You have to admire the french
Over the last few hundred years, the wine producers of a very small area
of the north eastern corner of the country have managed to convince the world
that the sparkling chardonnay they produce is one of the greatest luxurys
imaginable and worthy of amazingly high prices.
In a stunning example of sustained marketing they have fought for their right
to keep control of the word 'champagne' stopping any other producer from using
That is why in Italy the equivalent drink is called 'Asti Spumanti', in Spain
it is 'Cava', in Germany it is 'Seckt' and in the English speaking world it
is 'Sparkling Wine'. Due to hype, marketing and international trademark law
nobody but the french can produce champagne and everyone else has to brew
alternatives; heavy with all the baggage of inferiority that those alternative
Which is a pity, because some spanish Cava is in taste, far superior to almost
all Champagne. The same is true for a number of Australian sparkling wines.
Well, in blind tastings that might be true, but nobody I know would choose
a bottle of Cava over a bottle of Krug champagne to present to friends at
a party. The french right to keep the name champagne to themselves was so
important to them, that it was actually written in to the codicils of the
Treaty of Versailles in 1918. As I said, you have to admire the french.
There are some 9000 registered Champagne producers in the region about 100
miles to the east of Paris, growing mostly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot
Meunier grapes. These are then pressed, blended and bottled. It is made fizzy
through the addition of a little yeast and extra sugar (just a few grains)
at the bottling stage.
As with all french wine regions there are different classes of producers
based on whee they grow so you can find permier cru and grand cru champagnes.
However, the cachet of individual brands (or 'houses') is the key indicator
Famous champagne producers who can commang high prices include:
- Chanoine Frères
- Paul Goerg
- Moët & Chandon
- Bruno Paillard
- Perrier Jouët
- Louis Roederer
- Pol Roger et Cie
- Veuve Clicquot
Some of these houses have been producing champagnge for centuries. For example
the last on the list, Veuve Clicquot was founded in 1772 by which time the
house of Ruinart was already celebrating half a century of wine making.