Origins and history of champagne in France

King of festive moments, cherished by nobility, and now found on many tables, champagne is enjoyed all around the world. The origin of champagne dates back to the Middle Ages, a time when monks tended to the vineyards. Over the years and centuries, the role of Champagne wines only grew. Champagne wines have a unique history. The question that arises is whether all champagne comes from... Champagne?

Table of Contents:

  1. The History of Champagne
  2. The Coronation of Champagne
  3. A Controlled Designation of Origin
  4. The Prestigious Champagne Vineyards
  5. Wines Produced Using the Traditional Method

The History of Champagne

history of champagne

Throughout history and in Christian tradition, wine has been consecrated and consumed during the Mass. Indeed, at the end of the service, when people go to communion, communion wine is consumed. This wine is typically a clear, non-sparkling wine. As a result, until the Middle Ages, it was the monks who were responsible for tending to and cultivating the vineyards, as we discuss in our article on the history of champagne and the significant dates to remember. Thus, it is not surprising to see wine accompanying many religious celebrations.

The fate of Champagne wines would be altered by the history of France. Saint Rémi, then the Bishop of Reims, resided in a villa surrounded by vineyards, not far from what is now Epernay. The grapes produced from these vineyards were then transformed into the first viticultural products. Saint Rémi was responsible for baptizing Clovis when he converted, and this baptism led to grand celebrations. Thus, the first King of France was crowned in Reims in Champagne, and Champagne wines had their first moment of glory on that Christmas Eve in 496.

Later on, Champagne wines continued to be celebrated in French history. They were an integral part of grand banquets and celebrations. They were even served at the wedding of Philip the Fair and Joan of Navarre.

The coronation of Kings took place in Champagne between 898 and 1825. Each of these ceremonies was celebrated extravagantly. Thus, there was no banquet without French Champagne wines. These vineyard Champagne wines were quickly appreciated, and the demand for champagne grew. They even became valuable gifts when a monarch visited the Champagne region in France. Among the historical figures who received champagne wine as a gift were Francis I and Mary Stuart.

Starting from the 12th century, French Champagne wines began to gain international fame. The reputation of champagne wine continued to grow. On July 14, 1790, only French Champagne wine was deemed worthy of toasting the revolutionaries during the Fête de la Fédération on the Champ de Mars.

The Coronation of Champagne

coronation of champagne

Champagne wine charmed its way into and became a part of all commemorations. For example, the princes present at the Congress of Vienna were able to taste French champagne wine, which became a unifying element.

French champagne wine was present at the signing of major treaties. This was the case, for example, when the Maastricht Treaty was signed. Furthermore, it was required by those who wanted to emphasize the importance of a historical moment.

Champagne wine is now a staple on the menus of royal weddings. It is also present at major world exhibitions, including those in Brussels in 1889 and Paris in 1900. French champagne wine is considered an exceptional wine. It has become a symbol when it comes to turning a significant event into a unique one.

This is exactly what our De Lozey house aims to achieve by offering exceptional champagnes for a successful wedding. Just like in the time of Clovis, Champagne AOC is the only one worthy of consecrating the happiness of first times, such as baptisms or inaugurations.

Similarly, champagne wine has become inseparable from sports celebrations. Whether it is transported to the summit of Everest or Annapurna or used to celebrate a victory after a world tour at sea, achievements are celebrated with AOC champagne wine. It has become a symbol of major consecrations and sporting achievements.

A Controlled Designation of Origin

AOC champagne

The reputation of this sparkling wine of French origin grew throughout history. However, one question still remains. Does all champagne come from Champagne? The answer actually lies in its designation, the production method, and the region of production.

Champagne, like the one we produce at De Lozey Champagnes, is an AOC champagne. In fact, this French sparkling wine, also known as Champagne wine, is protected by a controlled designation of origin. Its name is derived from the Champagne region, located in northeastern France. This AOC designation specifies the grape varieties, geographical boundaries, yields, and the entire process of producing AOC champagne wine.

Originally, the region produced still wines, which were non-sparkling, as far back as the Middle Ages. These clear wines gained recognition under the patronage of King Henry IV, and later, under the work of the monk Dom Pérignon, who blended different vineyard crus. Thus, he mastered the creation of effervescence, particularly during the second fermentation. The success of this Champagne appellation and vineyard grew due to the blending work carried out by this monk.

