Because Champaign is a symbol of success, fashion, luxury, party, it is very important to know it perfectly.
I am going to use the biggest brands of Champaign today to illustrate my Training about champaign : The first one is the biggest champaign brand in the world, Moet & Chandon ; the 2nd one is the most prestigious , and oldest one : Dom Perignon.

The Champaign Vineyard
Vintage & Non Vintage
Sugar content
Wine Faults
Some Tips about Champaign
Prestige Tasting


Located at the northern edges of the wine growing world, the history of the Champagne wine region has had a significant role in the development of this unique terroir. The area's close proximity to Paris promoted the regions economic success in its wine trade.
The regions developed a reputation for quality wine production in the early Middle Ages and was able to continue that reputation as the region's producers began making sparkling wine with the advent of the great Champagne houses in the 17th & 18th century.

The Champagne vineyard
Champagne province is located near the northern limits of the wine world along the 49th parallel The high latitude and mean annual temperature of 50°F (10°C) creates a difficult environment for wine grapes to fully ripen. Ripening is aided by the presence of forests which helps to stabilize temperatures and maintain moisture in the soil. The cool temperatures serve to produce high levels of acidity in the resulting grape which is ideal for sparkling wine.
Ancient oceans left behind chalk subsoil deposits when they receded 70 million years.

That’s why the “Terroir” of Champagne is very unique due to a complex combination between the weather (continental) and the nature of the subsoil.

The size of the vineyard is 35 000 Ha, half size of Cognac vineyard, and perfectly delimited. This area is divided into 307 crus classified as :

The Grand Cru , rated vineyards get 100 percent rating which entitles the grower to 100% of the price.
Premier Crus are vineyards with 90–99% ratings
Deuxième Crus have 80–89% ratings

Moet & Chandon is the biggest owner of Champaign with 1000 Ha. This allows the company to maintain a very consistent quality of their product. Veuve Cliquot is the 2nd biggest with 512 Ha.

The principle grapes grown in the region include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Pinot Noir is a black grape variety. It is going to give the structure, the frame to the wine.

Pinot Meunier is another black grape. It is going to give the roundness to the wine, and the easiness to drink.

Chardonnay is a white grape variety which gives the finesse and elegance to the wine.Top


We can not speak about Champaign without speaking about his main inventor : Dom Perignon. Pierre Perignon is born in France 1638 and became a monk in the abbaye of Hautvilliers, in Champagne region. Even if Champagne had already a good reputation for still wines, he decided to find a new style of wine. He wanted to make the best wine of the world to make a gift to God.
During all his life, he was only looking for the perfection and invented the Champagne process around 1680.
That’s why Dom Perignon is revered as the father of Champaign, and after his death, in 1715, the fate of Champagne will never be the same.

One of his close friend and neighbor, Claude MOET, decided to establish his own wine business one year after Dom Perignon died, in 1716. However, his descendants didn’t keep the registers of his business until 1743.

This visionary man decided to start a real “success story”, and thanks to his great son, Jean Remy MOET, who knows very well Napoleon the 1st, Empire of France, Champaign became very appreciated in every courts of Europe. Champaign was then a luxury product, already symbol of success.

Dates of first shipments of Moet & Chandon in the world


Napoleon the 1st : “In victory, you deserve Champaign, in defeat you need it.”

In 1800, Jean Remy Moet choose his son-in-law, Pierre Gabriel CHANDON to help him in his business and develop the Champaign business. The brand became MOET & CHANDON.


Harvesting - Pressing

Grapes used for Champagne are generally picked earlier, when sugar levels are lower and acid levels higher. The harvest depends on the weather, but always in September. The grapes are all hand harvested, and then placed into a press to extract the juice. We need 4 000 kg of grapes (marc) to get 2 550 liters of grape juice. The juice is then filtered to remove the undesirable components.

First fermentation

The first fermentation begins in the same way as any wine, converting the natural sugar in the grapes into alcohol while the resultant carbon diaoxide is allowed to escape. This produces the "base wine". At this point the blend, known as the cuvee is assembled, using wines from various vineyards, and, in the case of non-vintage Champagne, various years : this I called the Blending.Top

Second fermentation

The blended wine is put in bottles along with yeast and a small amount of sugar, called the liqueur de tirage, and stored in a wine cellar horizontally, for a second fermentation.
During the secondary fermentation the carbon dioxide is trapped in the bottle, keeping it dissolved in the wine. The amount of added sugar will determine the pressure of the bottle. (18 grams of sugar to have a 6 bar pressure), and the amount of yeast is regulated by the European Commission to be 0.3 grams per bottle.

Aging on lees

Wines from Champagne cannot legally be sold until it has aged on thelees in the bottle for at least 12 months. Champagne 's AOC regulations require that vintage Champagnes are aged in cellars for at least three years. But top producer’s such as Moet & Chandon ages the bottles 15 months for non vintage, or Dom Perignon 7 years. (Dom Perignon only produces vintage in exceptional years).


