August 05, 2021 by Arden Montgomery
‘Gaux to Champagne
If you love to celebrate the little things in life, a trip to Champagne is just what the doctor ordered. Although synonymous with parties, weddings, and celebrations of all kinds, Champagne is actually the perfect wine for year-round sipping, festivities or not. These bubbly, versatile bottles are perfect for pairing with a variety of foods and instantly promise to elevate the mood, no matter where you’re sipping—and when the bottle’s that good, the simple act of drinking it becomes a celebration in itself!
‘Gaux to Champagne – What to Know
Main Regions: Champagne is broken down into five sub-regions: the Vallée de la Marne, Montagne de Reims, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, and Aube (Côte des Bar).
Grape Varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, though technically Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meslier, Pinot Gris, and Arbane are also permitted.
Fun fact: Although Champagne is often credited with creating the méthode traditionelle, it’s likely that the process was actually first discovered in France’s southerly Languedoc region!
Location / How to Get There: Fly into Charles de Gaulle, then drive 1 hour and 54 minutes by car (to Reims) or take the fast train from the city center (approx. 57 minutes)
Terroir: Although each region and village have their own particular micro climates, the overarching region of Champagne is dominated by cool climates, hilly topography, and signature chalk soils laden with fossilized seashells.
What to Know: Visiting small growers definitely requires a bit of driving. If you prefer tasting with family producers over big houses, be sure to choose a daily designated driver, hire a car service, or have a taxi number on hand – and always book an appointment in advance!
Not to Miss: If staying in (or passing through) Reims, be sure to pop by Au Bon Manger and Glue Pot for exceptional wine lists and great snacking – you may even run into a handful of local winemakers at the latter! For a luxurious and unforgettable dinner, be sure to book a table at Les Crayeres.
How It’s Made
Champagne is crafted via the méthode traditionelle (traditional method). First, a non-sparkling base wine is produced in the same way that any given still wine is made. The wine is then bottled, and a liqueur de tirage (mix of sugar and yeast) is added. This ignites a secondary fermentation in the bottle. Because carbon dioxide is a byproduct of fermentation, the CO2 from the secondary fermentation gets trapped inside of the bottles. This is how Champagne gets its signature sparkle!
From there, the wines are aged for a given period of time and are slowly riddled on their sides, meaning that the dead yeast cells from the secondary fermentation are brought to the neck of the bottle. From there, the tip of the bottles’ necks are chilled, and the wines undergo disgorgement, a process which releases frozen dead yeast cells under pressure. Wines are then generally topped off with a mixture of wine and sugar (known as dosage) to adjust the final taste profile of the wine. Wines bottled without dosage are labeled as Brut Nature or Zero Dosage.
Dosage refers to the amount of sugar (or combination of still wine and sugar) added to Champagne prior to bottling. This addition determines how dry / sweet the final wine will taste. Curious to know how much residual sugar is in your favorite Champagne? Here are the official designations:
Brut Nature / Zero Dosage – 0 grams of sugar per liter
Extra Brut – 0-6 grams of sugar per liter
Brut – less than 12 grams of sugar per liter
Extra Dry – 12-17 grams of sugar per liter
Sec – 17-32 grams of sugar per liter
Demi-Sec – 32-50 grams of sugar per liter
Doux – 50+ grams of sugar per liter
We know what you’re thinking – Brut is technically drier than Extra Dry? The answer is yes… we know, it’s complicated! Keep this guide in your back pocket for quick reference.
Featured Producer: Champagne Delavenne
Champagne Delavenne is a family-owned winery based in Bouzy, located in the heart of the Montagne de Reims. Generations of skill, knowledge, and technique have been passed down to current winemakers Jean-Christophe and Maelle Delavenne, who bring quality and excellence to every cuvée produced at their hands. Unlike most Champagnes, wines produced by the Delavennes do not undergo malolactic fermentation and are left to evolve in vat as naturally as possible. The wines then age in natural, underground cellars made up of local chalk for a minimum of three years. Forget the big houses – this is the stuff you want to be drinking!
NV Champagne Delavenne Père & Fils Brut Nature Grand Cru Champagne – (3-Pack Set Only)
According to Jean-Christophe and Maelle, this single-village Brut Nature bottling is the purest expression of the duo’s local terroir (Bouzy, Grand Cru). Here, vines are rooted into chalky soils surrounded by natural forests, and cool evening breezes help keep natural acidity high in the grapes. Expect flavors of citrus, salty white peach, orange peel, and crushed rocks. Zero dosage added.
NV Champagne Delavenne Pere & Fils Brut Tradition Grand Cru Champagne
This Brut Tradition Grand Cru is the heart and soul of what the Delavenne’s do. Jean-Christophe describes the wine as the “embodiment of the Delavenne house tradition,” and we couldn’t think of a better bottle to elevate any dinner party, weeknight happy hour, or gathering amongst friends. Fruit comes from vineyards in Bouzy and Ambonnay. Flavors of apple fritter, brioche, fresh green apple skin, and lemon drop lead to a long, lingering finish.
NV Champagne Delavenne Père & Fils Brut Rosé Grand Cru
There aren’t many things we love more in life than rosé and Champagne; when the two collide, it’s a guaranteed party! This Grand Cru Brut Rosé comes from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in Bouzy. Aromas of red berries, baked red apples, and rose petals lead to a juicy, mouth-coating palate laden with flavors of red fruits and baking spice. The wine’s creamy and persistent mousse leads to an elegant, long-lasting finish. Our mouths are watering just thinking about it!