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Posted by pompos 03/04/2009 @ 19:59

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Champagne (wine)

Champagne is often served in specialized stemware.

Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation. It is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France, from which it takes its name. Through international treaty, national law, most countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the Champagne appellation. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Other countries, such as the United States, have recognized the exclusive nature of this name, yet maintain a legal structure that allows longtime domestic producers of sparkling wine to continue to use the term "Champagne" under specific circumstances.

Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power. The leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging they sought to associate champagne with high luxury, festivities and rites of passage. Their efforts coincided with an emerging middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility.

The Romans were the first to plant vineyards in this area of northeast France with the region being cultivated by at least the 5th century, possibly earlier. Wines from the Champagne region were known before medieval times. Churches owned vineyards and monks produced wine for use in the sacrament of Eucharist. French kings were traditionally anointed in Reims and champagne wine was served as part of coronation festivities. The Champenois were envious of the reputation of the wines made by their Burgundian neighbors to the south and sought to produce wines of equal acclaim. However the northerly climate of the region gave the Champenois a unique set of challenges in making red wine. At the far extremes of sustainable viticulture, the grapes would struggle to ripen fully and often would have bracing levels of acidity and low sugar levels. The wines would be lighter bodied and thinner than the Burgundy wines they were seeking to outdo.

The English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation six years before Dom Perignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautvillers and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk invented champagne. Contrary to legend and popular belief, Dom Perignon did not invent sparkling wine. Merrett presented the Royal Society with a paper in which he detailed what is now called méthode champenoise in 1662.

Although the French monk Dom Perignon (1638-1715) did not invent champagne, it is true he developed many advances in the production of this beverage, including holding the cork in place with a wire collar to withstand the fermentation pressure. In France, the first sparkling champagne was created accidentally; its pressure led it to be called "the devil's wine" (le vin du diable) as bottles exploded or the cork jolted away. Even when it was deliberately produced as a sparkling wine, champagne was for a very long time made by the méthode rurale, where the wine was bottled before the only fermentation had finished. Champagne did not utilize the méthode champenoise until the 19th century, approximately 200 years after Christopher Merret documented the process. The nineteenth century saw an explosive growth in champagne production going from a regional production of 300,000 bottles a year in 1800 to 20 million bottles in 1850.

In the 1800s champagne was noticeably sweeter than the champagne of today. The trend towards drier champagne began when Perrier-Jouët decided not to sweeten his 1846 vintage prior to exporting it to London. The designation Brut champagne, the modern champagne, was created for the British in 1876.

The Champagne winemaking community, under the auspices of the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne, has developed a comprehensive set of rules and regulations for all wine produced in the region to protect its economic interests. They include codification of the most suitable growing places; the most suitable grape types (most champagne is a blend of up to three grape varieties, though other varieties are allowed); and a lengthy set of requirements specifying most aspects of viticulture. This includes pruning, vineyard yield, the degree of pressing, and the time that wine must remain on its lees before bottling. It can also limit the release of champagne to market to maintain prices. Only when a wine meets these requirements may it be labeled champagne. The rules agreed upon by the CIVC are submitted for the INAO's final approval.

The government organization that controls wine appellations in France, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, is preparing to make the largest revision of the region's legal boundaries since 1927, in response to economic pressures. With soaring demand and limited production of grapes, champagne houses say the rising price could produce a consumer backlash that would harm the industry for years into the future. That, along with political pressure from villages that want to be included in the expanded boundaries, led to the move.

Regardless of the legal requirements for labeling, extensive education efforts by the Champagne region and the use of alternative names by non-Champagne quality sparkling wine producers, some consumers continue to regard champagne as a generic term for white sparkling wines, regardless of origin. The laws described here were intended to reserve the term as a designation of origin. In the European Union and many other countries, the name Champagne is legally protected by the Treaty of Madrid (1891) designating only the sparkling wine produced in the eponymous region and adhering to the standards defined for it as an Appellation d'origine contrôlée; the right was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. This legal protection has been accepted by numerous other countries worldwide. Most recently Canada, Australia and Chile signed agreements with Europe that will limit the use of the term champagne to only those products produced in the Champagne region. The United States acknowledges the exclusive nature of the Champagne term and bans the use from all new US produced wines. Only those that had approval to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it and only when it is accompanied by the wine's actual origin (e.g. California) . The majority of US produced sparkling wines do not use the term "Champagne" on their labels.

Even the term méthode champenoise or champagne method was forbidden consequent to an EU court decision in 1994. As of 2005, the description most often legally used for sparkling wines not from Champagne yet using the second fermentation in the bottle process is méthode traditionnelle. Sparkling wines are produced worldwide, and many producers use special terms to define them: Spain uses Cava, Italy designates it spumante, and South Africa uses Cap Classique. An Italian sparkling wine made from the Muscat grape uses the DOCG Asti. In Germany, Sekt is a common sparkling wine. Other French wine regions cannot use the name champagne, i.e. Burgundy and Alsace produce Crémant. Sparkling wines mislabeled champagne can be and often are seized and destroyed by legal authorities.

The village of Champagne, Switzerland has traditionally made a still wine labeled as "champagne", the earliest records of viticulture dated to 1657. In an accord with the EU, the Swiss government conceded in 1999 that by 2004 the village would phase out use of the name. Sales dropped from 110,000 bottles a year to 32,000 after the change. In April 2008 the villagers resolved to the fight against the restriction following a Swiss open-air vote.

Méthode Champenoise is the traditional method by which champagne is produced. After primary fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast (usually Saccharomyces cerevisiae, although each brand has its own secret recipe) and several grams of rock sugar. According to the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée a minimum of 1.5 years is required to completely develop all the flavour. For years where the harvest is exceptional, a millesimé is declared. This means that the champagne will be very good and has to mature for at least 3 years. During this time the champagne bottle is sealed with a crown cap similar to that used on beer bottles.

After ageing, the bottle is manipulated, either manually or mechanically, in a process called remuage (riddling, in English), so that the lees settle in the neck of the bottle. After chilling the bottles, the neck is frozen, and the cap 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. Some syrup is added to maintain the level within the bottle.

Dom Pérignon was originally charged by his superiors at the Abbey of Hautvillers to get rid of the bubbles since the pressure in the bottles caused many of them to burst in the cellar. As sparkling wine production increased in the early 1700s, cellar workers would have to wear heavy iron mask that resembled a baseball catcher's mask to prevent injury from spontaneously bursting bottles. The disturbance caused by one bottle's disintegration could cause a chain reaction, with it being routine for cellars to lose 20-90% of their bottles to instability. The mysterious circumstance surrounding the then unknown process of fermentation and carbonic gas caused some critics to call the sparkling creations "The Devil's Wine".

