“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”
When I first read this quote by Sir Winston Churchill, it intrigued me to know about Champagne’s origin. It was interesting to know that it is not only the name of finest white wine but also a region.Champagne is the province in the northeast region of France and famous for its Champagne off course.
The natural environment of this region made the region predestined for wine production. The modern vin mousseux (sparkling) Champagne that emerged in 18th century was part of a longer narrative rooted firmly in antiquity. Champagne originated in an ancient “cult of vine” driven in France from the 16th through the 19th century by an amore patrio (love of country). Local wine growers adopted an “ancestral tradition” of quality and still cultivating out of a “patriotic obligation”. This fidelity to an ancestral traditions of quality wine production built the foundation for the innovative wine making experiments of several people.
Both champagne and French wine-making entered in a new era in 19th century with the growth of markets for prestige or luxury wines and the advent of large scale wine production machines. In French society, Champagne is not only considered as a wine but it has symbolic representation as well.
Champagne as a Symbol:
In L’ Accord fraternal , a print published at outset of French revolution, figures representing the three estates toast in a moment of revolutionary fraternity, each holding up a glass of wine. The commoner, wearing tri-cornered hat,short jackets,clogs, and the knee-length breeches, raises a simple goblet commonly associated with ordinary red wine. A member of the clergy, with flowing vestment, lifts the rounded, bulb like glass often used for consuming the wines of Burgundy. The aristocrat, wearing the breeches,ruffled shirt, and adornments of his station,lifts the unique fluted glass created to accentuate the sparkle of champagne. In an era, when symbolic expressions were often laden with the political meaning, even ordinary objects (like wine glasses) and everyday customs (like offering a celebratory toast) were signs of source of potential political conflict.
Interesting facts about Champagne by Oscar Paredes:
- Champagne is the wine originated in 17th century and can only come from Champagne region.
- Champagne, being an sparkling wine, is product of two fermentation:a) The aerobic fermentation
b) The anaerobic fermentation
- The aerobic fermentation is when the grape juice (must) are fermented with the presence of oxygen, and must turns into still wine. This is performed inside stainless steel tanks or the traditional wooden casks.
- The anaerobic fermentation (without the presence of oxygen) takes place inside the bottle, where still wine turns into sparkling wine.
- There are many sparkling wines around the world but only few are champagne.
- The only sparkling wines that can be called champagne are the ones:
a) From 3 specific varieties of grapes
b) These grapes can only come from a legally defined area of France
c) By using Methode Champenoise (a method used by people to produce sparkling wine).
- These varieties of grapes are used for the production of champagnea) Pinot Noir
b) Pinot Meunior
- The producer of champagne can use any proportion of grapes in wine.
- This region is 100 miles northeast of Paris and its area is 80,000 acres. Interestingly, Vines are present on around 70,000 acres for the production of wine.
- Mineral composition of the soil of this region is unique. This particular soil is gravelly so it ensures the air circulation beneath the ground which results in the nourishment of roots.
PS. I really wish to visit this region like some other French fascinations.