Methodes, Champagne, and New Zealand

Philip Rowe

Philip is Fine Wine and Retail Manager at Glengarry Thorndon Quay.

Around 1700 AD, Dom Perignon the cellarmaster at the Benedictine monastery of Hautvillers in the Champagne district of France began to successfully trap the bubbles that are a result of a secondary fermentation in the bottle .Over the following centuries production techniques were systematically refined and perfected. Today the reputation of Champagne is unrivalled in the bottle, and consumers worldwide now have an insatiable demand for the sparkling wines made in Champagne. Such has been the quality of these wines that the word Champagne on a bottle is universally recognised as an assurance of the highest quality, luxury - and conspicuous consumption.

Not surprisingly winemakers elsewhere in the world have sought to ‘borrow’ the word Champagne to promote their own sparkling wines. Now, as a result of a celebrated court case, the wine producers of Champagne who were sick of the use of the word champagne appearing on bottles of sparkling wine all over the world (but not produced by themselves), successfully sought and won the right to the exclusive use of this evocative word,. Today any sparkling wine with champagne on the label must come from the Champagne district in the Northeast of France and conform with their strict grape variety stipulations and production methods.

The vivacity, complexity, and finesse of the sparkling wines of Champagne is partly a product of one of the coolest climate wine growing regions in the world, (the grapes are harvested at a state of unripeness that in any other style of wine would yield undrinkable wines), but at these levels the flavours obtained from the grapes in Champagne are perfect for sparkling wine production. The base wines are acidic yet subtley flavoursome.The other key ingredient is the reliance on the generation of bubbles via the secondary fermentation in the bottle that all sparkling wines from Champagne must undergo. This method produces the smallest most refined and enduring bubbles of all. The French call it mousse. Throw in the subsequent yeast autolysis that occurs on the lees while the wines settle after the secondary fermentation and voila! you have the magic of champagne.

Champagne, France.

And despite the court ruling. the worldwide emulation of the wines of Champagne unashamedly continues. With the exception of Asti, all the finest sparkling wines in the world are made by the same Methode Traditionelle process used in Champagne, the grape varieties used are in most cases the same as in Champagne and the styles have the same nomenclature as they do in Champagne, non vintage, vintage, and blanc de blancs, and rose. The world has even adopted the sweetness style categories used in Champagne ie Brut and Demi SecPol Roger Brut Reserve NV $69.90

Crisp fresh and delicately yeasty Pol Roger NV is one of the most consistent and impressive of all NV Champagnes. The palate is yeasty and well structured, powerful in flavour with a purity and acidity that justify the price and does the Champagne name proud. Pol Roger are flag bearers for the region. Small family owned and utterly dedicated to quality Pol Roger Champagnes are quintessential in style and value for money.

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  • collin says
    For those Special Moments too Share!A excellent and divine drink for all those Special Occasions.
  • Sam says
    Very nice
  • 1700 AD... damn, sure puts our wine making history in it's place. Still, I think our wines can compete with the oldest vineyards in Europe!

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