The popularity of champagne is attributed to the success of champagne producers in marketing the wine. Champagne houses promoted the wine's image as a royal and aristocratic drink. Laurent-Perrier's advertisements in late 1890 boasted their champagne was the favorite of King Leopold II of Belgium, George I of Greece, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Margaret Cambridge, Marchioness of Cambridge, and John Lambton, 3rd Earl of Durham, among other nobles, knights, and military officers. Despite this royal prestige, champagne houses also portrayed champagne as a luxury enjoyable by anyone, for any occasion. This strategy worked, and, by the turn of the twentieth century, the majority of champagne drinkers were middle class.

In the 19th century, champagne producers made a concentrated effort to market their wine to women. This was in stark contrast to the traditionally "male aura" that the wines of France had—particularly Burgundy and Bordeaux. Laurent-Perrier again took the lead in this area with advertisements touting their wine's favour with the Countess of Dudley, the wife of the 9th Earl of Stamford, the wife of the Baron Tollemache, and the opera singer Adelina Patti. Champagne labels were designed with images of romantic love and marriage as well as other special occasions that were deemed important to women, such as the baptism of a child.

In some advertisements, the champagne houses catered to political interest such as the labels that appeared on different brands on bottles commemorating the centennial anniversary of the French Revolution of 1789. On some labels there were flattering images of Marie-Antoinette that appealed to the conservative factions of French citizens that viewed the former queen as a martyr. On other labels there were stirring images of Revolutionary scenes that appealed to the liberal left sentiments of French citizens. As World War I loomed, champagne houses put images of soldiers and countries' flags on their bottles, customizing the image for each country to which the wine was imported. During the Dreyfus Affair, one Champagne house released a Champagne Antijuif with anti-Semitic advertisements to take advantage of the wave of anti-Semitism that hit parts of France.

Champagne is typically drunk during celebrations. For example Tony Blair held a champagne reception to celebrate London winning the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. It is also used to launch ships when a bottle is smashed over the hull during the ship's launch. If the bottle fails to break this is often thought to be bad luck.

Champagne is a single Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. As a general rule, grapes used must be the white Chardonnay, or the dark-skinned "red wine grapes" Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. Due to the gentle pressing of the grapes and absence of skin contact during fermentation, the dark-skinned varieties also yield a white wine. Most Champagnes are made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, for example 60%/40%. Blanc de blanc ("white from white") Champagnes are made from 100% Chardonnay. Possibly the most exquisite, and definitely the most expensive of these is grown in a single Grand cru vineyard in Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger for Salon. Blanc de noir ("white from black") Champagne is pressed from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a mix of the two.

There are several other grape varieties permitted for historical reasons, however, but rare in current usage. The sparsely cultivated varieties (0.02% of the total vines planted in Champagne) of Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc, may still be found in modern cuvées. while the directives of INAO make conditional allowances according to the complex laws of 1927 and 1929, and plantings made prior to 1938. The complete list of the nine actual and theoretical varieties reads Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot gris (in Champagne named Fromenteau), Pinot de juillet and Pinot rosé. The Gamay vines of the region were scheduled to be uprooted by 1942, but due to World War II, this was postponed until 1962.

The dark-skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier give the wine its length and backbone. They are predominantly grown in two areas - the Montagne de Reims and the Valée de la Marne. The Montagne de Reims run east-west to the south of Reims, in northern Champagne. They are notable for north-facing chalky slopes that derive heat from the warm winds rising from the valleys below. The River Marne runs west-east through Champagne, south of the Montagne de Reims. The Valée de la Marne contains south-facing chalky slopes. Chardonnay gives the wine its acidity and biscuit flavour. Most Chardonnay is grown in a north-south-running strip to the south of Epernay, called the Côte des Blanc, including the villages of Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger. These are east-facing vineyards, with terroir similar to the Côte de Beaune. The various terroirs account for the differences in grape characteristics and explain the appropriateness of blending juice from different grape varieties and geographical areas within Champagne, to get the desired style for each Champagne house.

Most of the Champagne produced today is "Non-vintage", meaning that it is a blended product of grapes from multiple vintages. Most of the base will be from a single year vintage with producers blending anywhere from 10-15% (even as high as 40%) of wine from older vintages. If the conditions of a particular vintage are favorable, some producers will make a "Vintage" wine that must be composed of at least 85% of the grapes from vintage year. Under Champagne wine regulations, houses that make both vintage and non-vintage wines are allowed to use no more than 80% of the total vintage's harvest for the production of vintage Champagne. This allows at least 20% of the harvest from favorable vintages to be reserved for use in non-vintage Champagne. In less than ideal vintages, some producers will produce a wine from only that single vintage and still label it as non-vintage rather than as "vintage" since the wine will be of lesser quality and the producers have little desire to reserve the wine for future blending.

A cuvée de prestige is a proprietary blended wine (usually a Champagne) that is considered to be the top of a producer's range. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. The original prestige cuvée was Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, launched in 1936 with the 1921 vintage. Until then, Champagne houses produced different cuvées of varying quality, but a top-of-the-range wine produced to the highest standards (and priced accordingly) was a new idea. In fact, Louis Roederer had been producing Cristal since 1876, but this was strictly for the private consumption of the Russian tsar. Cristal was made publicly available with the 1945 vintage. Then came Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne (first vintage 1952), and Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle 'La Cuvée' in 1960, a blend of three vintages (1952, 1953, and 1955). In the last three decades of the twentieth century, most Champagne houses followed these with their own prestige cuvées, often named after notable people with a link to that producer (Veuve Clicquot's La Grande Dame, the nickname of the widow of the house's founder's son; Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, named for the British prime minister; and Laurent-Perrier's Cuvée Alexandra rosé, to name just three examples), and presented in non-standard bottle shapes (following Dom Pérignon's lead with its eighteenth-century revival design).

A French term (literally "white of blacks") for a white wine produced entirely from black grapes. It is often encountered in Champagne, where a number of houses have followed the lead of Bollinger's prestige cuvée Vieilles Vignes Françaises in introducing a cuvée made from either Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a blend of the two (these being the only two black grapes permitted within the Champagne AOC appellation). Although Bollinger's wine is famed for its intense richness and full-bodied nature, this has more to do with the way the grapes are planted and when they are harvested than any intrinsic property of blanc de noirs Champagne, which is often little different from cuvées including a proportion of Chardonnay.

A French term that means "white of whites", and is used to designate champagnes made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. The term is occasionally used in other sparkling wine-producing regions, usually to denote Chardonnay-only wines rather than any sparkling wine made from other white grape varieties.

The rosé wines of Champagne are produced either by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on its skins for a brief time or, more commonly, by adding a small amount of still Pinot noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvee. Champagne is typically light in color even if it is produced with red grapes, because the juice is extracted from the grapes using a gentle process that minimizes the amount of time the juice spends in contact with the skins, which is what gives red wine its color. Rosé champagne is one of the few wines that allows the production of Rosé by the addition a small amount of red wine during blending. This ensures a predictable and reproducible color, allowing a constant Rosé color from year-to-year.

The amount of sugar (dosage) added after the second fermentation and aging varies and will dictate the sweetness level of the Champagne.

The most common is brut, although throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century champagne was generally much sweeter than it is today.

