Champagne With a Side of Rules

Photo: Daily Herald

Many people don’t seek how their champagne is made, instead they are focused on consuming the product itself, but there are actually many rules involved when creating the final masterpiece. “Don’t you just grow grapes?” No, not at all. There are many steps and rules to follow, from planting of the vine until the bottle exits the warehouse.

Aside from permitted grapes, permitted yield, permitted style and permitted label, the champagne then needs to be weighed, analyzed and accounted as accurate under the auspices of regional and national offices, according to Daily Herald. But that’s not all; the holy liquid then needs to be tasted and approved typique.

Who wants to be typical when producing wine? Well, the French winegrower of course. Whether your family spent centuries of sweat and investment or never had an interest about millennium of history, your land is your brand and your champagne must be protected at all costs.

However, champagne enforces controls beyond France’s norm. Beginning in August of 2018, news rules including harvest date for each village and grape were added, starting with Saint-Amand-Sur-Fion’s chardonnay.

With all these rules, how does one stand out more than the other if many champagnes tend to resemble each other based on the rules? Well, according to Champagne Bollinger Deputy Chef de Cave, Denis Bunner, it is possible for champagne to be special or unique if you have the proper place, grape, time and rarity.

Out of 300 champagne houses, several source its fruit from 15,000 growers. Bollinger however, relies on its family-owned estate that is comprised of top-ranked Gran and Premier Cru vineyards. The vineyards consist of quality soil and climate that is best expressed for the most demanding grape, Pinot Noir.

To get the best out of Pinot Noir, you need both air and time. Bollinger enables the wine to get air by fermenting in wood, thanks to its stock of 3,500 aged casks. Bollinger is one of only two houses to use this technique. “After primary fermentation, Bollinger’s wine rests on lees for twice the regional requirement, sometimes much more,” according to Daily Herald.

“There are places of the cellar even we don’t go to,” says Bunner. “Madame Bollinger once returned with a magnum from 1830.”

A portion of the best wines typically are reserved in a cellar of 700,000 magnums, to later be blended into multi-vintage wines for richness and texture.

Bollinger released “Recently Disgorged” in 1967, which was also held in reserve on lees until its greatest development. At that specific moment, the wine is “disgorged,” bottled and sold for “extraordinary complexity coupled with freshness.”

“Bollinger accounts for only 1 percent of Champagne production,” reports Bunner. “R.D. is 1 percent of that 1 percent.”

A recent tasting of the R.D. 1996 surprised the commanderie of Chicago top-palates, displaying aromas of browned butter, luxurious mouthfeel, delicately-oxidated earthiness, mystery and nearly meaty flavor. Flickinger Wines currently holds R.D. 1996, which was originally disgorged in 2006. The bottle sells for $299, and you can access it at Flickinger Wine’s website or by calling (312) 471-WINE.

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