All CHAMPAGNES are sparkling wines but not all sparkling wines are Champagne!

Have you ever thought what could be in a glass of Champagne when you drinking it?

No? Well, it’s either the Chardonnay grape, the lesser known Pinot Meunière grape, and/or the Pinot Noir. And that is about it.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Mainly, due to the grapes being grown in the geographic area of “Champagne“.

The area itself is about 160 kms east of Paris. It encompasses the towns of Reims and Epernay; and the vineyards are in the Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. All around.

No other sparkling wine has the right to call itself Champagne or anything resembling that now. Up to about 15 years ago there were champagne wines coming from areas in Australia and California. Nowadays, so as not to confuse the consumer, ONLY wines grown in the Champagne region in France are allowed to put that name on their labels.

So why the huge difference in price?

Mainly, supply and demand. (It would be that wouldn’t it) …and tradition!

Other areas produce very, very good quality fizz, but just knowing you have a glass of Champagne in your hand makes it feel so luxurious! You know, the flavour that means you know exactly when it’s a glass of Champagne and when it’s not.

The Champagne area is relatively small. Champagne is their only wine production.

The interesting thing about Champagne is the link with history.

During the Middle Ages, the Champagne region was beset with wars, trouble and strife and was a crossroads for wars in other regions. Apparently, Napoleon wouldn’t go to war without going via Champagne to collect several cases of his favourite tipple!

It was not until the middle of the 17th century that Champagne was able to make itself well-known under the rule of Louis XIV when there was a large increase in personal wealth. The then Champagne houses tended to prefer catering for royalty and the nouveau riche by increasing the luxury and quality of their packaging and of course advertising!

Contrary to legend and popular belief, Dom Pérignon did not invent Champagne, but he did make important contributions to the production and quality of that wine. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by Benedictine Monks near Carcassonne in 1531. They achieved this by bottling the wine before the initial fermentation had ended. Over a century later, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation, six years before Dom Pérignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautvillers and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk invented Champagne. Merret presented a paper at the Royal Society, in which he detailed what is now called “méthode champenoise”, in 1662. Merret’s discoveries coincided also with English glass-makers’ technical developments that allowed bottles to be produced that could withstand the required internal pressures during secondary fermentation. French glass-makers at this time could not produce bottles of the required quality or strength. The internal pressure in a bottle of Champagne today is the same as that in the tyre of a double-decker bus!!!

In France the first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally; the pressure in the bottle led it to be called “the devil’s wine” (le vin du diable), as bottles exploded or corks popped. In 1844 Adolphe Jaquesson invented the muselet (muzzle) to prevent the corks from blowing out. Initial versions were difficult to apply and inconvenient to remove. Even when it was deliberately produced as a sparkling wine, Champagne was for a very long time made by the méthode rurale, where the wine was bottled before the only fermentation had finished. Champagne did not use the méthode champenoise until the 19th century, about 200 years after Christopher Merret documented the process. The 19th century saw an explosive growth in Champagne production, going from a regional production of 300,000 bottles a year in 1800 to 20 million bottles in 1850.

At Amanda’s Wines we stock some very exciting Crémants and Méthode Traditionnelles. All are made in the traditional way of making Champagne wines. Please take a look!