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{take me away № 18 | a glamorous guide to champagne}

by

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Some say there is an indescribable magic and poetry in the very experience and effervescence—the way the delicious bubbles gracefully float within the flute, almost like a theatrical dance . . . a dance in celebration of new memories and old; for future moments that captivate, for new marriages just beginning, for an exciting graduation, for a touching anniversary, for the promise of a fresh, new year. They remind of the beautiful joys in life to cherish and hold onto, always. A champagne occasion relies on feeling and experience, and for one to revel and linger in the moment for as long as possible.

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And as we celebrate love in all of its essence this Valentine’s Day—be it love for dear friends and family, or your significant other—our hearts overflow with happiness for the simple and wonderful opportunity to love and be loved.

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And so, today, let’s discover how this beautiful golden elixir came about, explore its fascinating history, and tour three unforgettable wineries, as well as look at tips & ideas on how best to enjoy a glass . . .

A LITTLE HISTORY

Champagne is a sparkling wine that is produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation. A bottle can be signified as Champagne only if originating from the region of Champagne, located in the Northern part of France [less than 100 miles east of Paris]. The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. It first gained quite a bit of attention due to the particular interest paid by French nobility, who carried on such appreciation throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Champagne was often seen as part of a celebration, a rite of passage, and a luxury.

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{about the bubbles}

Years ago, the bubbles that we now enjoy in champagne were considered a sign of poor wine-making. However, making wine [as we know it] in the Champagne region proved to be rather difficult, primarily due to the cool climate of the area. The cold winters provided short seasons for growing grapes, leaving them to be harvested as late and to be as ripe as possible, and so, the fermentation time was extremely short, and the wines had to be bottled up before the sugar could convert to alcohol; however, after they had been bottled, and months later, a secondary fermentation occurred.

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{the inventor}

Many believe that it may have been Dom Perignon who originally invented this sparkling wine, but in fact, it was an English scientist and physician by the name of Christopher Merret. Though Dom Perignon had some wonderful ideas and advances, Merret realised that the addition of sugar added to a finished wine would then create a second fermentation, and that truly made all of the difference. Champagne in France did not utilize the méthode champenoise until the 19th century, approximately 200 years after Christopher Merret first documented [and received official approval for] the process. There was an explosive growth in the 19th century, in which Champagne production of 300,000 bottles each year in 1800 grew to 20 million bottles in 1850.

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{the unique process}

As aforementioned, to make champagne, two fermentation processes must occur. The first occurs as wine generally calls for, and the second, happens over time once the wine has been sealed and placed in the cellar to age. Interestingly, during this time, the bottles are turned and angled downwards, for fractions at a time, a process known as remuage. At this point, yeast is forced into the neck of the bottle, in which it remains until it is declared that the champagne is ready. After such a time, the bottles are opened quickly, with the pressure from the fermentation spitting out the sediment and yeast. Then, the champagne is is sweetened, corked, and ready to be shipped.

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T H R E E · W I N E R I E S · T O · V I S I T

There are about 14,000 winegrowers in the Champagne wine region, and more than 320 million bottles sold each year. Today, we venture to this magical part of France, and visit three award-winning wineries . . .
01 | Veuve Clicquot, Reims

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This world-renowned and award-winning [recently awarded with two gold awards in 2011] supplier of premium champagne was founded in 1772, by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron. Veuve Clicquot is not only recognized for establishing favor with nobility and bourgeoisie in Europe over the years, but also for advancing production methods and techniques. With its bold and recognizable label, and winning reputation, it has become a favorite brand of many. Today, we have the opportunity to tour the fascinating location, with its postcard views, and to go through the enchanting enclosed cellars, to learn the secrets behind the legendary wines, and to appreciate the unique heritage.
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An interesting detail : “In July 2008 an unopened bottle of Veuve Clicquot was discovered inside a sideboard in Torosay Castle, Isle of Mull, Scotland. The 1893 bottle was in mint condition, having been kept in the dark, and was the oldest bottle known to exist. It is now on display at the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin visitor centre in Reims and is regarded as priceless.” Apart from tours in their beautifully-lit facilities, Veuve Clicquot is also open for luncheons, cocktails, gala dinners or conventions, workshops, and more.


where-to-stay

01 | Chateau Les Crayeres
02 | L’Assiette Champenoise
03 | Hotel De La Cathedrale

 


where-to-eat

01 | La Table Anna
02 | L’assiette Champenoise
03 | Le Millenaire

[additionally, Dom Perignon is also from this region]

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02 | Perrier-Jouët, Côte de Blancs

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Founded in Epernay by Pierre-Nicolas-Marie Perrier and his wife, Adele Jouët in 1811, the house of Perrier-Jouët is well-known all over the world for its fine champagne and prestigious and breathtaking vineyard. The property boasts roughly 266 acres of vineyards, with an incredible cave underground, visitors may explore the golden walls, gently lit, and bottles upon bottles of precious beverages. Perrier-Jouët’s famous and rather glamorous “Cuvée Belle Epoque” [above], also known as Fleur de Champagne, launched in 1969, and has since become the most important cuvée de prestige to appear after World War II. The bottle is adorned with exquisite, enamel-painted anenomes that were originally created by Emile Gallé back in 1900.

