“In victory you deserve Champagne, in defeat you need it”Napoleon-
The secret of Champagne
Champagne has a great appeal. Are there any special moments, do you have something to celebrate? Champagne automatically puts itself in the spotlight. How did that happen? What is the secret of Champagne?
In this article, I will unravel the secret of Champagne step by step. What is absolutely no secret is that good Champagne is very tasty. Champagne, the wine, is very well put together. But Champagne, the brand, too.
Champagne a protected brand
Champagne is a protected name. Only sparkling wine that is made in Champagne and where only grapes from the Champagne region have been used to make it is allowed to be called Champagne. The border of the AOC Champagne region was established in 1927 (but this may soon be expanded by around 10%). A strong strategic move to protect the product name. This guarantees that the consumer actually gets what he pays for. In addition, winemakers from Champagne must meet many conditions such as prescribed grapes, prescribed alcohol percentage, prescribed pruning method, prescribed preparation method, prescribed maximum yield during harvest and pressing, etc.
Champagne and marketing
Marketing is also a secret of Champagne. Because how do you think it is possible that when people have something to celebrate, they think of Champagne? Forget for a moment the delicious product that Champagne is of course and we know the answer: marketing.
Over the past hundreds of years, that image has gradually been burnt into our brains. Napoleon was already a Champagne enthusiast. And if we may believe the story, after his defeat at Waterloo near Champagnehuis Ruinart, he drank Champagne to get rid of his grief that evening. And the next day the smart Champagne makers treated the victors of Waterloo (Tsar, Prince, Generals, and Kings from various countries) to delicious Champagne in the same place. And that was immediately made public of course. Advertising Avant la Lettre. And that continues until the day of today. Who hasn’t seen today’s heroes (successful sporters, DJs, Rappers, etc.) on TV spraying the champagne! Another Champagne secret.
The taste of Champagne
The biggest secret of Champagne is, of course, the taste. The three most used grape varieties each having their own character. The Chardonnay brings the sharpness, straightness. It is also a bit leaner or more acidic and therefore often receives a slightly higher dosage for the balance. The blue Pinot Noir grape provides more power and fruit aromas. The blue Pinot Meunier grape gives it more floral notes and elegancy. So take a look at the label for a moment to see the ratio of the grapes being used. Or do you have a bottle of Champagne made from just one grape variety? That makes a big difference. Discover the secret of your Champagne.
The composition of Champagne
Champagne is a mouth-watering champion in terms of taste. One of the secrets is that Champagne is composed of different basic wines from different vintages. On each different vineyard parcel and from every grape variety, basic wines are being made. These wines are mixed later in the process of winemaking until the desired taste has been achieved. Sometimes up to 30 basic wines are mixed. On the label, you will see the words “cuvée” or “assemblage”. So in Champagne different grape varieties are never mixed to make the basic wine. Large Champagne wineries have elevated this to a level of art, because they manage to produce the same taste every year, regardless of the harvest or weather conditions that year. A stunning performance indeed. As a consumer, you know exactly what you are buying over and over again.
Time for me to break a lance for the smaller producers. They have fewer large stocks of older basic wines and therefore have fewer options for the assembling. Their Champagne is perhaps more exciting because you can taste the differences in soil (terroir) and harvest year. Perhaps you’ll get a Champagne from a lesser year, but you can also come across unexpected gems. Another Champagne secret.
Is Champagne expensive?
The price of Champagne is no secret at all. Does it have to be that expensive? Is that price justified?
To begin with, there is a great demand for Champagne. The demand for Champagne is increasing every year, but the Champagne area with its yearly yields remains the same. You can imagine that this is driving up the price. A bottle of Champagne requires 1 ½ kilo of grapes. At the moment (2019) this costs € 11 per bottle. This is only the raw material. This price has yearly risen up to 7% in recent years. The production, storage, merchants, material costs and everything else you can think of is not even added. Huge costs are being made to produce a bottle of Champagne. Imagine what to expect from a supermarket Champagne of € 14.95! This will probably not be made from the best quality grapes. ( For the Dutch readers during New year’s eve: Great wine for the “oliebollen” (treat made of waffle dough baked in oil). It’s silly to use a high-quality Champagne for that).
Just to indicate how much money is involved: at the LVMH group (Veuve Cliquot, Moët & Chandon, Ruinart, Krug, Dom Perignon) which produces around a quarter of the total annual 300 million bottles of Champagne, for about 55 million of their 75 million bottles grapes are purchased from winemakers. Times € 11 ….= a huge amount. Just imagine.
If you have any questions about Champagne, I am happy to tell you more about it. Let me know. And in the meantime: enjoy! Because that is the real secret of Champagne.