Champagne is mostly fermented in two sizes of bottles, standard bottles (750 mL), and magnums (1.5 L). In general, magnums are thought to be higher quality, as there is less oxygen in the bottle, and the volume to surface area favors the creation of appropriately-sized bubbles. However, there is no hard evidence for this view. Other bottle sizes, named for Biblical figures, are generally filled with champagne that has been fermented in standard bottles or magnums.

Sizes larger than Jeroboam (3.0 L) are rare. Primat sized bottles (27 L) - and as of 2002 Melchizedek sized bottles (30 L) - are exclusively offered by the House Drappier. The same names are used for bottles containing wine and port; however Jeroboam, Rehoboam and Methuselah refer to different bottle volumes. Unique sizes have been made for special occasions and people, the most notable example perhaps being the 20 fluid ounce / 60 cL. bottle (Imperial pint) made specially for Sir Winston Churchill by Pol Roger.

Champagne corks are built from several sections and are referred to as aglomerated corks. The mushroom shape that occurs in the transition is a result of the bottom section, which is in contact with the wine, being composed of two stacked discs of pristine cork, cemented to the upper portion which is a conglomerate of ground cork and glue. Prior to insertion, a sparkling wine cork is almost 50% larger than the opening of the bottle. Originally they start as a cylinder and are compressed prior to insertion into the bottle. Over time their compressed shape becomes more permanent and the distinctive "mushroom" shape becomes more apparent.

The aging of the champagne post disgorgement can to some degree be told by the cork, as the longer it has been in the bottle the less it returns to its original cylinder shape.

Champagne is usually served in a champagne flute, whose characteristics include a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides and an etched bottom. Riedel makes such glasses for vintage and non-vintage champagnes. Other manufacturers have copied Riedel's design and make similar, more affordable flutes. The Victorian coupe (according to legend, approximating the breast of Marie Antoinette) is not recommended as it disperses the nose and over-oxygenates the wine. Champagne is always served cold, its ideal drinking temperature at 7 to 9 °C (43 to 48 °F). Often the bottle is chilled in a bucket of ice and water before opening. Champagne buckets are made specifically for this purpose, and often have a larger volume than standard wine-cooling buckets (to accommodate the larger bottle, and more water and ice).

Champagne has been an integral part of sports celebration since Moët et Chandon started offering their champagne to the winners of Formula 1 Grand Prix events. At the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, winner Dan Gurney started the tradition of spraying the crowd and each other. However, this opening will waste much of the champagne. To reduce the risk of spilling champagne and/or turning the cork into a dangerous projectile, a champagne bottle can be opened by holding the cork and rotating the bottle (rather than the cork). By using a 45 degree angle, the surface of the champagne has the maximum surface area, thus minimizing the excessive bubbling. The cork can ease out with a sigh or a whisper rather than a pop. The flavor will be largely the same, irrespective of the method used, but the volume left in the bottle will differ. The whispering noise made while opening the bottle is sometimes named "le soupir amoureux" (loving whisper).

A sabre can be used to open a champagne bottle with great ceremony. This technique is called sabrage (the term is also used for simply breaking the head of the bottle).

In April 18, 2007, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published the results of a recent joint study by the University of Reading and University of Cagliari that showed moderate consumptions of champagne may help the brain cope with the trauma of stroke, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. The research noted that the high amount of the antioxidant polyphenols in sparkling wine can help prevent deterioration of brain cells due to oxidative stress. During the study scientist exposed two groups of mice with blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay composition) and blanc de noir (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier based) and a control group with no exposure to champagne. All groups were then subjected to high levels of neurotoxicity similar to what the human brain experiences during inflammatory conditions. The study found that the groups pretreated with exposure to Champagne had a higher level of cell restoration compared to the group that wasn't. The study's co-authors noted that it was too early to conclusively say that drinking champagne is beneficial to brain health but that the study does point researchers to more exploration in this area.

It is a common perception that people become intoxicated more quickly on champagne. It has been shown that alcohol is more rapidly absorbed when mixed with carbonated water, and this may explain this anecdotal assertion.

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Sparkling wine

A lightly sparkling wine Mionetto Il Moscato from Italy.

Sparkling wine is a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide in it making it fizzy. The carbon dioxide may result from natural fermentation, (either in a bottle, as with the méthode champenoise, or in a large tank designed to withstand the pressures involved, as in the Charmat process) or as a result of carbon dioxide injection. The classic example of a sparkling wine is Champagne, but many other examples are produced in other countries and regions, such as Cava in Spain, Asti in Italy (the generic Italian term for sparkling wine being Spumante) and Cap Classique in South Africa. In some parts of the world, the words "champagne" or "spumante" are used as a synonym for sparkling wine, although laws in Europe and other countries reserve the word champagne for a specific type from the Champagne region of France. The French term "Crémant" is used to refer to sparkling wine not made in the Champagne region. German and Austrian sparkling wines are called Sekt. The United States is a significant producer of sparkling wine: California in particular has seen French Champagne houses open wineries in the state to make American sparkling wine according to the Champagne method. Recently the United Kingdom, which produced some of the earliest examples of sparkling wine, has started producing Champagne-style wines again. Sparkling wine is usually white or rosé but there are many examples of red sparkling wines such as Italian Brachetto and Australian sparkling Shiraz. The sweetness of sparkling wine can range from very dry "brut" styles to sweeter "doux" varieties.

Effervescence has been observed in wine throughout history and has been noted by Ancient Greek and Roman writers but the causes of this mysterious appearance of bubbles was not understood. Over time it has been attributed to phases of the moon as well as both good and evil spirits. The tendency of still wine from the Champagne region to lightly sparkle was noted in the Middle Ages but this was considered a wine fault and was disdained in early Champagne winemaking. Dom Pérignon was originally charged by his superiors at the Abbey of Hautvillers to get rid of the bubbles since the pressure in the bottles caused many of them to burst in the cellar. Later, when deliberate sparkling wine production increased in the early 1700s, cellar workers would still have to wear heavy iron mask that resembled a baseball catcher's mask to prevent injury from spontaneously bursting bottles. The disturbance caused by one bottle's disintegration could cause a chain reaction, with it being routine for cellars to lose 20-90% of their bottles to instability. The mysterious circumstance surrounding the then unknown process of fermentation and carbonic gas caused some critics to call the sparkling creations "The Devil's Wine".

The English were one of the first who saw the tendency of Champagne to sparkle as a desirable trait and tried to understand why it did bubble. Wine was often transported to England in wooden wine barrels where merchant houses would then bottle the wine for sale. During the 17th century, English glass production used coal-fueled ovens and produced stronger, more durable glass bottles than the wood-fired French glass. The English also rediscovered the use of cork stoppers, once used by the Romans but forgotten for centuries after the fall of the Roman empire. During the cold winters of the Champagne region, temperatures would drop so low that the fermentation process was prematurely halted--leaving some residual sugar and dormant yeast. When the wine was shipped to and bottled in England, the fermentation process would restart when the weather warmed and the cork-stoppered wine would begin to build pressure from carbon dioxide gas. When the wine was opened, it would be bubbly. In 1662, the English scientist Christopher Merret presented a paper detailing how the presence of sugar in a wine lead to it eventually sparkling and that by adding sugar to a wine before bottling it, nearly any wine could be made to sparkle. This is one of the first known accounts of understanding the process of sparkling wine and even suggest that British merchants were producing "sparkling Champagne" before the French Champenois were deliberately making it.

