“Come quickly, I think I am seeing stars.” This was a famous quote by a monk in Champagne who worked in the cellars making wine. What little did he know back then that this thing he called ‘stars,’ was actually bubbles in a glass that could change your world.
Effervescent wines have been known since antiquity, when they were developed completely by accident. Incomplete fermented wine that had been stored in the chill of the winter or in cold, dark cellars began to re-ferment when temperatures began to rise in the spring. This process is what we call Method Rurale, or Methode Ancestral meaning it is used as a term today to a limited degree.
The most famous process that we know today is known as Traditional, or Classic Method. If you are making wine in Champagne, we call this method Methode Champenoise which involves producing a base wine, adding a measured amount of sugar and yeast and initiating a second fermentation in the sealed bottle.
Wine has evolved over the centuries, Champagne’s export trade in the late eighteenth century and nineteenth centuries, “Champagne” became a default word for sparking worldwide. The fact is, Champagne can only be called Champagne if it is made in the Champagne region in France. One can duplicate how it is made by using the same technique and using the same grapes, but if it made outside of the Champagne region in France, it’s called the Traditional Method or Classic Method of Sparkling Wine.
The portfolio of Moet Hennessy has proven to have some iconic producers who have changed the way we see Champagne today.
Krug – Reims, France: Established in 1843, this house solely produces exceptional Champagnes, commonly known as prestige cuvees or tete de cuvee. Considered as a Grande Marque Champagne House, Krug uses grapes only of the highest quality sourced from historic Krug vineyards in the Champagne Region. This style of Champagne is like no other and at the base level, blends over 150 base wines from six to 10 different years and 20-25 terroirs. This wine is truly unique in style and flavor profile. If you are a Champagne lover, and favor Chardonnay, this is a must try!
Moet and Chandon – Epernay, France: Moet’s approach to wine making fully respects the integrity of the fruit and is able to call upon the largest selection of wine reserves in Champagne. A balanced blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier reveals a harmonious succession of sensations and elegant wines. Moet offers six different styles that include Imperial Brut, Rose Imperial, Nectar Imperial, Nectar Rose Imperial and Vintage.
Ruinart – Reims, France: Considered the oldest Champagne house since 1729 when the vision began. Chardonnay is the very essence of the Ruinart taste and the shape of the bottle is legendary as well being the first glass structure that was able to withstand the pressure of the wine inside. All their grapes come from Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards which makes this house style absolutely a treasure. This is a hidden gem amongst the great Champagne houses in the region and is worth the exploration!
Veuve Clicquot – Reims, France: Founded in 1772, Veuve Clicquot is amongst the most prestigious Champagne houses. The great widow Madam Clicquot took over the business at a young age of 27, and has made the brand a huge success. She was one the first to introduce Rose Champagne to the market, as well as the introduction to riddling (remuage) which has changed how Champagne is made today.
When looking at the choices of Champagne, one must look to the “house” from which to choose. No other portfolio offers so many choices and different styles to understand what the region has to offer. Champagne isn’t just for the holidays, but is a year round beverage that can liven up any activity or event. This holiday season, start working your way through the list, and see what style suits you best!
Kimberly Fisher is Director of Fine Wine Sales for Badger Liquor & Spirits