The Bacchus Report: Real Champagne comes only from Champagne

With year’s end approaching, times are great for sparkling wine producers. And limestone cellars filled with gems from the French Champagne district, from whence the world’s Champagne comes, are emptying out.

foto: Věroslav Sixt

Wines that in the classic production method gain their requisite bubbles during secondary fermentation in bottles can be made, and are made with greater or lesser degrees of success, wherever grapes grow. But only those from the area of ancient Reims in the Champagne region can bear the proud name, Champagne. There, vineyards are planted on chalky subsoil, and the calcium supports the high acid content and unique mineral nature of the grapes, giving the wines their specific aroma and flavor. For centuries Champagne has been made from just three varietals, one white – Chardonnay – and two blue – Pinot noir and Pinot meunier. If the blue varietals alone are used mainly for making white wine, it is called Blanc de noir. If Champagne is made completely from Chardonnay grapes, it is labeled Blanc de blanc.
The monk Dom Perignon is credited with making the first Champagne, making a virtue of a necessity. After being bought from their cold cellars the wines began fermenting again. Surviving bottles arrived in England with bubbles, so some sources claim that the English were the first to taste Champagne. However, Dom Perignon was the first to blend wines and control and support secondary fermentation.
There are 264 vineyards in the Champagne region that are designated as Cru A.O.C., 43 vineyards as Premier Cru, and just 17 as Grand Cru, the highest category. Most Champagnes arrive on the market without any vintage stated, as when harvests are poor wines from other years can also be used. Vintage Champagnes are of higher quality, and, of course, more expensive. In restaurants in Reims and its vicinity or right in individual Champagne wineries, complete, superb menus are prepared, with different Champagnes served with each course, always going beautifully with the dish. No longer are Champagnes or sparkling wines suitable solely as aperitifs. Old, aged vintages even beautifully complement cigars.

The author is the editor of Hospodářské noviny’s IN magazine.


The Power Pull decanter from Leopold offers a stylish way to decant your favorite vintage. CZK 1,075

Available at: La Vecchia Bottega, OC Nový Smíchov, Praha 5

Upcoming tastings

· Vinotheka Archa, Váchova 6, Brno
1-6 December, Vinařství Sonberg wines week, 2003 production. Open Mon-Fri 10 am to 9 pm. More information at tel: 542 215 136.

· Dům vína U Závoje, Ovocný trh 23, Praha 1
14 December – Broad assortment of Italian wines
29 December – Comparison of Champagnes and sparkling wines


Here are samples of new Champagnes on the local market.

Bollinger Special Cuvée, extra brut
Characteristics: Special Cuvée contains 60% Pinot noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot meunier. All wines are matured in the company’s cellars a minimum of three years. Fruity aroma reminiscent of pineapple and melon. The taste is harmonic, with slight spicy and fruity hints.
Price: 1700 Kč.
Import: M. Král a spol., Pláničkova 445/13, P6

Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rosé Brut, Reims
Characteristics: The cheerfully pure pink color promises that the first sip will be filled with rich notes of tropical fruit. Suitable as a digestive with lighter desserts.
Price: 1300 Kč.
Import: Bacchus, Něvská 392, Praha 9, tel.: 283 932 634

Champagne Mailly Grand Cru Brut réserve
Characteristics: 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. Chardonnay grapes give a touch of citrus, and the Pinot Noir adds its fruity tones. A fine aperitif for every occasion or to accompany a seafood appetizer.
Price: 1000 Kč

Champagne Mailly Grand Cru La Terre 1996, Mailly
Characteristics: Despite its relative old age, it’s crystal-clear, and full of long-lasting, fine bubbles. Its aroma is redolent of citrus notes, its flavor nutty with hints of fresh-baked bread. Great with seafood and not very spicy lamb.
Price: 1380 Kč
Mailly is imported by:
House of Champagne Prague,
V Úhlu 25, Praha 4, tel.: 241 485 033,
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