cases are produced annually.
Roses de Jeanne La Haute-Lemblée - This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay (five different clones) from the .12 hectare lieu-dit of La Haute Lemblée. Extremely limited production.
Roses de Jeanne Bolorée - This wine is made from very old and rare Pinot Blanc from a 0.217 hectare lieu-dit known as La Boloree. Extremely limited production.
Roses de Jeanne Le Creux d’Enfer Rosé - This wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir from  a few rows on the .07 hectare lieu-dit of Le Creux d'Enfer. Made by the “saignée” method. Extremely limited production.
Margaine Champagne
In 1989 Arnaud Margaine took over a 6.5 hectare (16.06 acres) estate known as the Villers-Marmery from his father Bernard and he is the 4th generation of his family to work these vineyards in the Mogntagne de Reims. Villers-Marmery is a vineyard of Chardonnay, surrounded by Pinot Noir vineyards, that is used to create  Blanc de Blancs. The clone of Chardonnay grown in this vineyard is unique to this area and cannot be found anywhere else Champagne. The estate was founded in the 1920s by Bernard Margaine and was expanded by in the 1950s. The majority of Margaine’s holdings are in the village of Villers-Marmery, a 95% village for Chardonnay, and the parcels here are old averaging about 32 years. Margaine also has a small parcel of Pinot Noir in the village of Verzy. The annual production is about 5,800 cases and their vineyard holdings consist of 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir.
Gatinois Champagne
The Champagne house of Gatinois is located in the village of Äy, in the Vallée de Marne. Äy is one of the most important villages in all of Champagne, all of the vineyards are Grand Cru and it is considered one of the very top sources for Pinot Noir in the Champagne region. Since the 1980s Pierre Cheval-Gatinois has been head of the house and he oversees the vineyards that are just over 7 hectares (17.29 acres) that the family owns in Äy. For many years the family primarily made its living as grape growers, with much of its production earmarked each year to be sold to Bollinger. Monsieur Cheval-Gatinois continues to sell of about half of his crop to the Grande Marques, including Bollinger, to this day, but with each passing year he is bottling more of his production on his own. His family have been vignerons in the region for 11 generations. The Gatinois house style of Champagne is classic for produced primarily from  fruit from the village of Äy. They rely heavily on Pinot Noir (90%) in the blends for all of the various Gatinois cuvees and the Brut Millésime made of 100% Pinot Noir. The Gatinois lineup begins with their full-bodied non-vintage brut bottling which is called Brut Tradition. It is made up of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay. The wine is aged for three years prior to release and it has the ability to improve with age for 12 to 15 years after release. The next step up in the Gatinois hierarchy is their non-vintage Brut Réserve (90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay), which is also made from the Gatinois’ grand cru holdings. The Brut Réserve is made quite traditionally, with hand riddling and hand disgorgement prior to release, and includes a very significant percentage of older reserve wines in the blend to build complexity and depth in the finished wine. In top vintages Monsieur Gatinois also makes a Brut Millésime, which made from one 100% Äy Pinot Noir. This cuvée, in years when it is produced, also receives the lion’s share of the family’s production of the special Pinot Noir clone that originated in Äy and which has made the village famous for this grape, which is called Petit Pinot d’ Äy. This strain of Pinot Noir is considered the finest in all of Champagne, producing finer, more complex and often longer-lived wines. Finally, they also produce a non-vintage Brut Rosé, which is made from 90% to 100% Pinot Noir and made by the addition of a small percentage of still red wine from a small block of 60 year-old Pinot Noir vines rather than from a short skin contact once the grapes are pressed. The Gatinois Champagne house produces only 2,200 cases of wine each year.