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Fascinatingly: one of the three bottles of the world’s oldest champagne, a Perrier-Jouët vintage 1825, was opened and tasted more recently, in 2009. All at Jouët believe that “beauty is a form of genius” . . .

where-to-stay

01 | Le Clos Raymi
02 | Le Château D’Etoges
03 | Hotel Jean Moet

 


where-to-eat

01 | Restaurant Chez Max
02 | La cave a Champagne
03 | Le Chapon Fin

 

03 | Champagne Tarlant, Oeuilly

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This well-respected winery, independent and owned by the Tarlant family since 1687, [and now welcome 12th generation family member, Benoit Tarlant, to their team] is located in the Marne Valley, and is well-known for offering ’boutique’ champagnes. Though they do offer a nice variety, they are particularly known for their specialty of producing very dry, but wonderfully balanced Brut Nature Zero.

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Interestingly, Tarlant is a little unusual in Champagne in the fact that they use barrels for the process of fermentation, a method that used to be far more common, but has increasingly changed to more controllable stainless steel. ‘Barrels help give a different texture to the wine’, states Benoit Tarlant. ‘They open the door to the taste’.

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A visit to their property is certainly one to remember always – with unforgettable views and specialty service. Visitors share in the pleasure of a personal tour of their cellars and take part in a guided champagne tasting. To top it off, as a finish to your visit, a member of the family [or a host of the house] will conduct a tutored tasting just for you in their tasting room, so that you may share the authenticity of the magnificent Tarlant Champagnes.

where-to-stay

01 | La Maison De Marie Caroline
02 | Hostellerie la Briqueterie
03 | Au Lys Royal

 


where-to-eat

01 | Abbaye Hautvillers
02 | Le Caveau
03 | Restaurant le Theatre

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DIFFERENCES IN CHAMPAGNE

01 | Prestige Cuvée : created from grapes of a single vintage, and requires a longer aging process
02 | Vintage : created from a single vintage
03 | Non-Vintage : created from a blend of two or more harvest years

01 | Ultra Brut/Brut Natural/Brut Zéro : containing less than 3 grams/litre of sugar
02 | Brut : containing less than 12 grams/litre of sugar
03 | Extra Dry/Extra Sec : slightly sweeter, containing 12-20 grams/litre of sugar [more unusual]
04 | Dry/Sec : containing 17 to 35 grams/litre of sugar
05 | Demi-Sec : containing 35 to 50 grams/litre of sugar [popular with desserts and foie gras]
06 | Doux : containing over 50 gram/litre of sugar [making the champagne very sweet]

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A CLOSER LOOK | best served with :

01 | Blanc de blancs [meaning "white of whites"] : made with Chardonnay grapes, and generally compliments lighter foods such as seafood and vegetables, or as a pre-dinner aperitif; it is considered a more delicate option

02 | Blanc de noirs [meaning "white of blacks"] : made from red Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, with a deeper golden color, and is best paired with full-flavored foods, such as meat and cheese [this variety is quite rare]

03 | Rosé [meaning "pink" -- not to be confused with rosé wine] : made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, [winemakers add a small amount of red wine during blending] and lovely paired with most foods

TIPS | & suggestions

  1. when selecting a champagne, be sure that it has been produced in France for authenticity
  2. a bottle is at its ideal temperature at 45-50 F (7-10 C) [twenty minutes or so in a bucket filled with ice]; never chill within the freezer
  3. cut the foil and undo the wire cage [the muselet], grasp the cork in one hand and turn the bottle with the other, holding it at the bottom, then remove cork
  4. serve within tall, narrow glasses that are tulip shaped to preserve the aroma, temperature and allow bubbles to flow
  5. pour while tilting the glass at an angle; gently sliding the liquid along the side will preserve the most bubbles, as opposed to pouring directly down
  6. some say it is best to simply rinse the glasses well upon finishing, and to avoid soaps [1/10 ratio of vinegar to water is preferred]

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{additional notes:}

*** This article is a continuation of a previous one about champagne, published in 2009.

. . . and of course, if one is in the predicament where champagne is not readily on hand, a few sparkling wine alternatives . . .

* Cava [Spain] : Codorniu, Freixenet and Segura Viudas
* Prosecco [Italy] : Cartizze, Mondoro and Nino Franco Grave di Stecca
* Sparkling [UK] : Cavendish and Grosvenor
* Espumante [Portugal] : Caves Aliança and Caves Primavera
* Sekt or Schaumwein [Germany and Austria] : Gutzler Riesling and Barth Blanc de Noir
* Vinos Espumantes [Argentina] : Raza Brut Torrontes

{images: one // two // three // four // five // six // seven // eight // nine // ten // eleven // twelve // thirteen // fourteen // fifteen // sixteen // seventeen // eighteen // nineteen // quote: [veuve clicquot] wikipedia}

NET-A-PORTER
Sarah Klassen
Contributor, Vancouver

Even as a girl, Sarah spent hours curled up in her home library, exploring enchanting tales, lands to be discovered and explored, intriguing stories, and timeless beauty. What resulted is a lifelong passion for love and authenticity, delightful simplicity and beautiful moments. Educated in design, marketing and English, Sarah’s keen eye and aesthetic allow her to immerse beauty and heartfelt passion into both her personal and professional projects.
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