By Alexia Elichiry :: Photography by Jamison Mosley
[dropcap]A[/dropcap] man walks into a wet, stone labyrinth of dusty bottles worn by time and place. His family has been here, in Champagne, France, for over 250 years, meticulously tending to the fruits of their labor. Today, just like every day, his job is to gently turn each living glass bottle so that the sediment does not settle. Here in this region’s underground cellars, lies over a billion bottles, spread out over 600 miles. This is the responsibility of a Champagne grower.
Champagne is situated northeast of Paris, and is the most northern wine growing region in Continental Europe. It lies in a vulnerable place with a dark and troubled past. Attila the Hun and Napoleon ravaged and plundered the land. The first World War stormed through leaving horror in its wake. The history of the land is haunting, but the beauty of it has remained. Champagne’s tradition of wine became something history could not erase.
The Grand Cru Champagnes are the world’s top quality sparkling wines. No other wine growing region can challenge this claim because no other region can duplicate Champagne’s unique growing conditions. Below the vines’ beautiful exterior lies seven feet of solid chalk, scattered with remnants of seashells from recessed oceans. The climate is cold, wet, and volatile. The vines therefore struggle to ripen their grapes, resulting in the perfect balance of sugar and acid. It is this sense of place that gives Champagne its superiority.
The magic of Champagne resides in its sparkle. During the winemaking process, each bottle undergoes a secondary fermentation, which creates a high concentration of carbonation. Small impurities on the surface of a flute will also trap air to form thousands of bubbles in your glass. Tasting Champagne is a sensual experience for all of the senses. First, there is the risky pop of the cork then the crackling fizz as it descends into the glass. The aromas can be described as bready, bright & fruity, and earthy. Effervescence falls on the tongue like soft snow and evokes notes of ripe fruit, nuttiness and sometimes flowers. The clink of glasses, celebration and laughter follows behind.
Perhaps what is most magical is that the best of Champagnes are not made by modern science or technology, but by accident. The happiness one experiences with a “coupe de Champagne” comes from the sweat, tears and infectious laughter of the hardworking people of Champagne.
Pierre Morlet Grande Reserve
Rosé Champagne, France
Apaltagua “Costero” Brut, Chile
Prosecco from Italy
Cava from Spain
What is Grower’s
Champagne crafted by independent
growers and producers.
NV vs. Vintage
Vintage Champagne is made
from the grapes of only
one year’s harvest (a must try)
Non-Vintage Champagne is a
blend of different years’ harvest