And then there’s champagne again… part one

If we talk about wines from France, it’s mostly about the regions Bordeaux and Burgundy.
I like the wines from those regions but I fell in love with champagne and its area. The people, the houses, the food and everything else is very charming around there.
When you would say that champagne is expensive I would agree a little bit with you. A glass of good champagne can be very affordable. Even in a bar in the area a glass (begins at € 6,-). Ordering a bottle, that’s another story.
But you have to know why champagne is so expensive. For one bottle of champagne you need between 1,2 and 1,5 kg of grapes. One kilogram costs around € 6,-. So then you have the cork, the etiquette and the other labels, the bottle, the wire cap etcetera. And first there’s the making of the wine.Most of the larger champagne-houses have their own vineyards. But they don’t have enough grapes to produce every wine themselves. The wineries can make about 10 up to 15 percent of their stock. The rest is coming from individual wine-growers in the area. The champagne-houses have to win their trust and they have to make contracts/deals with them to get enough grapes. In two or three years the contracts must be reconsidered again.
For a non-vintage wine you need to wait at least 15 months between the bottling and putting it on to the market. Most of these wines stay longer in the cellar. For vintage wines the period is three years. But as you can guess these wines also stay much longer in cellar (up to ten years).
In my previous articles about champagne I wrote that there are two worlds in this area: one underground and one above. Most of the wine-cellars are beneath the ground we are walking on. Some are more than 20 meter below the surface. The cellars are very big ranging from 1 km to 8 km or even larger.
For several years now I try to visit champagne-houses. Some are open for the public, some are only open by appointment and some stay closed even to me.
In October of this year I was able to visit with my wife, during the autumn holidays, several wineries in the area. And now I didn’t stay only in Reims and Epernay. I planned four days of visiting champagne-houses.
A famous champagne houseThe first house Cattier is in Chigny-les-Roses. The house of Cattier is owned by the family of Cattier. They also have the brand ‘Clos du Moulin’ and the fabulous and exclusive brand  ‘Armand de Brignac’. The last brand is made in one of the most beautiful bottles I have ever seen; produced in different colors and tastes. The champagnes of ‘Armand de Brignac’ are often seen as the best in the world.
The story of this winery dates back to 1625 when the family already owns vineyard in Chigny-les Roses. The brand Cattier only came much later on the market; in 1918. That must have been very difficult because WW1 dominated Europe at that time. The family acquired in 1951 the house of ‘Clos ds Moulin’.
In 1980 they started to export their champagnes. Only in 2006 they begin to produce their top champagnes of ‘Armand de Brignac’. If you are a little bit advanced in tasting and you understand wines, you really see and taste the difference. But all their champagnes are good.


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