Champagne region and styles
The Champagne region is located east of Paris. Reims, the largest of the 3 towns in the region is 144 kilometres east of Paris. On the train it can be as quick as 45 minutes from Paris and cost as little as $20 for a single trip if booked well in advance and during off peak times. There are three Champagne towns; Epernay, Reims and Ay covering 34,500 hectares. It really is a continental climate here; cold and wet where frosts and hail and rain can be a hazard.
Champagne wine growing regions
There are five wine growing regions in Champagne; Côte des Blancs, The Aube, Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte de Sézanne.
- Côte des Blancs: Chardonnay is mainly grown here (96%) followed by Pinot Noir (3%) and Pinot Meunier (1%)
- The Aube: Pinot Noir is dominant here (85%), Chardonnay (8%), Meunier (7%). You’ll find the vineyards of the Côte des Bar here.
- Montagne de Reims: Half is Pinot Noir (56%), Chardonnay (28%), Meunier (16%)
- Vallée de la Marne: Predominantly Pinot Meunier (63%), Pinot Noir (27%) and Chardonnay (10%)
- Côte de Sézanne: Chardonnay is the majority (70%), Pinot Noir (21%), Meunier (9%)
The sub soil is made of chalk through all vineyards except in the Aube region (to the south east of the region, just south east of Troyes). The chalk is pourous so the vines do not grow waterlogged. The type of soil ensures that sufficient water is retained to keep the vines hydrated during drier months.
Styles of Champagne
There are 7 different styles of Champagne from Brut Reserve to Doux:
- Brut Nature, 0-2 grams of residual sugar (RS) per litre (g/l)
- Extra Brut, 0-6 g/l
- Brut, 0-15 g/l
- Extra-Sec, 12-20 g/l
- Sec, 17-35 g/l
- Demi-Sec, 33-50 g/l
- Doux, 50-plus
The Veuve Clicquot visitor centre is located in Reims. We could say that the company that we know today began when François Clicquot married Nicole Barbe Ponsardin in 1798. Then just 7 years later, in 1805, François died leaving the company in the hands of Veuve (widow) Clicquot at the age of just 26. There followed many years of struggling, almost losing the company but with a few breakthroughs including the widow’s ability to ship her Champagne through the blockade to Russia in 1811, the business grew.
While Veuve Clicquot was running in the business, she discovered riddling (remuage in French). After the second fermentation in bottle, sediment in the wine (dead yeast cells) gradually forms. To collect this sediment in the neck of the bottle in order to then remove it from the wine, a process calls riddling or remuage occurs. This involves gradually tilting the bottle of the neck down, with small movements, anti-clockwise and clockwise. As the neck starts to point down more with gravity, the sediment forms and collects in the neck. Manually this is done by a skilled bottle turner (remueur) who has the bottles stored in a wooden pupitre. Before all Champagnes went through this process manually where the skilled remueur would be adjusting 40,000 bottles a day. This can take 4-6 weeks.
Today many houses use what is called Gyropalletes which can process 500 bottles on one machine. They take 1 week, instead of 6 weeks.
After Veuve Clicquot died the house went to her former chief partner Édouard Werlé who kept it in his family until 1987 when it was bought by the Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton group. For the non vintage (NV) style the house uses grapes from 50 to 60 different crus/growing areas.
If you’re interested to know more about this entrepreneurial woman, read ‘The Widow Clicquot’ by Tilar J. Mazzeo. If you’d like to try her wine, drop in and see us in the store! We also have some great offers on Champagne click here to view the Liquor Barons Christmas catalogue.