The viticultural and winemaking practices of making sparkling wine have many similarities to the production of still wine with some noted divergence. At the vineyard, grapes are harvested early when there is still high acid levels. In areas like Australia, winemakers aim to harvest the grapes at 17 to 20° brix. Unlike still wine production, high sugar levels are not ideal and grapes destined for sparkling wine production may be harvested at higher yields. Care is taken to avoid tannins and other phenolic compounds with many premium producers still choosing to harvest by hand rather than risk mechanical harvesting which may split the berries and encourage maceration between the skins and juice. The press house is often close by the vineyard to where the grapes can be quickly pressed and separated from their skins. Red wine grapes like Pinot noir can be used in the production of white sparkling wines because their juice is initially clear and is only later tinted red through exposure to the color pigments in grape skins. While some skin exposure maybe desirable in the production of rosé sparklers and some blanc de noirs (white of blacks), most sparkling wine producers take extended precautions to limit the amount of skin contact.

The primary fermentation of sparkling wine begins like most other wines, though winemakers may choose to use specially cultivated sparkling wine yeasts. The wines may go through malolactic fermentation, though producers wishing to make fruitier, simpler wines will usually forgo this step. After fermentation the base wines are then blended to form a cuvee. While there are examples of varietal sparklers, such as blanc de blancs (white of whites) made from 100% Chardonnay, most sparkling wines are blends of several grape varieties, vineyards and vintages. Large Champagne producers like Moet & Chandon will use wines from several hundred base wines to create a blend that reflect the "house style" of their non-vintage wine. It is through the initiation of a secondary fermentation that distinguishes sparkling wine production and gives the wine its characteristic "bubbles". One of the by products of fermentation is the creation of carbon dioxide gas. While this gas is able to be released during the first fermentation, efforts are taken during the second fermentation to retain the gas and have it dissolve into the wine. This creates a massive amount of pressure within the wine bottle (on average around 5 atmospheres) and wine producers take care to package the wine in strong glass bottles. When the wine is open and poured into a glass, the gas is released and the wine becomes sparkling.

There are several methods used to carry out this secondary fermentation. The most well known is the Traditional or "Champagne method" where the base cuvee is bottled with a mixture of sugar and yeast. The introduction of a fresh yeast and food source (the sugar) triggers the fermentation process in the bottle that the wine will eventually be sold in. Through the process of riddling and eventually disgorgement, the dead yeast cells (lees) are removed from the wine while still maintaining the dissolved carbon dioxide gas. A dosage mixture of fresh wine and some sugar syrup is used to adjust the sweetness level of the wine after it has been disgorged. In the methode ancestrale the disgorgement step is skipped and the wine is sold with the lees still present as sediment in the wine. In the transversage method, after the wines have gone through the traditional method including riddling and disgorgement, the bottles are emptied into a large tank where they are then transferred to small and large format wine bottles such as 3 liter jeroboam and small split sizes used on airlines.

The Charmat method take places in stainless steel fermentation tanks that are pressurized. The fresh yeast and sugar mixture is added to the wine which rapidly stimulates fermentation in the pressurized environment. The wine is then cooled, clarified and bottled using a counter pressure filler. The process of carbon injection (or carbonation), the method used to make soda pop fizzy, doesn't involve initiating a secondary but rather injecting carbon dioxide gas directly into the wine. This method produces large bubbles that quickly dissipates and is generally only used in the cheapest sparkling wines.

An initial burst of effervescence occurs when the champagne contacts the dry glass on pouring. These bubbles may form on imperfections in the glass that facilitate nucleation or on cellulose fibres left over from the wiping/drying process. Nucleations are needed to stimulate the formation of bubbles because carbon dioxide has to first diffuse from the wine solution before it can rise out of the glass and into the air. A poured glass of sparkling wine will lose it bubbliness and carbon dioxide gas much more quickly than an open bottle alone would. The frothiness or "mousse" of the sparkler, along with the average size and consistency of the bubbles, can vary depending on the quality of the sparkler and the type of glass used.

The average bottle of Champagne contains enough carbon dioxide to potentially produce 49 million bubbles. (Wine expert Tom Stevenson puts the number at 250 million.) The bubbles initially form at 20 micrometres in diameter and expand as they gain buoyancy and rise to the surface. When they reach the surface they are approximately 1 millimeter in size. It is speculated that the bubbles in sparkling wine may speed up intoxication by helping the alcohol to reach the bloodstream faster. A study conducted at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom gave subjects equal amounts of flat and sparkling Champagne which contained the same levels of alcohol. After 5 minutes following consumption, the group that had the sparkling Champagne had 54 milligrams of alcohol in their blood while the group that had the same Champagne, only flat, had 39 milligrams.

The amount of sugar (dosage) added after the second fermentation and aging varies and will dictate the sweetness level of the sparkling wine. Wines produced within the European Union must include the sweetness level on the wine label. For wines produced outside the EU, the sweetness level is not required but if it is included on the label the terms used must conform to EU guidelines.

The most well known example of sparkling wine is that of Champagne from the Champagne wine region of France. On average, Champagne is responsible for about 8% of worldwide sparkling wine production with many other regions emulating the "Champagne style" in both grapes used (generally Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier) and production methods--sometimes referred to as the "Champagne method". French sparklers made according to the Champagne method of fermentation in the bottle, but sometimes use different grape varieties, are known as Cremants and are governed under their own Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) regulations. Another style of sparkling wine found in France are those made according to the methode ancestrale which skips the process of disgorgement and produces wines with slight sweetness and still containing the particles of dead yeast matter in the form of lees in the bottle. The regions of Gaillac, Limoux and Clairette de Die are the most well known producers of methode ancestrale wines.

Champagne is produced at the far extreme of viticultural circumstances, where the grape struggles to ripe in a long drawn out growing season. Cool climate weather limits the types of wine and grape varieties that can be made but it is in this region that sparkling wine has found its standard bearer. The limestone-chalk soil produces grapes that have a certain balance of acidity, extract and richness that is difficult to replicate in other parts of the world. The Champenois vigorously defend use of the term "Champagne" to relate the specific wine produced in the Champagne wine region. This includes objection to the term "Champagne style" to refer to sparkling wines produced outside the Champagne region. Since 1985, used of the term methode champenoise has been banned in all wines produced or sold in the European Union.

