Mon 21 Dec 2015

Champagne low-down: a new infographic

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To the un-initiated Champagne is just another fizzy wine with little to distinguish it from all the rest. However, for such a fascinating and beguiling wine this is an incalculable under-estimation. Bond-esque product placement and over-zealous sportsmen spraying should be ignored! These do nothing to help the image of one of the world’s greatest fine wines.

The first thing to know about Champagne is that it must come from, surprise, surprise … Champagne! Centred around the towns of Reims and Epernay approximately 90 miles east of Paris, this is one of the most northerly appellations in France and the grapes grown here on chalky soils (principally chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier) are therefore high in acidity – essential for the making of sparkling wine.

The other important characteristic which defines Champagne is that traditionally it is a blended wine – not just blends of different grape varieties from different villages throughout the region, but often blends from several vintages too.

These non-vintage wines are amazing in their consistency to house styles, expunging any evidence of poorer vintages in the blend and making a reliable product year in, year out. Made only in top years, vintage and prestige cuvées can age beautifully, developing complexity and displaying the heights that sparkling wines, just like any other fine wine, can reach.

But the principal reason Champagne is such an icon in terms of sparkling wine really stems from its production method. The méthode traditionnelle, as it must be referred to when adopted elsewhere is used to make other sparkling wines (for cava and many English and new world sparklers for example) but was developed in Champagne and is where it is executed best.

The actual process is fairly complex with two fermentations taking place to produce the bubbles (importantly, the second one taking place in the bottle that the wine is sold in); lees ageing to develop interesting flavour characteristics; the addition of more wine and grape must at the end of the process to determine the final sweetness levels.

However, as always there is far more to it, and to make the process easier to understand and more digestible we have produced a helpful infographic to illustrate the individual steps the wine takes.

More than just laying out the production process our Champagne infographic features a handy flavour map that plots the style of the different Champagne houses so that you can see what other wines you might like based on those you have tried before. Whilst this isn’t an exact science and there will be a slight variation based on how much bottle age a particular wine has had, it has the blessing of our buyers Marcel Orford-Williams and Pierre Mansour and we feel it gives members a good basis for understanding the different flavour profiles available.

Champagne

Alternatively, you can view the infographic in PDF format here.

Members’ response to previous infographics has been very positive and we hope that you find this equally useful. There’s no better time to explore new wines or perhaps stock up on an old favourite than now, with our Festive Deals on Champagne offer slowly drawing to a close, there are fantastic deals to be had on some terrific Champagnes!

Hugo Fountain
Campaign Manager

There’s more on the making of sparkling wine in our article by Master of Wine Caroline Gilby MW – A Sparkling Transformation

Categories : Champagne

Comments

  1. ALFRED ELLIS says:

    Excellent idea, but it is too faint to read at this size both on screen and when printed. However, when enlarged, it becomes illegible because [possibly] the pixilation isn’t dense enough [that’s a guess].

  2. Charles says:

    These infographics are very interesting but unless they are available as pdfs (as the Rioja one was) then I find (as I think others do) that they just don’t print well as jpg. Can you offer a link to a pdf version?

    Many thanks.

  3. I wonder if Christopher Merret would agree that the méthode traditionnelle was developed in Champagne

  4. Chris Tew says:

    Please amend your spelling of Gimonnet in the Champagne graphic. There is only one m, not two.

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