02 Feb Long live Champagne! – Part 1
Yvonne Christensen is exploring an interest and would like to share her personal experiences. She’s a passionate follower and consumer of champagne. Join her on her new journey and her passion for the so-called aperitif that she associates with happiness, fun, laughter, and good times shared with family and friends.
It was a slightly premature visit for me to the region of ” Champagne” and the first of three visits this year. On January 21st, 2016, 20 meters below the ground I partially witnessed 30,000 prestigious magnum bottles being hand-turned a “notch”.
Each day during the 2nd fermentation the riddler comes through the cellar and turns the bottle 1/8th of a turn; the riddler is unknown by many in name; however, one of the key players in the creation of the world’s most luxurious wines called champagne.
The life of champagne begins as buds break in spring. When I travelled to Reims then to the area of Epernay, the ground was still frost hardened, holding the frozen vine stalks in place. Though quite a way from budding, gazing out at hectares of fields that lie dormant in hibernation and recuperating from the previous harvest, one can feel the excitement of what is about to happen once the buds break announcing a new harvest.
Champagne is more than the large well-known wine house controlled from big offices in Paris, nor is it the world-renowned names of Bollinger, Veuve Clicquot or Taittinger. Champagne is also a cluster of small, medium size families and businesses from all levels of the production process with old tradition and long history, all with a personal story to tell.
One such example is an old champagne house that goes back eight generations to its name “Salon” that can boast the best blanc de blanc and recognized as their flagship regarding 100% Chardonnay.
This house has a beautiful story from the roaring 1920s when the young Mr Salon was a business man selling textiles. Harvesting grapes (champagne) was his secondary occupation, which he presented as gifts to his textile buyers across the Atlantic Ocean. As you can imagine, the bottles with bubbles were warmly received. Stories like this help us understand the big champagne brands were not only created by small French growers, but also from German business men immigrating to France in the early 19th century looking for an elite and more sophisticated lifestyle to established their thriving businesses in textiles and cultivating the rich chalk lands.
Champagne has traditionally been used as an aperitif, which millions like myself associate with New Year’s Eve and other significant celebrations; however, champagne is consumed all over the world for occasions big and small.
Approximately 300 million bottles are produced annually, about 35% of the champagne wine produced and bottled consumed in France, and the remainder goes for exports. It is easy to understand why the French are happy for this aphrodisiac product and as those who have a passion and taste for champagne, we are happy for it as well.
As has been for centuries, 2016 will be the year of surprise. The raw ingredient of champagne, the “grape”, is reliant on the weather which is unpredictable from year to year, explaining swings in production and quality of the final vintage produced. The families of champagne are always apprehensive until final harvest is picked in September, though they all somehow claim a 3-4 year reserve in cellars “Le cave”. We never know what each year will bring. In this way the grape is a metaphor for life. When all goes well, we can truly celebrate!
What makes champagne particularly intriguing and unique is that it’s a sought after product where the yearly production is almost consumed by the market within 5 years. No other product resembles this. Champagne’s high price is caused mainly by high production costs of harvesting by hand, followed by strict controls and laws.
The governance over production of champagne is extremely strict – and despite the cost, people all over the world are still happy to pay for this pricy product, well…because it’s champagne and what it represents in taste and its association with the celebration of good times, life milestones, and happy feelings.
Both growers and consumers owe a debt of gratitude to the late grand Madame Nicole-Barbe Clicquot, who, for more than a hundred years ago in 1810, wanted to clean up the cloudy sediment filled wine and combined it with the British and tough acidic flavor, refining the wine.
Thanks to the British for the innovative bottling practice and the idea of second fermentation, which gave birth to the champagne we know today!
What inspires us to drink champagne can be attributed to good marketing and “understanding champagne through history is an understanding of marketing”. Even the good old Monk, Dom Perignon those many years ago was good at announcing, a clear marketing statement for the period: “Come quickly! I’m drinking stars!” Those words back then must have been a great hit!
Today champagne is no longer limited to being an aperitif, rather it’s now more recognized as the wine of the meal, offering a fascinating blend of grapes that work with a variety of dishes, and therefore champagne on the table throughout, is an increasingly dining experience.
Scandinavian minimalism, simplicity and back to basic modern Nordic gourmet restaurants have begun to introduce to the menu small house wines with small specialized vineyards of small production champagne houses, ensuring the focus of flavor and something special paired with the meal.
Our own Restaurant Geranium, which is included in the modern Nordic style mentioned above, has by far the largest selection of champagne by bottle in Copenhagen restaurants. Additionally, the Balthazar Champagne Bar at Hotel D’Angleterre also has a hugely massive range per glass of a wide selection. So be sure to stop by both when in Copenhagen!
An exciting arrival on the champagne scene is Zero Dosage, a new type of champagne but a champagne from the past which is champagne with minimum sugar, hence the name Zero Dosage. This different style in champagne is increasingly being seen in specialist places.
Zero Dosage is actually a very sour brut champagne a taste sharp, light and citrusy with range 0-5gram sugar liqueur. Brut champagne typically has from +12g upwards, therefore you can imagine a 0-5 gram dosage is quite low and so becomes more interesting.
As you can see, many other exciting developments and interesting possibilities are in store for champagne which we all need to look a little deeper into, so tempt your palate and try to experience champagne from smaller and less publicized producers, as there are many to explore in the region.
We do lean on a strong tradition and history of champagne that many of us associate with the best of times, and now we can look forward to a broad exposure and innovation.
Personally I really look forward to many, delightful meals shared with friends and family enjoying champagne and popping the corks for a bright future. Cheers!
Visit my site, http://lescinqfilles.com/, for more information about the Champagne Les Cinq Filles Cuvee.
It is also possible to purchases the bottles directly from there.