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Champagne

Appellation

  • The delineation and legislation of the Champagne region has long been controversial because the wine is such a valuable commodity. The INAO legislation restricts the growers to specific grapes; limits the vine density, yields, and the amount of juice that can be pressed from each kilogram of grapes. It also specifies the manner in which the vines are pruned, mandates that grapes be hand harvested, and sets the minimum length of aging for both non-vintage and vintage Champagnes. These rules make Champagne the most regulated and controlled wine producing region of in the world.

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  • Champagne is a valuable wine and the right to produce it has always been jealously guarded. The region was defined fairly early, although early definitions were controversial. An early effort to exclude the wines of the Aube province led to riots in 1911. These borders were re-drawn rather rapidly and the region took its current shape in 1927.


    In 1919, a system of ranking each village was developed called the échelle des crus. This system evaluated many various vineyard factors and defined where the best grapes were produced. This system was later used to fix percentage of a given price that growers could receive for their grapes. Premier cru refers to grapes grown in vineyards rated 90–99 while Grand Cru refers to grapes grown in the seventeen vineyards rated 100%.

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  • In 1935, the INAO or l'Institut National des Appellations d'Origine was established and charged with codifying the way that wines were made in each region.

    In Champagne, this includes restricting the authorized grapes; limiting the vine density, the yields and the amount that can be pressed from each kilogram of grapes; specifying the manner in which the vines are pruned and their height; mandating hand harvesting and the minimum length of aging for non-vintage and vintage Champagnes.

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  • In addition to the AOC, the CIVC (The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) is a semi-public body set up under the support of the French Government to co-ordinate the common interests of wine growers, suppliers and Champagne houses in the region. In addition to research and protecting the use of the name “Champagne”, they also regulate the production of Champagne - from grape to glass, the CIVC manages the rules and regulations that make Champagne the magical sparkling wine that it is.

    The CIVC was founded in Epernay in 1941 during WWII as an organization to help the Champagne houses unite and present an organized business front to the occupying Germans. Robert-Jean de Vogüé, who was head of Moet & Chandon at the time, was one of the founding members of the CIVC.

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