We work with the biggest brands, but we also try to lead you to discover high-quality champagnes at friendly prices, from smaller producers.
THE HISTORY OF CHAMPAGNE
It all started in the vineyards that the Romans planted 1500 years ago in the region now known as Champagne. In that chalky area many underground quarries were dug, which were later used as cellars to store the wine as the temperature in them was constant and cool. In ancient times and in the Middle Ages wine was a staple commodity, consumed daily even by the poorest sections of the population.
In regions that were too cold for wine-growing, wine was a luxury drink for the wealthy and was obtained in exchange for other commodities. In warmer countries the poor too enjoyed wine but of a much inferior quality, which they often diluted with water or vinegar! In any case, wine or beer was better than water, which was itself of poor quality.
In the Middle Ages it was the monks who applied their knowledge and physical strength to the cultivation of vines. They grew wines for the rich and poor alike. It was a Benedictine monk who, more by chance than intentionally produced a sparkling wine, which was to become the fine beverage that we know today.
During winemaking the juice from the grapes would ferment in the barrels. The process would then stop in the cold winter and start again in the spring. Carbon dioxide had formed.
A monk, Dom Pérignon, had been called to the Abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers as keeper of the cellar. He discovered that a “cuvée” (i.e. a mixture of different varieties of grapes) produced the best quality.
At the time the bubbling was seen more as a flaw. But as the English and even their King Louis XIV seemed to enjoy the sparkling wine, others too decided that it couldn't be bad.
Champagne is a favourite for most celebrations. It can be served on its own. Its fine bubbles and its exceptional taste can be enjoyed by themselves. You soon discover that champagne is the most versatile beverage: on its own (as an aperitif or served with festive meals) or in cocktails (like Kir royal, a mixture of blackcurrant liqueur and champagne) champagne will delight your guests.
To pair it with food, it all depends on the sweetness of the champagne.
A “brut” (very dry) will match food such as fish or seafood (salmon, caviar, mussels…).
A “sec” (dry) can be served with creamy soups, ham, soft cheese and some seafood like lobster.
A “rosé” matches food such as melon and ham, fresh goat’s cheese, or can be served with main courses such as poultry (duck, goose, pigeon) or veal. It is a good match for red berries (strawberries…).
If you take a closer look at how much care and attention is required to produce champagne according to traditional methods, then it is understandable why champagne is in a higher price range than Sekt, Prosecco, Cava, Crémant and similar sparkling wines. That said, some of them bring their production into line with the methods applied in the making of champagne and produce quality wines too.
Yet only wine produced with the “méthode champenoise” and coming from a specific region of France (the province of Champagne) can be called champagne. Champagne is not just the name of a particular type of sparkling wine. It is made only from the grapes grown in the Province: Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier. The soil they grow on is chalk covered with a thin layer of humus. The grapes are picked by hand. Most champagne is made from a blend of these three varieties, with the exception of “Blanc de blanc”. What differentiates “méthode champenoise” from others is the fact that fermentation occurs directly in the bottles, not in huge vats, which makes the traditional French process much more expensive. But it improves the taste significantly. The delicious wine never leaves the bottles.
After the bottles have been laid to age, they are manipulated (“remuage”) so that the lees settle in the necks. After chilling the bottles, the necks are frozen and the caps removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide in solution. Sugar (“dosage”) is added to maintain the level within the bottle and, importantly, adjust the sweetness of the finished wine. A “brut” contains the least sugar (up to 15g per litre).