The only alcoholic drink that is acceptable to consume for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Zack Charilou famously said- ‘a meal without wine is breakfast’ There is an exception to this, and it’s called Champagne. Known the world over as the king of sparkling wines, the infamous bubbles in Champagne have made it a firm favourite amongst sommeliers, wine buffs, and the average consumer just looking for a glass of fizz to start their weekend – or finish their day after work.
The region of Champagne is found at some of the northern most limits of the wine-producing world. I say some of, because now in the UK we are responsible for producing some of the finest bubbles around.
Being so far north, even in warm years, it is difficult to for grapes to ripen fully. Under-ripe grapes mean high levels of acidity. And it’s only the infamous secondary bottle fermentation that lends to a style of wine that can handle the tart levels of malic acidity.
How is Champagne made?
Champagne starts as a basic still wine, and goes through the regular process of vinification. It is the secondary fermentation inside the bottles that gives Champagne its famous bubbles.
There is a basic formula for the fermentation process after yeast has been added to grape juice; yeast consumes the natural sugars within the juice, producing alcohol, heat and carbon dioxide.
After the still wine has been made, it is bottled with addition of more yeast and sugars, and then sealed. This initiates a secondary fermentation inside the bottle. The carbon dioxide gas has nowhere to go, creating bubbles inside the bottle. There are a couple of different names for this process, Champagne Method, and Traditional Method are the big ones.
Champagne Grape Varieties
Originally there were multiple varieties cultivated in Champagne, but over the centuries these have been whittled down to three – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Probably the world’s most famous white grape variety. Fantastic expressions of Chardonnay can be found all over the world. Regions of particular note are Burgundy (France) and California (USA). This varietal is unparalleled in its versatility. It does not boast the most personality – allowing winemakers to manipulate the grape to their own ends.
Chardonnay works beautifully well with oak. At the same time those looking for ‘cleaner’ expressions of wine can look to unoaked styles such as Chablis and of course, it is one of the principle grapes of Champagne.
What does it bring to a bottle of fizz? Elegance, structure creaminess and those lifted citrus notes on the nose and palate.
The diva of the wine world! Notoriously hard to cultivate, given its thin skins the variety is susceptible to sunburn and sensitive to rot and fungus. Some of the best expressions of Pinot Noir command the highest prices in the world, and its range of styles from light bodied and crisp, to some of the most rich, complex and intense wines on the market.
With Champagne production, this grape brings weight, and richer aromas lending to a fuller body (Bollinger and Pol Roger are good examples).
More forgiving in the vineyard than Pinot Noir. It brings valuable acidity and freshness to the final blend. It was once described as the ‘fireworks display’ of the three grape varieties. In the sense that it packs a punch but is over all too quickly. Pinot Meunier is better suited for the younger drinking Non-Vintage Champagnes.
This July we have a 20% sale on all things French Fizz! Even though the summer has failed to arrived (so far), here at M Wine Store, we are bringing the sunshine in store and online – in the shape of Champagne. Moreover, we have a selection of six handpicked gems in our Champagne Hamper.
What a way to kick-start the season that needs kick-starting! See below for a guide to a couple of my favourites in this months hamper.
All wines below are available to buy online and in the M Wine Store. Click on the links to follow them to the M Wine Store webpages…
One of the best selling rose Champagnes on the market, and for good reason. This tipple is made from 100% Pinot Noir. The nose explodes with rich, ripe red berries (think summer). Being Pinot Noir based, the weight on the palate delivers with further explosion of those red fruits. A wonderful aperitif and a must have in the wine rack.
For me, this is the best sub £60.00 Champagne on the market. Made from 100% Chardonnay the palate oozes with crisp citrus notes and a beautiful salinity. The nose is rich with toast and brioche with some stoned fruit aromas to follow.
Without doubt one of the, if not the finest non vintage on the market. Over 100 wines have been blended to create this legendary wine. This is more of a blend of vintage parcels from Grand Cru sites, given its outstanding quality. Alive with caramelized nutty aromas and spiced apple on the nose, the palate is beautifully balanced with a buttery texture. Its worth the price!
Come in to see all of the Champagne we have on sale, please don’t forget to drop an email to the email@example.com if you have any questions or need advice.
Thanks for reading and happy drinking!
M Wine Store