Blending is the hallmark of Champagne wine, with most Champagnes being the assembled product of several vineyards and vintages. In Champagne there are over 19,000 vineyard owners, only 5,000 of which are owned by Champagne producers. The rest sell their grapes to the various Champagne houses, negociants and co-operatives. The grapes, most commonly Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot meunier, are used to make several base wines that are assembled together to Champagne. Each grapes add their own unique imprint on the wine. Chardonnay is prized for its finesse and aging ability. Pinot noir adds body and fruit while Pinot meunier contributes substantially to the aroma adding fruit and floral notes. The majority of Champagne produced is non-vintage (or rather, multi-vintage) blends. Vintage Champagne is also produced, and this is often a houses most prestigious and expensive wine, but only in years when the producers feel that the grapes have the complexity and richness to warrant it.

French appellation laws dictate that a Crémant must be harvested by hand with yields not exceeding a set amount for their AOC. The wines must also be aged for a minimum of one year. The Loire Valley is France's largest producer of sparkling wines outside of the Champagne region. The majority of these Crémant du Loire are produced around the city of Saumur and are a blend of the Chardonnay, Chenin blanc and Cabernet franc. AOC laws do allow cuvées with Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot noir, Gamay, Côt, Pineau d'aunis and Grolleau but those grapes are rarely used in a significant amount. In Burgundy, AOC laws require that Crémant de Bourgogne be composed of at least thirty percent Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc or Pinot gris. Aligoté is often used to fill out the remaining parts of the blend. The Languedoc wine Crémant de Limoux is produced in the forty one villages around the village of Limoux in the south of France. The wine is composed primarily of the indigenous grape Mauzac with some Chenin blanc and Chardonnay. The wine must spend a minimum of one year aging on its lees. The sparkling Blanquette de Limoux is composed entirely of mauzac and is aged for nine months.

The designation Crémant was previously used for sparkling wines from the Champagne region which were produced with slightly less carbon dioxide and somewhat lower bottle pressure (typically 2-3 atmospheres instead of 5-6). These wines were rare in comparison to regular, full-pressure Champagne. The Crémant designation was also used for sparkling wines from the Loire valley, in the form of Crémant de Saumur and Crémant de Vouvray, without being defined as separate appellations. In 1975, Crémant de Loire was given formal recognition as an AOC, and was followed by Crémant de Bourgogne (1975) and Crémant d'Alsace (1976). When in the late 1980s lobbying by Champagne producers led to méthode champenoise being forbidden within the European Union as a designation for the traditional method, the term Crémant was given its present definition. This meant that the use of "Crémant" in the Champagne region was discontinued and additional French Crémant AOCs were created from 1990, starting with Bordeaux and Limoux.

In Luxembourg, Crémant de Luxembourg is a designation within the Moselle Luxembourgeoise appellation, rather than a separate appellation, but otherwise follow the same rules as French Crémant.

Since the designation Crémant is not reserved exclusively for French use (as a result of it replacing méthode champenoise), it may also be used by producers in other EU countries which fulfill the production criteria, although such usage is rare.

There are also some other French appellations for sparkling wines, which do not carry the name Crémant. Some of these are exclusively sparkling wine appellations, and some are appellations allowing both still and sparkling wine to be made. The term Mousseux is French for "sparkling" and can refer to a sparkling wine made using methods other than the méthode champenoise such as charmat method. While Crémant can only be used for wines that have been made using the méthode champenoise.

Cava is the name of a type of Catalan white or pink sparkling wine, produced in different areas of Catalonia but mainly in the Penedès region in Catalonia, 40 km to the south west of Barcelona. Cava is a Greek term that was used to refer to "high end" table wine or wine cellar, and comes from the Latin word "cava" which means cave in English. Caves were used in the early days of Cava production for the preservation or aging of wine. Today Cavas have become integrated with Spanish family traditions and is often consumed at baptism celebrations with even the newborn getting a taste of his/her pacifier dipped in the wine. The sparkling wine of Cava was created in 1872 by Josep Raventós. The vineyards of Penedès were devastated by the phylloxera plague, and the predominantly red vines were being replaced by large numbers of vines producing white grapes. After seeing the success of the Champagne region, Raventós decided to create the dry sparkling wine that has become the reason for the region's continued success. In the past the wine was referred to as Spanish Champagne (no longer permitted under EU law), or colloquially as champaña or xampany.

Cava is produced in varying levels of dryness of the wine which are: brut nature, brut (extra dry), seco (dry), semiseco (medium) and dulce (sweet). Under Spanish Denominación de Origen laws, Cava can be produced in six wine regions and must be made according to the Traditional Method with second fermentation in the bottle and uses a selection of the grapes Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, and Subirat. Despite being a traditional Champagne grape, Chardonnay was not used in the production of Cava until the 1980s.

According to etymological sources, the term "spumante" was not used in a wine context until 1908, more than 40 years following the first Italian sparkling wine using the méthode champenoise produced by Carlo Gancia which was then sold as "Moscato Champagne".

Sparkling wines are made throughout Italy but the the Italian sparklers most widely seen on the world market are the Franciacorta from Lombardy, Asti from Piedmont and Prosecco from Veneto. Though Franciacorta wines are made according to the traditional method, most Italian sparkling wines, in particular Asti and Prosecco, are made with the Charmat method.

Asti is a slightly sweet sparkler made from the Moscato grape in the province of Asti. The wine is noted for its low alcohol levels around 8% and fresh, grapey flavors. Moscato d'Asti is a frizzante style slightly sparkling version of Asti.

The Franciacorta region, located northwest of Brescia, is home to the largest segment of Italian sparkling wine production. Made predominately from Chardonnay and Pinot bianco, sparklers labeled under the Franciacorta DOCG are permitted to include no more than 15% Pinot nero. Both vintage and non-vintage Franciacorta sparklers are made which require 30 and 18 months, respectively, of aging on the lees. Franciacorta Satèn, a Blanc de blancs, is produced with the reduced 4.5 atmospheres of pressure instead of 6 for an expression of softness.

Prosecco is made in both fully sparkling (spumante) and lightly sparkling (frizzante) styles. The wine is produced in the cool hills around the town of Valdobbiadene and are generally dry but sweeter examples are produced.

Sekt is the German term for sparkling wine. The majority of Sekt produced (around 95%) is made by the Charmat method with the remaining premium Sekt being made according to the méthode traditionnelle. Around 90 percent of Sekt is made at least partially from imported wines from Italy, Spain and France. Sekt labeled as Deutscher Sekt is made exclusively from German grapes, and Sekt b.A. (bestimmter Anbaugebiete, in parallel to Qualitätswein b.A.) only from grapes from one of the 13 quality wine regions in Germany.

Some of the premium wines are often made using the Riesling, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris and Pinot noir grapes, with much of it drunk locally rather than exported. These Sekts are usual vintage dated with the village and vineyards that the grapes are from. Premium Sekt b.A. produced in smaller lots is often referred to as Winzersekt (winegrower's Sekt), since it is typically produced by a producer which has vineyards of his own, rather than by the large Sekt-producing companies (Sektkellerien) which buy grapes or base wine on a large scale for their production. In Austria, the corresponding term is Hauersekt.