Egly-Ouriet Champagne
Founded in 1930, Francis Egly is the fourth generation in the family to produce wine, having taken over from his father Michel in the early 1980s.  He stopped selling most of the fruit to the ‘négoce’ or big houses.  Egly-Ouriet (along with Selosse and Larmandier-Bernier) is one of the few growers who follows biodynamic, organic or “living soil” principals of viticulture. Egly had the good fortune to marry a woman who inherited almost as much land as he did, and their vineyard holdings now total over 30 acres. The estate is now some 12 hectares (29 acres), 8 of which are in Grand Cru Ambonnay itself, 2 hectares (4.9 acres) in Premier Cru Vrigny on the Petite Montagne (all old vine Pinot Meunier), 1 hectare (2.47 acres) in Verzenay (Grand Cru) and 1 hectare (2.47 acres) in Bouzy (Grand Cru), next door to Ambonnay.  So it is all grand cru except for the Vrigny fruit. The grape proportions are some 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, as well as the Meunier from Vrigny. Apart from Vrigny, these are all 100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir areas. Egly-Ouriet also produces a Ambonnay Rouge, a 100 % Pinot Noir dry red.
Vilmart Champagne
 In 1890 Désiré Vilmart founded Vilmart and it has always been a récoltant-manipulant (RM), making Champagne exclusively from estate-owned vines. Since 1989 the estate has been in the hands of Laurent Champs, the 5th generation of the family to take the helm of the house. The majority of Vilmart's 11 hectares (27 acres) of vines lie in Rilly-la-Montagne, although there are a few plots just over the border in the neighboring village of Villers-Allerand. Vilmart is a member of Ampelos, an organization that promotes organic and sustainable viticulture, and Champs has never used any herbicides or chemical fertilizers since taking over the estate. Their annual production is about 8,500 cases and their 11 hectares (27 acres) of vines are planted to 60% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir, 4% Pinot Meunier.
Chartogne-Taillet Champagne
The vineyards of Merfy are 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) north of Reims, lie on the southern slopes of the Massif de Saint-Thierry in the Montagne de Reims.  These slopes were planted shortly after the arrival of the Romans and monks of the neighboring Abbey of Saint-Thierry expanded the vineyards in the 7th century.  By the 9th century, the vines surrounding the abbey represented the single largest concentration of vines in Champagne and the wines from Merfy earned a great reputation and found their way to the Royal table. Chartogne-Taillet is based in Merfy, where the majority of the estate’s holdings are, and remains the only récoltant-manipulant (RM) producer in the village.  The soil in Merfy is clay, sand and sandstone over chalk. Alexandre vinifies each parcel individually some in stainless steel and a growing number in neutral barrique. The family's holdings in Merfy include the Chemin de Reims vineyard, a site mentioned in viticultural writings from the ninth century. Today, chardonnay from the Chemin de Reims vineyard is used in Chartogne-Taillet’s tête de cuvée, Cuvee Fiacre. This cuvee is named for Fiacre Taillet, born in the beginning of the 18th century, who kept records of wine making almost three hundred years ago. This tradition is carried on by Alexandre Chartogne today. The total vineyard holdings are 11.68 hectares (28.86 acres) with an annual production of about 6,700 cases from vines that consist of 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, and10% Pinot Meunier.
Jean Milan Champagne
Caroline Milan is the 4th generation of the family to direct this estate; it was founded in 1864 by Jean Milan, her great-great-grandfather. Today Milan controls 6 hectares (14 acres) of vines averaging 43 years, spread over 42 different parcels, all in the grand cru of Oger which sits between the hills of Mesnil and Cramant. The annual production is about 10,900 cases from vines planted to 100% Chardonnay.

