It’s that time for Champagne!!!

Ok so is not that you drink Champagne in the holidays , you can drink all year around as we do for special dates. And sometimes not, but,however, therefore, the season ending is their prime time in France as elsewhere.

I have a long history with the area of the Marne, Seine et Marne especially as on my dear late wife Martine side, her and the sisters/brothers started out working in the vineyards to help pay for their schooling and spare cash since early age. Of course, once I met her, the obvious first trip was to Epernay! We came with the maternal grandmother, my parents, and us. Later we came with the boys and to different areas from the big city Reims to smaller towns like Aÿ-Champagne. it’s been an ongoing thing except on some sad years like this one.

We are approaching the end of the year 2020, and all the problems in our world, cheers up be positive, have a glass of Champagne. Célébrations are already happening, and Christmas are ongoing worldwide perhaps this year more so than others. New Year’s is the best time to drink Champagne for many, although for me its any special occasion of the year.

We are all very happy, and what better way then to celebrate with Champagne even if we are less and less around and memories abound.

We all have the story on how it became , thanks to a king Henri IV and a monk Dom Pérignon, and the region is irrigated by the big river Marne; with 3 main grapes, pinot noir, pinot meunier ,and chardonnay. The region is divided into 3 zones, the montagne de Reims in the dept of the Marne, the Vallée de la Marne,covering the department of Aisne (2), Marne (51) and Seine-et-Marne (77); and the Côte des blancs (Marne). It is a protected brand name worldwide. Only those coming from here should be call Champagne.

I like to tell you the main names, to look out for in any part of the world you might be now or to year’s end. The créme de la créme of Champagne.

Charles Heidseick, Reims, Bollinger, Ay,  Billecart-Salmon, Mareuil-sur-Ay ;Ruinart, Reims, Gosset, Ay,  Taittinger, Reims,  Piper-Heidsieck, Reims; Canard-Duchêne, Ludes; Drappier, Urville,  Delamotte, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Lanson, Reims, Veuve Clicquot, Reims, Pommery, Reims, Jacquart, Reims, Bruno Paillard, Reims, Duval-Leroy, Vertus,  Deutz, Ay, Vranken, Reims, Pol Roger, Epernay,  Louis Roederer, Reims, Krug, Reims,Moêt & Chandon, Epernay  , Philipponnat, Mareuil-sur-Ay, Laurent Perrier, Tours-sur-Marne,  Lanson, Reims, G.H. Mumm, Reims, Henriot, Reims, Perrier-Jouêt, Epernay, Joseph Perrier, Châlons-en-Champagne, Nicolas Feuillatte, Choully, Besserat de Bellefon, Epernay,  and GH Martel, Reims.

Above are the names that I have tried over the years, with the town where they are base. Of course, tried others but these make the cut for the best, the webpages are easily found in the internet.

Let me give you a brief description and guidelines to drinking and knowing more about Champagne, briefly.

On a little more than 30 000 hectares of vineyards in total, it is the most northerly vineyard in France with 60 to 80 days of frost per year. It owes its wealth to its fragmentation, each village constituting a cru, that is to say the product of a terroir and a climate; there are 319 Crus. Some plots of the champagne appellation (20 ha) are found in Seine et Marne towns of Citry, Nanteuil-sur-Marne and Saâcy-sur-Marne.

The geographical area of AOC Champagne is made up of 635 towns, including 319 for the production of grapes, spread over the five departments of Marne (51), Aisne (02), Aube (10) , Seine-et-Marne (77) and Haute-Marne (52). Of the 319 towns in the Champagne production area, only 17 are entitled to the “Grand cru” and 44 to that of ” Premier Cru “ designations.

The types of Champagne are also called not dosed; extra brut, brut; extra sec; sec; semi-sec; doux and raw nature. They are bottled normally in half-bottle, bottle and the magnum. There are other bottles but these are the most common.

Champagne production involves three main professional categories: The winegrowers-owners of almost all of the Champagne vineyard (90%). Being able to develop their vintages only from their single harvest, they are therefore dependent both on their vintage and the vagaries of each harvest. There are currently just over 15,000. In this figure, around 5,000, the harvesters-manipulators, vinify their harvest, themselves or in cooperatives. The others are harvesters, who sell their grapes to traders. The merchants, often called Champagne Houses, are the only ones who have the authorization to buy grapes outside their own harvest, and even to do so only when they do not own any vineyard. And the Cooperatives.

Some general guide as really it is up to one particular taste. The professionals in the business tell us that the extra brut are ideal with oysters (iodine does not go well with sugar), raw fish from Japanese cuisine and all seafood. Non-vintage brut and “Blanc de Blancs” Champagnes are drunk as an aperitif ,and can accompany starters and fish and seafood dishes. Vintage brut and rosé Champagnes can be served with meat and cheese dishes; younger vintages should precede older wines. Sec and demi-sec are perfect to accompany desserts.

L’Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC), based at Reims, groups the Champagne merchants since 1882. Their webpage: https://maisons-champagne.com/

Le Syndicat Général des Vignerons de la Champagne (SGV), based at Épernay, groups the winegrowers since 19040 Their webpage: http://www.sgv-champagne.fr/

Le Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) is based at Épernay; its role in particular is to manage the controlled designation of origin of Champagne. Officially created by the law of April 12, 1941. Their webpage: https://www.champagne.fr/en/homepage

On July 4, 2015, « Coteaux, maisons et caves de Champagne » or Hillsides, houses and cellars of Champagne were listed as world Heritage of Humanity. Well deserved indeed.

Hope it helps you enjoy the bubbly wherever you are , in good cheers and great company. Drink Champagne in moderation but drink ok …

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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