German production of sparkling wines dates back to 1826, when G. C. Kessler & Co. was founded in Esslingen am Neckar by Georg Christian Kessler, who had previously worked at the Champagne house Veuve Clicquot from 1807 to 1822. The named used by the German producers for their sparkling wines in the 19th century was Champagne (or Champagner), but the 1919 Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany the use of this name, long before European Union regulations prohibited its use outside the Champagne region. Sekt was initially an informal German name for sparkling wine, coined in Berlin 1825, but was in common use by the 1890s. Germany long attempted to have the name Sekt reserved for sparkling wine from countries with German as an official language, but these regulations were annulled by the European Court of Justice in 1975. Another legal decision in the 1970s abolished the large producers' monopoly on Sekt production, allowing winemaking cooperatives and individual winegrowers to produce and sell their own sparkling wines. Together, these two decision produced the situation of the name Sekt being possible to apply to sparkling wines of varying quality level.

Not all sparkling (bubbling) wines are called Sekt, some are simply Perlwein. Sekt typically comes with elaborate enclosure (safety cage) to withstand its considerable CO2 pressure. It also comes with a Schaumwein tax, which since 2005 has been 136 euro per hectoliter, corresponding to 1.02 euro per 0.75 liter bottle. This tax was famously introduced by Emperor Wilhelm II in 1902 to fund the expansion of the Imperial Navy, and unlike the Imperial Navy, it survived the Battle of Jutland.

Germans also call some similar foreign wines Sekt, like Krimsekt (often red) from Crimea.

In Austria, Sekt is often made in the méthode champenoise with the Welschriesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes giving the wine a golden hue color. Sparkling rosé are made from the Blaufränkisch grape. Austria's history of producing sparkling wine dates back to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Most Austrian Sekt producers are based in Vienna and source their grapes from the Weinviertel region in Lower Austria. Like its German counterpart, Austrian Sekt can be made trocken (dry) or halbtrocken (medium dry).

The first Austrian producer of sparkling wine was Robert Alwin Schlumberger, who presented his first sparkling wine in 1846 under the name Vöslauer weißer Schaumwein (White sparkling wine of Vöslau). It was produced from Blauer Portugieser grapes growing in vineyards in Bad Vöslau which Schlumberger bought in 1843, and the sparkling wine was an immediate success. Stuttgart-born Schlumberger had worked in the Champagne house Ruinart before he moved to Vienna in 1842.

The Hungarian equivalent for sparkling wine is ’pezsgő’. The beginning of significant sparkling wine production in Hungary is dated back to the first half of the 19th century. The first wineries of sparkling wine were founded near Pozsony (today Bratislava) by Hubert I.E. 1825 (first in Central-Europe) and Esch és Társa in 1835. A couple of decades later the main producers moved to the Budai mountains and Budafok nearby the capital creating a new center of production, the so-called ’Hungarian Champagne’ existing till nowadays. At the end of the 19th century the two most important wineries were József Törley és Társa moving from Reims, France to Budafok in 1882 and Louis és César-François founded in 1886. After the Soviet era the Hungarian wine sector was reborn. New and old wineries are seeking for the forgotten roots. Most of the Hungarian sparkling wines are made by the charmat and transvasée methods and a small but steadily growing amount by the traditional, champagneois method. The sorts of grape used during production can be international like Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Muscat Lunel or natives like Olaszrizling, Kékfrankos, Furmint, Királyleányka, Hárslevelű, Kéknyelű and Juhfark.

In the Soviet Union, sparkling wine was produced under the name Soviet Champagne, or Sovetskoye Shampanskoye, most of it sweet. This designation continues to be used for sparkling wine produced in several countries formerly part of the Soviet Union, including Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Most likely, the name has stuck since Sovetskoye Shampanskoye was one of the few products or brands of the Soviet era which were seen as luxurious. Nowadays, it is more common to encounter Sovetskoye Shampanskoye produced in a dry style.

Sparkling wines produced in the United States can be made in both the méthode champenoise and the charmat method. Lower cost sparklers, such as André, Cook's, and Tott's, often employ the latter method while more premium sparkling wines utilizing the former. The history of producing quality sparkling wine in California can be traced to the Sonoma Valley where, in 1892, the Korbel brothers (immigrated from Bohemia in 1852) began producing sparkling wine according to the méthode champenoise. The first wines produced were made from Riesling, Muscatel, Traminer and Chasselas grapes. Partly aided by the foreign influence, the overall quality of Californian sparklers increased with the introduction of the more traditional Champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot blanc into the production. US AVA requirements and wine laws do not regulate the sugar levels and sweetness of wine though most producers tend to follow European standards with Brut wine having less than 1.5% sugar up to Doux having more than 5%. As the sparkling wine industry in California grew, foreign investments from some of the Champagne region's most noted Champagne houses came to set up wineries in the area. These include Moët et Chandon's Domaine Chandon, Louis Roederer's Roederer Estate, and Taittinger's Domaine Carneros.

While many top American sparkling wine producers utilize the French champagne methods of production, there are distinct differences in their wine making techniques that have a considerable effect on the taste of the wines. In Champagne, the cuvée blend will rarely have less than 30 wines and sometimes as many as 60 that are taken from grapes spanning 4-6 years of different vintages. In California, cuvees are typically derived from around 20 wines taken from 1 to 2 years worth of vintages. French Champagne laws require that the wine spend a minimum of 15 months on the lees for non-vintage and minimum 3 years for vintage Champagne. It is not uncommon for a premium champagne to age for 7 years or more prior to release. In the US, there are no minimum requirements, and aging length can vary from 8 months to 6 years. Another distinct difference, particularly in Californian sparkling wines, is the favorable Californian climate which allows a vintage wine to be produced nearly every year.

Current US regulations require that what is defined as a semi-generic name (such as champagne) shall be used on a wine label only if there appears next to that name the appellation of "the actual place of origin" in order to prevent any possible consumer confusion.

Australian sparkling wine can be produced using the Charmat method or the traditional method, and can be vintage dated or a multivintage blend. Most sparkling wine is produced from Chardonnay and Pinot noir, but an Australian speciality is Sparkling Shiraz, a red sparkling wine produced from Shiraz grapes. Most sparkling Shiraz is traditionally somewhat sweet, but some producers make it dry, full-bodied and tannic.

Cap Classique denotes a South African sparkling wine made by the traditional Champagne method. Sauvignon blanc and Chenin blanc have been the traditional Cap Classique grapes but the use of Chardonnay and Pinot noir have been on the increase.

Fully sparkling wines, such as Champagne, are generally sold with 5 to 6 atmospheres of pressure in the bottle. This is nearly three times the amount of pressure found in an automobile tire. European Union regulations define a sparkling wine as any wine with an excess of 3 atmospheres in pressure. These include German Sekt, Spanish Espumoso, Italian Spumante and French Cremant or Mousseux wines. Semi-sparkling wines are defined as those with between 1 and 2.5 atmospheres of pressures and include German spritzig, Italian frizzante and French petillant wines. The amount of pressure in the wine is determined by the amount of sugar added during the tirage stage at the beginning of the secondary fermentation with more sugar producing increased amount of carbon dioxide gas and thus pressure in the wine.

