Champagne – Where sparkling dreams are made

If you follow me on Instagram (@tipthebottle), you would have seen my many insta-posts of Champagne bottles, me in amongst Champagne vineyards, me drinking Champagne…

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Yes, I went to Champagne. Yes, I absolutely loooooved it!

Tripping to Champagne has been one of the best experiences of my life. With so much history and insight in to the Champagne making process, it has made me more knowledgeable on the sparkly drink, and appreciative of the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that go in to one bottle. Actually, it’s really not blood, sweat and tears that go in to Champagne, it’s three grape varieties (and always these three grape varieties) Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay all sourced from the Champagne region in France. This is what makes Champagne, Champagne.

My learning experience of Champagne all kicked off with a full-day guided tour with France Bubbles Tours.

Our tour guide was Amanda. Amanda was a local from Reims, which is located in the Champagne region. She really demonstrated her knowledge of the region, and was dropping little Champagne truths all throughout the day.

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Tour guide Amanda dropping her Champagne truths

So I thought I’d share some of these little truths with you:

The Region

  • Everyone in the Champagne region will have some sort of involvement with a Champagne house – from growing the grapes, to selling the grapes to Champagne houses.
  • The Champagne region experiences approximately 250 days of rain. That’s a lot of rainy days in one year!
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Each of the houses had a Champagne sign out front. I need one for my place!

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Passing through a Champagne village

The Vineyards

  • Because of the climate, Champagne vines are grown compact and close to the ground. This protects the grapes from the frost, and cold wind.
  • It’s hard for a Champagne house to be organic, as they need to treat and protect the vineyards from disease.
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Champagne that grow close together stays together 🙂

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The Champagne grapes – Not yet to harvesting stage – still growing

  • There’s no irrigation, which means that the vines will compete with each other to get as much as they can from the earth. Because of this, the roots go deep into the ground.
  • The Chalk in the ground provides the vines with much of what they need to flourish.
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The side of the hill shows just how much clay is below the surface

  • Each Champagne house will source from a Cru based on the climate and terroir. The sourcing for each grape variety needs to be from one Cru. What’s a Cru you ask? In Champagne, a Cru is a village. The Champagne quality is linked back to the Cru, which essentially is the quality / terroir of the villages’ vineyards. There are different levels of quality, with the top one being a ‘Grand Cru’. A Grand Cru Champagne is a Champagne that has been sourced entirely from one village that has been classified as a Grand Cru. These grapes have a hefty price tag attached to them, which is why you will see a ‘Grand Cru’ Champagne fetch a high price tag.
  • At some wineries they replant some of their vineyards every 30 years. This keeps the grapes young, which can then be blended with old vines. If a winery replants their vines, they need to wait 1 year before replanting, plant, then wait another 4 years before they can begin harvesting. Good things come to those who wait I guess!
  • There is a limit that the Champagne growers can pick each year. In fact, some wineries try to sell off their grapes (illegally) to other wineries.
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Now that’s a view!!

 

The Bottles

  • The best years for Champagne in the 2000’s so far have been 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008. While the best wine years have been 1996 and 1998. You’re welcome 🙂
  • The corks that are squeezed in to a Champagne bottle are also from Champagne – Everything about Champagne has to be from Champagne. It’s the rule!

The Champagne Coin

  • It costs €1.6 million to buy just one hectare in Champagne – Where’s my cheque book?
  • The cost to make 1 bottle of Champagne is around €7 per bottle – this explains why this sparkly drink has such a sparkly price tag.

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Some extra stats!

  • Champagne represents just 2% of the wine in France. Not all that big when you think about it.
  • To claim that you’ve tasted from every Champagne house, you would need to try 10 Champagnes a day for the next 20 years. I’d happily accept that challenge!
  • Each Champagne house has approximately 10 years of stock, just in case a bad harvest occurs.

 

That’s probably enough Champagne truths I’ve dropped for now. Stay tuned for more posts on my trip to Champagne!

 

Until next time winos,

 

Cheers

 

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