We have all celebrated something with a glass of Champagne in hand. But, do you know when the history of Champagne starts? Or why is it always associated with “party tradition”?
This sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir N, Meunier N and Chardonnay B grapes enjoys an appellation recognized around the world, very protected by the Interprofessional Committe of Champagne wine.
Let’s find out together the origins of Champagne, prestigious Champagne Houses and their chalk cellars.
- History of Champagne: Back to the roots
- What defines a good Champagne?
- The different sizes of Champagne bottles
- How to properly taste Champagne?
- Wine tourism in Champagne wine region
- FAQ & Useful resources
History of Champagne: Back to the roots
Do you know who invented Champagne? What the origins of Champagne are? What is the oldest Champagne House? Soon, Champagne will have no secrets for you!
Origins of Champagne
The first still Champagne wines appeared in the 7th century mainly through ecclesiastical viticulture. It is then a non-negligible source of income for monasteries like that of Hautvillers or even the abbey of Saint-Pierre-aux-Monts, which grew numerous vines. The monks developed a more and more elaborated wine over the centuries, throughout the feudal era.
Did you know that Champagne could have never seen the light of day? In fact, during the 17th century, gray wines from the Champagne region increasingly attracted the royal courts of England and France. The English invent the glass bottle of wine and the cork stopper in the middle of the century. According to the history of Champagne, the wine becomes naturally sparkling once bottled, due to the lack of alcohol. This however is not at all what French winegrowers use to appreciate, because of the risk that bottles blows up. Fortunately, English people were fond of it, and continued to order barrels from Champagne.
In 1670, a monk made an experiment by blending different grape varieties and vintages on sparkling Champagne wines in its Hautvillers abbey. This monk is Dom Pérignon, which will give its name to the famous Champagne house. It also strengthens bottles and corks. The history of sparkling Champagne says that it has therefore been sold in special bottles since 1695. 34 years later, the first trading house would be founded by Mr. Ruinart at Reims.
Oldest Champagne House: Ruinart Champagne House
While Champagne Houses hold massive historical heritage, there is one that holds more than others: the Ruinart Champagne House. Founded in 1729 in Reims, M. Ruinart was the first to establish a Champagne House. Today, they open their doors to public so you can visit their estate and cellars to discover incredible Champagne know-how.
Book your visit and wine tasting at Ruinart Champagne if you come by Reims!
What defines a good Champagne?
Champagne is a sparkling wine from a protected designation of origin. This designation is obtained according to criteria of delimitation geographic grape varieties used as well as returns. To meet the conditions imposed before calling your wine “champagne”, the winemaker must also follow three Champagne methods of wine-making.
In order to “personalize” their champagne, winegrowers still have the right to add a dosage liqueur before bottling their vintage: this is Champagne dosage. The quantity of liquor (or added sugar) will define what you see on the labels of bottles used to decline the champagnes:
- Brut nature: no added sugar;
- Extra-brut and Extra Dry: in both cases it means that Extra Brut Champagne is not as dry as Brut nature, but you can still notice the acid touch.
- Dry: a dry Champagne is like a brut, but with a little bit more sugar, also quite balanced with the acidity.
- Semi-dry: this is the fruitiest kind of Champagne; you can sometime taste apricots and lychees aromas.
- Sweet (over 50g/L): this is Champagne is a very sweet sparkling beverage.
We have therefore classified them from the least sweet to the most sweet. There are also rosé and vintage Champagnes (a blend of different vintages) or even single-grape varieties such as Blancs de blancs or Blancs de Noirs. In 2019, The Pol Roger brand was ranked best Champagne House of the year, ahead of Krug, Louis Roederer or Dom Perignon, Taittinger and Ruinart. The history of Champagne is also about the houses which represent it and which sometimes enter into competition. But always to defend the values of this precious nectar.
Ways to describe Champagne
Like all wines, Champagne expresses different aromas, colors and texture – but has its special vocabulary when is come to describing it.
We have all heard that strong “pop” sound when opening a Champagne bottle – and this is part of the process of understanding the identity of the beverage you’re about to taste! The release of the cork makes a soft hiss or sigh.
