If it sparkles and bubbles, it’s Champagne, right? Not quite! While Champagne has become something of a call-world for a whole class of wine, it’s a bit like calling every pool cleaner a Creepy Crawly- it’s actually a specific ‘brand’ in a broader wine type. Confused? Don’t be! Today the Louisvale Wines experts will break down the fascinating history of Campagne, sparkling wine, and what makes South Africa’s crops so special.

What is Champagne?

At its simplest, Champagne is a wine that has had extra fermentation, giving it its signature carbon dioxide bubbles. Did you know it was discovered by accident? Winegrowers in the Champagne Valley in France were actually trying to make a wine to rival the Burgundys that were all the rage at the time. Because of their cold winters, however, they couldn’t get the fermentation of the wine in the cellars to stop at the usual time. Instead, it lay dormant, and reactivated when warmer Spring weather came along. A new wine type was born. Complete with a few exploded bottles!

The Wine of Kings

However, the legacy of Champagne starts with a still wine, from pinot-noir grapes, that is described as light pink, rather like the Louisvale MCC Brut Rosé NV in color, we imagine! The then-King of the Franks, Hugh Capet, wanted regional wine at his coronation in 987, and a legacy was born. The wine would continue its association with the French Court throughout history. 

There’s been many stories and legends around Champagne through the years. The monk Dom Pérignon, immortalized in the famous brand, is sometimes given credit for discovering it, but that’s likely fiction. However, we know that while he and the French were still fighting to get rid of that accidental fermentation, the British were already loving the odd, bubbly wines that resulted. Yet he was critically important to the development of Champagne wines, making white wine from blue grapes as well as developing what came to be known as the Méthode Traditionelle ( aka Méthode Champenoise) of making Champagne consistently sparkly. There was a lingering issue of the bubbles breaking the bottle, however, that wouldn’t be solved until the 19th century. After that, it gripped the world in a frenzy.

Today, over 35,000 hectares of Champagne grapes are harvested annually in France. Did you know that, due to something called ‘Appellation d’origine contrôlée,’ only these French-grown wines can actually call themselves Champagne? The delicious and world-renowned sparkling wines from the Cape, along with others globally, have to use different names. And that’s where the MCC, or Méthode Cap Classique, comes from- but that’s a story Louisvale Wines will be telling later this month!