Wines Tasted
1. Franck Bonville Extra Brut Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Champagne

This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay. It is a clear white wine, brass in color with minute bubbles. On the nose it is clean with moderate- intense aromas of fruit cocktail, canned pears, Wrigley’s chewing gum, and white flowers with minor notes of chalk and toasty bread. On the palate it is dry with medium+ acidity, it is light in body with a long light bodied finish with lingering notes of hazel nut and yeasty bread dough. A very elegant wine which sells for $40.

2. Franck Bonville Brut “Prestige” Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Champagne

This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay. It is a clear white wine, light straw in color with a brass tint around the edge with minute bubbles. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas of pear, white flowers, with minor notes of chalk, and bread dough. On the palate it is dry with medium+ acid, it is light in body with long a nutty and sour dough bread finish. A very elegant wine which sells for $44.

3. Ayala Brut Champagne “Majeur” NV

This wine is made from 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. A clear white wine, light straw in color with a brass tint around the edge with minute bubbles. On the nose it is clean with subtle aromas of tart green apples with a hint of smoke and flint, white flowers and a touch of chalk. On the palate it has flavors of dried apples and tasty bread, it is dry with high acid, light in body with a long finish. A very elegant wine which sells for $40.

4. Fleury Blanc de Noir Bouzy Grand Cru Champagne NV

This wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir. It is a clear white wine, brass in color with minute bubbles. On the nose it is clean with very subtle aromas of dried peach, white flowers and chalk. It is dry with high acid, light in body and a long finish. This wine is more austere and restrained than the previous wines and very elegant which sells for $40.

5. Barnaut Brut Rose “Authentique” Champagne

This wine is made from 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. It is a clear pink wine with minute bubbles. On the nose it is has moderate intense aromas of smoke and gun flint with no fruit or floral aromas. On the palate it is dry with high acidity, medium body and an unpleasant medium length finish. This wine sells for $44 but I wouldn’t pay 4 cents for it.

6. Laurent Perrier “Grand Siecle” Brut Champagne

This wine is made from 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. It is a clear white wine straw in color with a hint of green tint around the edge and minor bubbles. On the nose it is clean subtle intense aromas of apples, hints of lemon and minor notes of chalk. On the palate it has flavors of dried pears, sour dough bread and lemon tarts. It has medium+ acidity, light in body and a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $109.

7. Laurent Perrier Demi-Sec Champagne NV

This wine is made from 45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier. This is a clear white wine, gold/brass in color with minute bubbles. On the nose it has subtle aromas almonds, marzipan, bees wax, yellow flowers and minutes hints of toasty bread. On the palate it has medium+ acid, it is sweet with medium- body and a medium+ finish. This wine sells for $35.

[1] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 7.
[2] Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2003), 137.
[3] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 9.
[4] Julien Camus, Lisa M. Airey, Celine Camus (ed), French Wine Scholar Study Manual (French Wine Society), 69.
[5] Ian Wood, The Merovingian Kingdoms, (Longman, 1994), 45.
[6] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 9.
[7] Julien Camus, Lisa M. Airey, Celine Camus (ed), French Wine Scholar Study Manual (French Wine Society), 70.
[8] T. Stevenson (ed.), The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia (4th Edition) (DK ADULT, 2007), 237-241.
[9] D. & P. Kladstrup Champagne (Harper Perennial, 2006), 46–47.
[10] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 166.
[11] Hugh Johnson, Vintage: The Story of Wine (Simon and Schuster), 213-214.
[12] D. & P. Kladstrup, Champagne (Harper Collins Publisher, 2006), 26.
[13] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 12.
[14] T. Stevenson (ed.), The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia (4th Edition) (DK ADULT, 2007),169–178.
[15]  Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 72
[16] J. Robinson (ed), The Oxford Companion to Wine  (3rd edition) (Oxford University Press, 2006), 153.
[17] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 15, 94.
[18] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 15.
[19] J. Robinson (ed), The Oxford Companion to Wine (3rd edition) (Oxford University Press, 2006), 151.
[20] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 15.
[21] Don Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup, Wine & War (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2001), 83
[22] Don Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup, Wine & War (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2001), 79.
[23] Don Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup, Wine & War (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2001), 84-85.
[24] Don Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup, Wine & War (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2001), 89–90.
[26] J. Robinson (ed), The Oxford Companion to Wine  (3rd edition) (Oxford University Press, 2006), 152-153.
[27] Tyson Stelzer, The Champagne Guide 2014–2015 (Hardie Grant Books)
[28] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 5.
[30] Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne (University of California Press, 2009), 142.

1 comment:

  1. There is now an 8th Crémant region in France beginning with the 2015 vintage: Crémant de Savoie. Notes for this new AOC are in my notes for Savoie.