While the majority of sparkling wines are white or rosé, Australia, Italy and Moldova all have a sizable production of red sparkling wines. In Australia, these sparklers are often made from the Shiraz grape.

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Comet vintages

Despite officially banning the importation of bottled French wines, such as Champagne, Tsar Alexander first was said to have sought out the Veuve Clicquot Cuvée de la Comète

Comet vintages are years during which an astronomical event, involving generally a "Great Comet", occurs prior to harvest. Throughout the history of wine, winemakers have attributed successful vintages and ideal weather conditions to the unexplained effects caused by the comets. Some of the most heralded vintages in the last couple of centuries—such as the 1811, 1826, 1839, 1845, 1852, 1858, 1861, 1985 & 1989 vintages—have coincided with a notable appearance of a comet. The term "comet wine" is sometimes used in the wine world to describe a wine of exceptional quality in reference to the high reputation that comet vintages haves. The 1811 comet vintage, coinciding with the appearance of the Great Comet of 1811, has perhaps the most notoriety. The 1811 Château d'Yquem has exhibited what wine experts like Robert Parker have described as exceptional longevity with Parker scoring the wine a perfect 100 points when tasted in 1996. The 1811 vintage of Veuve Clicquot is theorized to have been the first truly "modern" Champagne due to the advancements in the méthode champenoise which Veuve Clicquot pioneered through the technique of remuage.

What effects that the comet has viticulturally on the grapevines is not fully understood but has had a long associated belief among winemakers. There have been many successful vintages throughout the world in years where there were no noticeable comet sightings. Over centuries a great number of events and phenomena have been attributed to the appearances of comets in the sky—such as devastating earthquakes, a 1668 epidemic among cats in Westphalia to an increase in the birth of twins in a particular area. While many of the phenomena associated with comets tend to be negative, the association with comets on wine having always seemed to be beneficial influence.

The 1811 comet vintage has had the most lasting notoriety. The comet that year was the Flaugergues comet, named after Honoré Flaugergues who first spotted the comet in March. The comet was visible for most of the growing season which saw optimal conditions for many of the world's major growing regions, but particularly in France. After a string of bad vintages at the start of the 19th century, the 1811 vintage was a reversal of fortune in regions like Bordeaux, Cognac, Champagne and Sauternes. For Cognac, the vintage was considered one of the greatest in history with many producers today includes images of stars on their labels as a homage to the 1811 vintage. Notable wines from this include the 1811 Château d'Yquem that received a perfect 100 point rating by wine critic Robert Parker at a 1996 tasting over one hundred and eighty years after it was bottled. In Germany, the 1811 vintage was so successful that producers along the Rhine would label their wines as "comet hock".

The 1811 bottling of vintage Champagne from the Champagne house of Veuve Clicquot has been theorized to have been the first truly "modern" Champagne. The wine was one of the first to be described as "limpid" or sediment-free. This was due to the new technique of remuage or riddling developed by Veuve Cliquot that tackled the historical problem of how to remove the ill tasting and unpleasant looking sediments from the sparkling wine without losing the gas that makes it bubble. The development of riddling was a hallmark moment in the evolution of the modern Champagne industry. In the early 19th century, Veuve Clicquot tried to keep their techniques a secret but the clarity and "limpid"ness of their Champagne captured worldwide attention and eventually their secret got out. In the summer of 1812, following Napoleon's invasion of Russia, despite a decree from Tsar Alexander I of Russia banning the importation of French wine in bottles, Louis Bohne, lead sales agent for Veuve Clicquot, was able to smuggle a large quantity of the 1811 Cuvée de la Comète into Königsberg. As word of the wine's quality spread, Bohne found eager customers among the Russian elite with even the Tsar himself seeking out the wine.

There have been several references in literature to the 1811 vintage which was often described as the "Year of the Comet". Ernst Jünger's 1939 novel On the Marble Cliffs has central characters drinking wine from the "year of the comet". In The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk by Arthur Conan Doyle, Dr. Watson describes Sherlock Holmes as a "connoisseur who has just taken his first sip of a comet vintage." In the 1992 romantic comedy The Year of the Comet, a bottle of 1811 Château Lafite Rothschild is central to the story line.

The 1858 comet vintage attributed to the Donati Comet was widely praised for the quality of Bordeaux claret that came out of that vintage. The 1874 comet vintage was considered especially favorable for the German wine regions of the Mosel and Rheingau.

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Lieu-dit (plural: lieux-dits) is a French wine term which in its typical usage translates as "vineyard name" or "named vineyard". Typically, a lieu-dit is the smallest piece of land which has a traditional vineyard name assigned to it. In most cases, this means that a lieu-dit is smaller than an appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC).

In some cases, lieux-dits appear on wine labels, in addition to the AOC name. This is most commonly seen for Alsace wine and Burgundy wine. It may not always be easy for consumers to tell if a name on a wine label is a lieu-dit or a cuvée name created by the producer.

The only case of mandatory mention of a lieu-dit is in Alsace, for Alsace Grand Cru AOC. The Grand Cru designation may only be used if a lieu-dit is indicated. Lieux-dits may also be indicated on regular Alsace AOC wines, but is not mandatory.

In Burgundy, the term climat is used interchangeably with lieu-dit. The use of the lieu-dit varies with the level of classification of the wine. Although the Grand Cru burgundies are in generally considered to be classified on the vineyard level and defined as separate AOCs (with the exception of Chablis Grand Cru), some Burgundy Grand Crus are in fact divided into several lieux-dits. An example is Corton, where it is fairly common to see lieux-dits such as Les Bressandes, Le Clos de Roi and Les Renardes indicated. For village level burgundies, the lieu-dit may only be indicated in smaller print than the village name to avoid confusion with Premier Cru burgundies, where the village and vineyard name are indicated in the same size print.

In Rhône, lieux-dits are most commonly seen for some of the top wines of the region. An example is the lieu-dit La Mouline within Côte-Rôtie.

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Château Coutet

Château Coutet is a Premier Cru Classé (French: First Growth) sweet wine from the Sauternes-Barsac appellation located in Barsac, in the southern part of France’s Bordeaux vineyards. Château Coutet is one of the oldest Sauternes producing vineyards, sometimes cited as a twin of Barsac's other Premier cru estate, Château Climens.

Coutet also produces a second wine, Chartreuse de Coutet, a dry white wine named Vin Sec de Chateau Coutet and a cuvée in vintages of exceptional quality, Cuvée Madame.

It was acquired in 1643 by Charles le Guerin, Lord of Coutet, a counselor at the Bordeaux parliament. In 1695 he passed the estate on to his nephew, Jean le Pichard, whose descendants owned Coutet until 1788. It was at this time that the former US president Thomas Jefferson noted Coutet as the best Sauternes originating from Barsac.