Like all wines, this is the second step. For Champagne, you will focus on understanding the kinds of bubbles, that can be described as:
- Moving in groups,
- Light and tiny
- Fast and furious (yes indeed!)
- Slow and shy
As for the mousse, you can describe it as being creamy, white, fine, enduring, lively, elegant, graceful, pale or frothy.
Nose & Smell
Champagne is truly delicate, and its effervescence character makes their bouquet event more complex. There are several steps in defining the nose of Champagne:
- First nose: once the bottle is opened, it releases first aromas that you can define as fruity, floral, mature or subtle.
- Second nose: once in your glass, the aromas will constantly vary in your glass. With a little time, you’ll notice the nose will become deeper and more complex
Palate & Taste
When Champagne arrives in your mouth, you feel many sensations at the same time, from your tong to your palate. You will be looking to define intensity, completeness, sharpness, richness and maybe even perfection. Your tong and palate will give you different indications:
- Palate: if the beverage is rather round, long, lively or agile.
- Tong: if you can taste red berries, musky, toasty or brioche-kind or notes.
The different sizes of Champagne bottles
From small bottles to huge ones, the size of Champagne bottles is a true criteria.
- Magnum: 1.5L
- Jeroboam: 3L
- Rehoboam: 4.5L
- Methuselah: 6L
- Salmanazar: 9L
- Balthazar: 12L
- Nebuchadnezzar: 15L
- Solomon: 18L
- Sovereign: 25L
- Primat: 27L
- Melchizedek: 30L
You might wonder: does the size bottle matter compared to the quality of Champagne? It does a little, this is related to the amount of oxygen that enter during the bottling process. So, the larger the bottle, the less oxygen there is in contact with the sparkling beverage, which becomes more delicate and has more finesse.
How to properly taste Champagne?
Before tasting your Champagne, avoid eating something too spicy or too sweet during the day. Champagne must be served between 8 and 10°C, in a fairly fine glass flute in order to retain the bubbles and better concentrate the aromas.
The 3 tasting stages will be sight, smell, and finally taste . Our partner winegrowers will explain to you all the codes and vocabulary specific to the expression of your senses during an oenological workshop or a champagne tasting, as well as essential assessment techniques.
To accompany this tasting as an aperitif, we remember that the slightly sweet Champagne will be more appreciated with a dish that is also not very sweet. A plain or extra-brut Champagne will be perfect with seafood and fish-based starters. If you prefer cheese, a vintage brut will be ideal if the cheese is not too strong in taste. With sweets (desserts, fruits, chocolate) we can opt for tasting a dry, semi-dry or sweet Champagne.
Wine tourism in Champagne wine region
For the curious and lovers of fine bubbles, Winalist opens the doors to the greatest Champagne Houses to you. Visit chalk cellars from Reims, taste the Moët & Chandon, Taittinger or Mumm vintages, or enjoy a tasting picnic in the heart of the Champagne Vollereaux vineyards .
With just a few clicks, you book your wine tourism experience, and access the best of wine tourism in Champagne.
FAQ & Useful resources
How was champagne first discovered?
The sparkling version of the Champagne wine was discovered by accident. It all began when the wine growers (today’s famous Champagne Houses) from the Champagne region were trying to equal the Burgundy wines.
What is the history of champagne?
The history of Champagne began when the Romans planted vineyards in this region of northeast France in the 5th century, or possibly earlier. Over centuries, Champagne evolved from being a pale, pinkish still wine to a sparkling wine.
Who is the father of Champagne?
Three centuries later, Dom Pérignon perpetuates this exceptional artisan’s vision and work, and he is now considered to be the spiritual father of Champagne.
What does Champagne symbolize?
In addition to being a reference, it is also a symbol. Throughout the world, it is perceived as the wine of happiness and celebration par excellence, which presides over all moments of celebration and success, whether in family life or in love, in international and professional relations, and even in the sports world.
What is Champagne made out?
If there is one thing to say about Champagne specificities compared to wine, is that Champagne is made from a double fermentation of the grape’s juice, and that it’s a sparkling beverage. The main grapes that give birth to Champagne are Pinot Noire, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.