TOUR DE WINE: Champagne, France

Wine-101-Champagne-small.jpg

Ok ok ok, we know TdF doesn't start in Champagne, but we're pumped and wanted to celebrate the starting lineup - we'll meet you guys at stage 2. During le Tour, we're giving you the lowdown on what wine you can enjoy at each stage of the Tour which will be on point for the location AND we're proposing an Aussie alternative in case your local doesn't have the real deal French. It's a big tour, lots of stages and wine discovery ahead - we're ready... are you?

Where Is It:

160k’s east of Paris (about 3 hrs drive)

What Do They Drink There:

Champagne!

There are 7 permitted grape varieties grown in Champagne, but only three of significance: chardonnay, pinot noir, and meunier.  The wines produced are almost exclusively sparkling (there is a very small percentage of still pinot produced, called Coteaux Champenois) and come in a wide array of styles:

  • Rose (pink)
  • Blanc de Blancs (100% chardonnay)
  • Blanc de Noirs (100% red wine ie meunier or pinot noir)
  • Brut Nature (zero sugar)
  • Vintage (from a single vintage)
  • Non-Vintage (a blend of many vintages)
  • Multi-Vintage (similar to NV, except in this case usually the vintages are of significance, and are even occasionally declared)
  • Single Vineyard – not common, usually very expensive

Or, just to confuse you, sometimes a champagne can be a combination of some or many of the above.  EG a Rose can be non-vintage, brut nature, blanc de noirs AND single vineyard…

Some things to remember about Champagne:

  • Wines from Champagne must be called champagne (can be spelled with a little ‘c’), but sparkling wine from elsewhere can NEVER be called champagne.
     
  • The wines must be made from the permitted grape varieties.  This is strict.  They can have as little or as much in the wine as the chef de cave wants, but it cannot include grape varieties outside the permitted 7.
     
  • The grapes MUST be hand harvested.  There is no machine harvesting in Champagne.
     
  • The bubbles in champagne are achieved via something called Methode Champenois.  This means that secondary fermentation happens IN THE BOTTLE – so the bottle on your table right now, is the bottle that once sat in the cellars at the Champagne House.  Not only is this a cool fact to consider, the secondary fermentation method introduces untold complexity, finesse and delicacy into the final wine.  You don’ get that from a sodastream.

Why We Love It:

Nothing says celebration better than Champagne.  It goes with more food styles than you might think possible, and it literally is great at any time of the day.  Brekky champagne?  Yep.  High tea? Yep.  Lunch? Yep.  Dinner?  Yep.  Before dinner? Yep.  After dinner? Yep.  On its own?  Of course.  You get the idea….

Oz Equivalent?

Well… Australia does make some great sparkling wine.  It would be unfair to compare the two as they are very different styles, but if you look to Tasmania, or the Yarra Valley, you might start to see some wonderful sparkling examples.  Go to Arras or Chandon as great starting points.