Champagne, the effusion of minerality
It is from the ancient, mineral chalk of northern France that the liquid gold was born; people often forget that Champagne’s true identity doesn’t come from its creamy bubbles but rather its roots in the very particular terroir of Champagne. The region's uniqueness comes from its high chalk content, which not only infuses the fruit with its distinctive minerality, but the region’s houses also influence its taste in their legendary white-walled cellars.
Champagne as we know it today was an accidental discovery. Until the 17th century, the region’s wines weren’t sparkling at all and it was thanks to the experiments of the famous Dom Pérignon that the wines’ second fermentation in bottle was mastered and that the Champagne style we know exists.
Champagne began its ascension as an icon of luxury and glamour in the 18th century and now its image tends to be far removed from its natural origins as a product of the earth, although there is a growing movement pushing the region’s wines back in this direction.
The Hierarchy of Champagne’s Appellations
Champagne’s classification possesses similarities with Burgundy's, with a system of Grand Cru and Premier Crus as well as lieu-dits denominations. The classification was originally designed to regulate the market for grapes, is not the only key factor in assessing the quality of Champagne. The concept of vintage is crucial here as it is the time the wine spends on its lees. The classification, “Echelle des Crus”, doesn’t rank parcels of vineyards as in Burgundy, but rather as whole villages.
Grand Crus villages
Grands Cru Villages are the top of the hierarchy and there are 17 Grands Crus in total:
Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Oiry, Ambonnay, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Bouzy, Sillery, Verzenay, Verzy, Puisieulx, Louvois, Mailly, Aÿ and Tours-sur-Marne
Premiers Crus villages
There are 44 premiers crus villages in Champagne:
Avenay, Bergères-les-Vertus, Bezannes, Billy le Grand, Bisseuil, Chamery, Champillon, Chigny les Roses, Chouilly, Coligny, Cormontreuil, Coulommes la Montagne, Cuis, Cumières, Dizy, Ecueil, Etrechy, Grauves, Hautvillers, Jouy les Reims, Les Mesneus, Ludes, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Montbré, Mutigny, Pargny les Reims, Pierry, Rilly la Montagne, Sacy, Sermiers, Taissy, Tauxières, Tours-sur-Marne, Trépail, Trois Puits, Vaudemanges, Vertus, Villedommange, Villeneuve Renneville, Villers Allerand, Villers aux Noeuds, Villers Marmery, Voipreux, Vrigny