After aging (a minimum from one and a half to three years), the sediment ('lees') must be consolidated for removal. The bottles undergo a process known as riddling (remuage in French), in which they are rotated a small amount each day with periodic abrupt shakes, and gradually moved to a neck-down orientation so that the sediment collects in the neck.


The removal process is called "disgorging" (dégorgement in French), and was a skilled manual process, where the cork and the lees were removed without losing large quantities of the liquid, and a dosage (a varying amount of additional sugar) is added.
Modern disgorgement is automated by freezing a small amount of the liquid in the neck and removing this plug of ice containing the lees. A cork is then inserted with a capsule and wire cage securing it in place.

Vintage vs. Non-vintage

The majority of the Champagne produced is 'non-vintage' (also known as 'mixed vintage'), a blend of wines from several years. This serves to smooth out some of the vintage variations caused by the marginal growing climate of Champagne. Most Champagne houses strive for a consistent "house style" from year to year, and this is arguably one of the hardest tasks of the Moet & Chandon winemaker, Benoit Gouez, or the prestigious Dom Perignon wine maker, Richard Geoffroy .

Sugar content

Champagne's sugar content varies. The sweetest level is doux (meaning sweet), proceeding in order of increasing dryness to demi-sec (half-dry), sec (dry), extra sec (extra dry), brut (almost completely dry), and extra brut / brut nature / brut zero (no additional sugar, sometimes ferociously dry).

Wine faults

Several wine faults can occur in champagne production. Some that were prevent in early champagne production include yeux de crapauds (toads' eyes) which was a condition of big, gloppy bubbles that resulted from the wine spending too much time in wooden casks (process used by Krug).
Another fault could occur when the wine is exposed to bacteria or direct sunlight, leaving the champagne with murky coloring and an oily texture.

Some tips about Champaign

• A bottle of Champagne is ready to drink after bottling

• If you want to wait, you need to stock it in a dry and dark place, at 10-15 C, during maximum 2 years

• Recommended temperatures to serve a Champaign :
- Brut NV : 8 to 10°C
- Vintages : 10 to 12°C

• A violent opening can have a bad influence on sparkles

• Smell the cork after the opening to detect some bad taste (corky) … and to look like a connoisseur in front of your friends or clients !

• For serving, lean the glass to avoid the head (the client didn’t pay to drink only head)Top


To taste a Champaign, take flutes. This is the traditional to drink it but also the “close” top of the flute allows you to nose easier the aromas.
I think it’s good to choose 2 very different Champaign brands : Moet Chandon, the most favorite Champaign all over the world, and Dom Perignon, the most Prestigious one.
Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial :

Color : pale yellow
Nose : fruity, fresh, green apple, lime
Palate : light acidity, lemon, grass, fresh fruits, white blossom

Assemblage : 20 to 30% Chardonnay, 30 to 40 % Pinot Meunier, 30 to 40% Pinot Noir

Pairing : Mixed salads, plates of seafood, oysters, white fish, raw or slightly cooked, dumplings, poached or roasted white meat, in light sauces. Accompany with narrow, cabbage, cauliflower, rice or artichokes, slightly sweet fresh fruits. Sushi - sashimi very good matching.

Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial :

Color : Pink with shades of copper
Nose : Expressive aromas, wild strawberries and redcurrant dominate, hints of pepper
Palate : Attack with vibrance smokiness and fruitiness, tender structure in mid-palate, fresh and supple finish

Assemblage : 10 to 20 % Chardonnay, 20 to 30 % Pinot Meunier, 50 to 60% Pinot Noir, 15 to 20% red wine

Pairing : Grilled shellfish, coloured fish, oily and even strong-flavoured, as a carpaccio in olive oil, marinated, grilled or fried, red meat and poultry, raw to tender, light meat juices.


Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial :

Color : Deep gold
Nose : fruity and very sweet
Palate : mellow, silky attack. Sugar, vanilla, pineapple, banana.

Assemblage : Demi sec quality. (>15g of sugar)

Pairing : desserts, pudding, apple pie, tarts, even foie gras.

Moet & Chandon 1999 Vintage :

Color : pale gold
Nose : peach, pear, dried fruits
Palate : apricot, minerals, hints of toasted and malt notes. Long aftertaste.

Assemblage : 31 % Chardonnay, 38 % Pinot Noir and 31 % Pinot Meunier

Moet & Chandon 1999 vintage Rose :

Color : salmon pink
Nose : cherry aromas
Palate : Wild Strawberry and cherry aromas; nuances of citrus fruits, combined with smoky and sweet spice notes. Long aftertaste.

Assemblage : Assemblage : Chardonnay: 26 %, Pinot Noir: 48 %, Pinot Meunier: 26 %.


Dom Perignon 1996 Rose :

Color : Copper with orange highlights
Nose : malt, well ripened fruits, nectarine and wild strawberries, smoky
Palate : strenght, tense, radiant and sharp. The finish is firm, with a slightly vanilla-spicy note.

