Organic Champagne, the guide
Organic and conventional champagne, everything you need to know
In recent years, champagnes have established themselves as celebratory drinks encountered in all types of festive events (weddings, birthdays, etc.). Popping champagne has become something of a tradition.
With the current craze for organic, a good number of producers have converted to organic . Organic and conventional, here is all there is to know on the subject.
At Oé, organic crémant cuts a fine figure to please your taste buds.
The history of champagne
By definition, champagne is a sparkling French wine. It was born in the 17th century in the Champagne region from which it inherited the name.
The foaming of the wine is due to the natural fermentation of the wine in the cellar observed during autumn and spring. But because of the storage which was carried out in barrels, the effervescence of the latter spun. When the barrels were replaced by bottles, the effervescence could be imprisoned . This is how the wines of Champagne became sparkling. However, the operation was not always a success. The effervescence was either too excessive or too weak.
Over the centuries the people of Champagne have mastered the reaction to have a persistent and regular effervescence in order to produce quality wine. Champagne wine is served at the tables of European sovereigns and aristocrats, which makes it a prestigious wine.
The name Champagne is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC), it is only attributed to sparkling wines from the province of Champagne. It is an AOC Champagne .
The people of Champagne have practiced organic farming for a long time, but the production of organic champagne was only regulated around 2012 with the organic wine regulations by the European Commission.
The grape varieties to produce organic champagne
To produce champagne, only seven grape varieties are authorized : pinot noir, pinot meunier, chardonnay, arbane, pinot gris, pinot blanc and petit meslier.
The first three grape varieties are the most used, the other four are marginal.
- Pinot Noir: It is a black grape with colorless pulp giving a white juice. The pinot reveals fruity notes (plum, apricot, raspberry…). It gives fine and rich wines.
- Pinot Meunier : It is also a black grape with colorless pulp. From pinot meunier you can get the same type of wine produced from pinot noir, but with a more fruity note.
- Chardonnay : This is the most used grape variety in the manufacture of champagne. It is a white grape that produces sparkling wines with a floral or mineral note.
- Arbane : This is a grape that also gives wine with fruity notes.
Pinot Gris : This is a grape that produces lively wines with citrus notes.
- Pinot Blanc : It is a white grape that produces supple, slightly acidic wines with floral and citrus notes.
- Le petit meslier : It is a small grain grape, which gives the champagne a smoky nose in the mouth.
An infinity of possibilities can result from the assembly of these different components.
Traditional method or Champagne method
To produce a good organic champagne , the winegrowers follow the Champagne method . For the record, the traditional method and the Champagne method both consist in producing a sparkling wine thanks to the second fermentation which is done in the bottle. They have a different name but follow the same process.
Once bottled, the champagne is stored upside down. As soon as the yeasts fall to the level of the cork, they are evacuated from the bottle. The winemaker adds a little expedition liqueur which will be dosed differently depending on the type of organic champagne he wants to offer his customers.
It is a 1994 regulation which prohibits winegrowers from other champagne-producing regions from using the term "champenoise method" in the labeling of their sparkling wines. The bottle of champagne is then sold directly to your winegrowers or to a wine merchant.
The different types of champagne
Whether organic champagne or conventional champagne, they can be classified according to many parameters. For example, depending on the amount of sugar present in the bottle, the grape varieties used, the vintage if it is vintage.
Depending on the amount of sugar in the expedition liqueur, we can have six types of champagne:
- Sweet: the amount of sugar is above 50g/l,
- Demi-sec : the amount of sugar is between 30 and 50 g/l,
- Dry: 17 – 32 g/l,
- Extra dry : 12 -17 g/l,
- Gross : less than 12 g/l,
- Extra brut : Non-dosed Champagne containing between 0 and 6 g/l of natural residual sugar.
Brut champagne is the one most often found on the tables, it is very appreciated for its finesse and freshness.
Depending on the grape varieties used , we can have 3 categories:
- Blanc de blancs : produced exclusively from white grapes, in particular chardonnay,
- Blanc de noirs : produced exclusively from black grapes,
- Rosé : can be produced by blending white and red grape musts or by macerating grapes.
Depending on the grape varieties used, the terroir and the methods used in the different vineyards , the champagne will be more or less fruity and will develop its finesse and freshness .
Depending on the aging period, we can have:
- Non-vintage : Champagne that does not meet the conditions of the vintage
- The vintage : A blend of vintage wines from the same year aged for more than three years (example from 1992).
- The prestige cuvée : The best cuvée. It is a special champagne that corresponds to the head of the cuvée (first juice drawn) aged at least for five years.
The particularity of organic champagne
To produce organic champagne, it is no longer enough for the vines to come from organic farming . The 2012 European regulation also regulates winemaking.
All inputs used in the production of sparkling wine must be certified organic (vine, concentrated must, sugar, etc.)
The additives and oenological practices used have also been restricted (appendix to regulation no. 203/2012). Only the additives listed therein are permitted.
The amount of usable sulfur has also been reduced. For champagne the limit is set at 150mg/l. Biodynamic champagne has an even lower amount of sulphur. Biodynamics is a practice that aims to improve the life of the soil for a better plant-soil exchange. The practice involves the stars, the lunar cycles during all operations.
The big names in organic champagne
When it comes to organic champagnes, you can find tons of them on the internet. But when we talk about quality champagnes, here are the names of the houses that come up often :
Sousa champagnes in Avize : the Sousa house, in the town of Avize, has been producing excellent champagnes for generations. Its hectares of vines are entirely classified as grand cru. It was certified organic in 2010 and certified Demeter in 2013. Champagne from Sousa in Avize was dubbed the best sommelier in the world in 2007.
- David Léclapart champagnes : located in the town of Trépail, the house has been producing excellent champagnes for four generations. All its cuvées are produced entirely from Chardonnay . All David Léclapart products all begin with the letter “A”: Alchemist, Apostle, etc.
- Blanc de blancs champagne from the Robert Barbichon estate : it is grown and vinified biodynamically only from white grapes. It is eaten with cold starters or dishes with iodized flavors, raw or cooked or with desserts made from dried fruits.
- Champagne Premier Cru Marie Forget: this cuvée is made from a confidential selection of a few of the house's wines. This champagne reveals aromatic complexity and great character on the palate. Accompany it with your aperitifs and also with shellfish and fish.
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