Champagne Tasting: An Exclusive Veuve Clicquot Experience
Last May, I had the privilege of visiting one of France’s most iconic, historic and famous Champagne Houses; Veuve Clicquot, situated in the city of Reims, in the Champagne Region, about 130 km. Northeast of Paris. A great tour that combines wine-tasting and champagne tours.
The Champagne Region
The region of Champagne is one of the coolest grape-growing areas on the planet. It sits at the 49th parallel above the equator, barely giving the fruit enough warmth and sunlight to ripen. To make Champagne, grapes do not need as much sugar as other wines, so they have a higher acidity, giving them a crisp and light mouthfeel. The tannins in red grapes do not need to ripen as much either since the skins are not used in Champagne production. They are pressed and removed before fermentation and blending. This article will talk about the Veuve Clicquot Champagne house, underground tunnels and the Champagnes that were tasted during the visit.
Veuve Clicquot has always been one of my favourite Champagnes, so I was very excited to visit in person and see how it is made.
Champagne is made in the two-step traditional method. That is why it takes longer to produce and is more costly than regular dry wines.
There are three main grapes used in Champagne. Chardonnay, a white grape, and Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier which are both black grapes. Since the skins are not used, the juice pressed from all three varietals is clear.
One of the Original Champagne Houses
Philippe Clicquot, who founded the business in 1772, passed away at a young age. His widow Barbe-Nicole took over the business, which was rare for women to do in those days. Veuve is the French word for widow, and the brand is named after her as Clicquot’s widow.
Her innovative spirit brought many changes to modernize the production of Champagne, which most producers still use up to now with great success.
A Unique Way to Taste Champagne
The champagne tours are done underground in the “crayères” or chalk tunnels, which are many kilometres long. The tunnels were left as a result of excavating blocks to build the cathedrals in the area and maintain a constant cool temperature and naturally high humidity, which is perfect for the production and storage of champagne.
Champagne is typically stored underground in France because it provides a consistent and cool temperature environment that is necessary for the proper aging of the wine. The underground storage areas in Champagne are known as “crayères,” which are chalk caves that were originally quarried out to provide material for the construction of buildings.
The temperature in these caves is typically between 10-12 degrees Celsius (50-54 degrees Fahrenheit), which is ideal for the slow and steady aging process that Champagne requires, which is the same temperature as a wine cellar. The caves also provide a consistent humidity level that helps prevent the corks from drying out and the wine from oxidizing.
In addition to the temperature and humidity benefits, storing Champagne in underground caves also provides protection from light and vibration, which can both be harmful to the wine.
Overall, the cool and consistent environment provided by underground storage in Champagne helps ensure that the wine develops its characteristic flavours and aromas over time, making it the high-quality product it is known for.
Innovative Champagne Making
One of the greatest contributions that Madame Clicquot made to the production of Champagne was the invention of the riddling racks where bottles are turned a small amount each day for weeks until all the sediment in the liquid has moved to the neck of the bottle, which then is disgorged and removed leaving a clear liquid in the bottle. This technique is still used today with minor adjustments.
The other innovation that she came up with was blending a small amount of red wine into the bottle to produce Rosé champagne.
In 1810 Madame Clicquot invented the first Vintage Champagne as well. Vintage years are special when the grapes are in perfect condition, and only fruit from that year is used in the blend. Most champagnes are non-vintage and contain blends from different harvests.
During my champagne tour at Veuve Clicquot, I had the pleasure of tasting two of their most popular champagnes: the Brut and the Vintage 2012.
The Brut champagne had a crisp and refreshing taste with subtle hints of brioche and citrus notes.
On the other hand, the Vintage 2012 had a more complex and full-bodied flavour with notes of honey, toasted almonds, and a hint of minerality. Both champagnes were distinct in their taste and characteristics, yet they still embodied the signature Veuve Clicquot style that has made them one of the most popular champagne producers in the world.
Engaging in a side-by-side champagne tasting of Veuve Clicquot’s Brut and Vintage 2012 allowed me to delve deeper into the nuanced flavours and complexities that made this champagne tour such an enjoyable experience.
Champagne is the only beverage that uses all our senses
Champagne is the quintessential drink that tantalizes all five senses, providing a complete sensory experience.
Initially, we feast our eyes on the mesmerizing bubbles that dance in the glass and hear the gentle fizz emanating from the champagne. Next, we smell its delicate aromas, and then, as we take a sip, we feel the creamy effervescence of the sparkling wine in our mouth and on our tongues, creating a delightful sensation on our taste buds. Finally, as we swallow, we experience the smooth, crisp notes of the champagne as it effortlessly glides down our throat, leaving behind a lingering aftertaste.
Champagne Reigns Supreme: the Granddaddy of Sparkling Wines
Veuve Clicquot also played an important public relations role by establishing champagne internationally and making it the preferred drink of high society.
Today this champagne wine region product is enjoyed everywhere as one of the planet’s most well-produced and well-balanced sparkling wines.
In conclusion, exploring the art of champagne tasting at Veuve Clicquot was a unique experience that allowed me to truly appreciate the intricacies and pleasures of this fine sparkling wine. The Veuve Clicquot team provided an immersive experience that stimulated all my senses. If you are a champagne enthusiast, this guided tour is highly-recommended; its a must-do activity to add to your bucket list.
So, grab a glass, raise it high, and say cheers to discovering the world of champagne!