Assemblage : 38% Chardonnay - 62% Pinot Noir

The influence of the 1996 Vintage :
For all the connoisseurs, 1996 is the best vintage of the decade. Most of them even think it’s the best vintage ever. “The best vintage” means that the natural conditions (wind, sun, rain, humidity …) allowed the grape to give its best.
The beginning of the year was very difficult. For example, we recorded - 20oC the 22nd of February. (it happened in 1985, 1951, as well), so only the best and the strongest grapes could resist such low Temperatures. The summer weather was capricious too and the wet periods did not compensate for the early lack of rain. But the heat in the months preceding the harvest, allowed an exceptional maturity of the grapes, featured by a rare balance between power and acidity.
Dom Perignon started the harvest the 14th of September.

Dom Perignon 1998 :

Color : Pale yellow with golden highlights.
Nose : fresh almond and grapefruit, cashew nut and spices, toasted brioche.
Palate : Satiny texture, caressing. The persistence is remarkable, with the slightest undertone of tartness (citrus zest and buds.)

Assemblage : 60% Chardonnay - 40% Pinot Noir

The influence of the 1998 Vintage :
The year was full of contrasts. For example, the 13th of May, we recorded almost 30 oC in some plots of Champagne Region, and 10 days after, the 23rd of May, it frizzed. (we had a comparable situation in 1921 and in 1873).
The year featured two unusual and contrasting weather : Record high temperatures in August followed by exceptional rainfall in the first half of September. Patience prevailed at harvest and was rewarded by a period of miraculously good weather resulting in healthy, especially well-ripened grapes.

Dom Perignon 1999 :

Color : Deep gold
Nose : full of life, angelica, dried flowers, pineapple, coconut, cinnamon, cocoa and tobacco.
Palate : earthy, smoky, peppery spice, fruity, exotic maturity, aniseed.

The influence of the 1999 Vintage :
Changeable, often unexpected, weather. Average temperatures were high and a very dry period gave way to almost tropical conditions in late summer, with strong winds and frequent hailstorms. Due to the high humidity and the warm temperatures, it was a tropical year (very rare in France). The wine making team was not sure to harvest (Dom Perignon only harvests during exceptional year), but the 14th of September, a heavy wind allowed the grape to dry and the DP harvest team to pick the grape.

The others ...

Dom Pérignon 1969
Quite simply the best champagne I have tasted. A lucsious amber/lemon hue with still a little mousse. The nose is an astounding array of sweet tangerine, honey with brilliant definition. I could smell this all day. The palate is always perfectly balanced with off-the-scale refinement. A slightly honeyed, minerally mid-palate with a touch of apricot and whipped cream on the end. Quintessential champagne.

Dom Pérignon 1970
What could be a more suitable champagne to propose with than vintage Dom Pérignon? A moderately deep golden colour indicates its age, though not excessively dark in hue. A vibrant, complex nose of pear, almond, marzipan and butter. Incredibly vibrant and fresh. The palate has superb acidity, quite nutty and citrousy; sweet but honeyed. Still vigorous and vibrant though it lacks the sophistication and poise of the 1969. At its peak now. Delicious.

Dom Pérignon 1983

Tasted from a magnum. A similar colour to the 1970 tasted a couple of weeks previously. The nose is still evolving: oyster sheels, lemon zest. Still quite backward in my opinion. The palate has superb definition, vibrant and quite yeasty and minerally. This needs another 5 years to develop more complex aromas and flavours like the 1969 and 1970. Still an excellent champagne though.

Dom Pérignon 1985

Greeny gold hue. An aromatic herbaceous nose. Quite green but very complex. Palate is rich and fresh with notes of grass, apple and honey. This is a big, flamboyant champagne. Very long although the 1990 has a bit more style in my humble opinion.

Dom Pérignon 1990

A very youthful appearance. The nose is like a flower unfurling, still closed but eventually revealing apples, green fruits, minerals and a little brioche. Intense complex minerally palate. Great nervosity: sophisticated and elegant. So refined with great length. Superb.
Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1990

Moderate greeny gold hue. The is still quite closed, but very well-dfined with minerals, hazelnuts and banana-skin. The palate is very ripe with a lovely nervosity. A slight honeyish mid-palate, very refined but still very backward. Very intense finish. This will be amazing with some bottle aging.

Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1992

A greeny/lemon hue. A lovely, deep, slightly honeyed nose with scents of coconut and almonds. The palate is quite steely, reserved at first, taking time to reveal lemon, crisp green apples with a long steely finish. Very fine, though probably needed more time in the glass to open up.

Dom Pérignon 1993

A divine creamy, almost yeasty nose with a touch of walnut. Very fine nervosity on the palate, vibrant, citrus acidity. Steel on the mid-palate. Elegant but powerful. I doubt it will last as long as other vintages but for now this is a delicious champagne to celebrate with.

Dom Pérignon 1995

Very ripe creamy nose. Perhaps too much oak here. Palate though is very smooth and stylish. Good weight. Not complex but effortless drinking now. Excellent.

Dom Pérignon Rosé 1995

Just a divine apricot and rosewater tinged nose with awesome definition and clarity. The palate is finely balanced with peach and white flower notes. Very fine acidity and a crisp wild-strawberry tinged finish. Still does not justify the exhorbitant price, but I cannot deny the quality of this champagne. Drink over 5-8 years.


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