Champagne AOC is mainly made from three grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. At De Lozey Champagnes, we add our own touch with a different grape variety (Pinot Blanc). Moreover, the Champagne vineyard mainly produces sparkling wines, which are the only ones allowed to bear the name champagne.

The Prestigious Champagne Vineyards

champagne vineyards

French champagne, with its AOC designation, is produced in a single region. However, the Champagne territory consists of 4 grape production zones spread across 17 terroirs.

  • The Montagne de Reims (Marne department): The hills are primarily located on soils with deep chalk. They are mostly south-facing, and the dominant grape variety is Pinot Noir. Champagne distributors produce robust, powerful champagnes with great nobility in this region.
  • The Marne Valley (Marne, Aisne, and Seine-et-Marne): The hills are predominantly on clay-limestone soils, with a tendency toward marl. The dominant grape variety here is Pinot Meunier. The champagnes produced by champagne distributors offer great diversity, with a fruity bouquet, great flexibility, and great charm.
  • The Côte des Blancs (Marne): Chalk is prevalent, omnipresent, and provides a good reservoir of water and warm subsoils. The primary grape variety found here is Chardonnay. The champagnes produced here are highly sought after, full of character and vivacity. They are appreciated for their lightness, elegance, and delicate aromas.
  • The vineyard of Aube, in the Côte des Bar (Bar-sur-Aube and Bar-sur-Seine in Aube): The wines produced on these hills are characterized by complex aromas and a round taste. They are made from various grape varieties, with Pinot Noir being the main one, grown on marly subsoils.

It is in this last region, the Côte des Bars, that our house is located. This is where our De Lozey champagnes are crafted. And what if we took a quick tour of the Côte des Bars, a prestigious Champagne vineyard?

The Champagne vineyard is the northernmost in France. It is characterized by its fragmentation and 60 to 80 frosty days per year. Each village constitutes a cru. There are 319 crus, which represent the product of a climate and a terroir.

Although all the champagne appellation plots are concentrated in the Champagne region, 20 hectares with this appellation are found in Île-de-France. They are located in the municipalities of Saâcy-sur-Marne (Seine-et-Marne), Nanteuil-sur-Marne, and Citry.

Wines Produced Using the Traditional Method

traditional method champagne

Many people tend to call all sparkling wines champagne. However, it is essential to distinguish, for example, between AOC champagne and crémant.

While French champagne can only be produced in the region bearing its name, crémant can be produced in several regions of France. It can be found in the wine regions of Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Savoie, Loire, Jura, and Languedoc-Roussillon, to name a few.

What can be confusing is the taste. There's nothing surprising about this, given that crémant is made using the same traditional method as champagne. That is, winemakers follow the same procedures as for champagnes to produce their sparkling wines. For crémants, the term used is "traditional method," rather than "champenoise method." This designation is reserved for AOC champagne. We also invite you to discover the various stages of champagne production.

Rest assured, while the process remains the same, the taste is distinct. The winemaking process is much more complex in Champagne. For example, the aging time is much longer for champagne. Aging lasts only from 10 to 12 months for crémant, compared to 12 to 15 months for champagne.

There are also other types of sparkling wines with different designations, such as still wine, sparkling wine, and sparkling wine. The distinction is based on the level of carbon dioxide and the quantity contained in the bottles.

Among the most well-known sparkling wines are:

  • Crémants from Loire, Burgundy, Alsace, and Bordeaux
  • Clairette de Die
  • Blanquette de Limoux
  • Cerdon produced in the Bugey region

Compared to French champagne, there are cavas in Spain, spumante and frizzante in Italy, and sparkling wines on the West Coast of the United States.

In France, you can only find French champagnes, crémants, or sparkling wines. However, high-quality Belgian crémants can also be found. These can be white or rosé and are made using the traditional method. For example, the second fermentation is carried out on laths and lasts for 15 months before disgorgement. This method is called the traditional method because the term "champenoise method" is reserved for champagne.

In summary and to conclude, it can be asserted that the sparkling wine called champagne can only come from one region: Champagne. Indeed, a true champagne worthy of the name is an AOC champagne. Furthermore, it can only come from one of the three Champagne grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, or from one of the minor grape varieties, such as Pinot Blanc for our De Lozey house. Finally, it is produced by houses located in one of the four major grape production zones in the Champagne region. If you want to know more and be sure not to make a mistake, you can read our article "How to Recognize Authentic Champagne?"

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