Coutet was later acquired by Gabriel-Barthelemy-Romain de Filhot, president of the Bordeaux parliament and a cousin of the former owner. As a consequence of the French Revolution, Château Coutet was seized by the state in 1794 and de Filhot was beheaded. Château Coutet was inherited later on by Marquis Romain Bertrand de Lur Saluces, son of Marie-Geneviève de Filhot and Antoine-Marie de Lur Saluces. De Lur Saluces was also at the time owner of Château d'Yquem, Château Filhot and Château de Malle and thus the largest producer of sweet white wines in the world.

Château Coutet remained under the care of the de Lur Saluces family until 1923. At this point Henry-Louis Guy, a hydraulic wine press manufacturer from Lyon, purchased Château Coutet. This transaction separated the estate from Château d'Yquem. Guy equipped the winery with his vertical presses, still used today at each harvest. In 1977, the Baly family purchased the property remaining present day owners. In 1994, Coutet signed an agreement with Philippine de Rothschild giving exclusive distribution rights to Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A.

Standing over the main courtyard, the château’s square tower is believed to originate from the late 13th century with a design typical to the military constructions from the time of Aquitaine’s English occupation. A second tower, located in the property’s northern plot, is another example of the era’s architecture. This landmark was built originally to breed pigeons and peacocks for region’s Gascon lords. Further elements from other centuries define the property’s architecture, including a 14th century chapel and two 16th century towers.

The architecture of the oldest part of the château is identical to that of Château d'Yquem, and the well in the courtyard an exact duplicate.

Coutet is also home to the longest Sauternes winery with a 110 meters long cellar that houses more than 860 barrels.

Located between the Garonne and Ciron rivers, Château Coutet benefits from a microclimate whose autumn mists necessary for the spread of the Botrytis cinerea. The vineyard area extends 38 hectares with grape varieties of 75% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon blanc and 2% Muscadelle.

On average 4,500 cases are produced each year of the Grand vin Château Coutet. Additionally there is produced the second wine Chartreuse de Coutet from the estate's younger vines, and a dry white wine named Vin Sec de Château Coutet. In infrequent vintages of exceptional quality, a precise berry-by-berry selection wine is produced named Cuvée Madame. First created by Edmond Rolland in honour of his wife in 1922, it typically has a production of 700 cases.

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Champagne Krug

Logo of Krug

Champagne Krug—a "négociant-manipulateur" with offices in Reims, the main city in Champagne—was one of the famous Champagne houses who formed part of the membership of the Grande Marques. Krug Grande Cuvée is one of the crown jewels in the LVMH wine division, placed alongside the Moët et Chandon's Cuvée Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot's La Grande Dame. As a Champagne, it is distinctive and easily recognised by taste due to the house's policy of complete barrel fermentation and very extended lees aging; on the nose, Krug is identified by its strongly developed and aged nutty lees influence and autolytic notes on the nose, a certain oakiness, as well as a combination of disgorgement freshness and oxidative maturity. On the palate, Krug wines commonly display a raciness resulting from suppression of the malolactic fermentation, and a richness both from lees and from barrel fermentation. It is one of the most obviously oaky of Champagnes and is almost always invariably dry (less than 10g/l RS).

Krug was established in 1843 by Johann-Joseph Krug, a German immigrant from Mainz on the Rhine. In relative terms, this makes it a middle-aged to young house, compared to the old houses in Champagne, several of which have been going for more than ten generations. Johann learned his trade at Champagne Jacquesson for nine years before setting up Krug at Reims. His son, Paul continued the family business, who was succeeded by his son, Joseph Krug II in 1910. Joseph's nephew, Jean Seydoux, took the reins in 1924. Jean Sedoux, together with Paul Krug II are generally credited with creating the Krug style with the now defunct Private Cuvée. In 1962, Henri Krug took over the house, and he is still largely responsible for the winemaking decisions here, along with Eric Lebel. The house is now part of global luxury brands conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH). Like most of the companies in the group, Krug runs with a certain amount of autonomy. This perceived and real autonomy has played a large role in maintaining the house's reputation and consistent style.

The house owns 20 hectares of vines in Aÿ, Le Mesnil, and Trépail. They get the rest of their grapes from long-term contract growers. Unlike other négociants, Krug's growers consider themselves part of a long-standing prestigious group that openly reveal Krug as the destination of their grapes.

Aÿ supplies the Pinot Noir which goes into the non-vintage Rose, and Le Mesnil produces the Chardonnay which makes up the Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs vintage. As far as prestige houses go, Krug owns a relatively small proportion of vineyard.

All the wines at Krug undergo primary fermentation in small 205 litre oak barrels from the Forest of Argonne and Central France. The barrels are all well-seasoned and organoleptically inert. Each cru is vinified separately, with no malolactic fermentation, and the two rackings are done by gravity. Reserve wines are transferred to stainless-steel tanks.

The house's standard release, the Grande Cuvée NV is blended from anywhere between 20 and 30 crus across Champagne, with almost all being rated 100%, or Grand Cru. The reserve wines hail from 6 to 10 vintages, and not necessarily the most recent vintages, and usually including a fair proportion of declarable vintages which the company insists explains the high quality of their wine. Krug disgorges its wines no earlier than six years on lees, with the Collection series being held on lees for as long as 15 to 20 years.

Krug utilises all three Champagne varieties in their wines, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. However, Chardonnay is the mainstay of the Grande Cuvee and their flagship single vineyard vintage, the Clos du Mesnil is made in the Blanc de blancs style, made completely from Chardonnay. In April 2008, Krug released the 1995 Clos d'Ambonnay, its debut of a Blanc de noirs Champagne, made entirely from Pinot Noir from a single 0.685 hectares (1.69 acres) vinyard.

The company produces roughly 500,000 bottles a year of mainly Grande Cuvée, supplemented by a non-vintage rosé, a vintage blanc, and a vintage blanc de blancs from the Clos du Mesnil in the Cotes de Blancs and older vintages released as Krug Collection series. The house uses as its competitive edge the fact that it does not make a non-vintage, rather a multi-vintage. Although technically meaning the same thing, Krug's non-vintage, the Grande Cuvée, is a blend of only good, or declarable vintages. The house also emphasises the fact that primary fermentation occurs completely in small oak barrels; a practice not commonplace anymore in Champagne.

Krug is sometimes considered a producer of only prestige cuvées, which is one of the tenets of the company's marketing strategy. They justify this by pointing out the large number of high-rated crus and the choices of vintages, as well as the extended lees ageing regime of their standard wine, the Grande Cuvee as being similar, if not more than most other house's Prestige Cuvees. Certainly the price of Krug wines is much higher than other Champagne, with even the Grande Cuvee being as priced as high as other very prestigious and highly regarded Prestige Cuvees such as Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne, Moet's Dom Perignon, Veuve's La Grande Dame, Bollinger's RD etc.

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Source : Wikipedia