Tasting T1.1 Champagne

Champagne is a region that pretty much everyone has heard of and is familiar with.

Champagne is a sparkling wine, originating and produced in the Champagne wine region of France under the rules of the Champagne appellation. The rules give very specific vineyard practises, grape sourcing and grape pressing methods. Along with the key ingredient, the secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to cause carbonation.

Grape Varieties and colour

Champagne is made from three prime grape varieties, planted in similar volumes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Although a small amount of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane and Petit Meslier are vinified as well. These grape vines had to be planted before 1938 when their planting became no longer allowed.

Given that all Champagne is either white or rose, it is important to note that all wine is produced white or clear. It is the time the wine spends in contact with the grape skins that gives it the colour.

So a generic Champagne made of one white and two red grapes is a white Champagne.

Blanc de Blanc Champagne is a white wine made of white grapes, Chardonnay.

Blanc de Noirs Champagne is a white wine made of red grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Rose Champagne is generally made of more of the red grapes to get the colour from the skin but can also have Chardonnay in the blend.

Dom Perignon 1638 - 1715

Sadly, the romantic notion of a Benedictine monk inventing the refermentation or second fermentation methods are a myth. As is him being the first to use corks or being able to name precise vineyards by tasting a single grape.

So how did it all come about?

Refermentation of still wines to sparkling wines from circa 1531.

Originally sparkling wine became so due to the cooling weather of autumn often stopping the fermentation before all the fermentable sugars had been converted to alcohol. When wines were bottled at this stage, they became a sleeping bomb.

As the weather warmed in spring, the dormant yeasts would awake from their hibernation and begin to generate carbon dioxide. If they were lucky the cork would be pushed out, if they were unlucky the bottles would explode. Other bottles nearby to an exploding one, themselves already under similar pressure would then explode due to the shock.

As such Dom Perignon would try to avoid this refermentation. As Chardonnay was more likely to have refermentation, a rule he imposed was to only use Pinot Noir for the still Champagne. 

Secondary Fermentation from circa 1660

Christopher Merret an English scientist and physician documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine. This was in order to create a second fermentation about six years before Dom Perignon arrived at Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautviller. Merret presented a paper at The Royal Society detailing the now called methode traditionelle in 1662. Merret’s discoveries also coincided with English glass-makers technically developing glass bottles that could withstand the greater pressures of secondary fermentation.

Dom Perignon was however instrumental in many areas of still and sparkling Champagne making and probably earned the fact that Moet et Chandon named their top cuvee after him. The remains of the monastery at the Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautviller is now the property of that winery.

The last part of the successful bottling of Sparkling wine/Champagne arrived in 1844 when Adolphe Jaquesson invented the muselet. A wire cage that fits over the cork of a bottle to prevent the cork being pushed out by the pressure inside the bottle.

Champagne was first produced by the methode rural, or refermentation method until the 19th century about 200 years after Merret documented the secondary fermentation method.

The 19th century saw an exponential growth in the production of Champagne growing from 300,000 bottles in 1800 to 20 million bottles in 1850. In 2007 sales hit 338.7 million bottles.

Ageing, the Riddling Table, Disgorgement and Dosage

Non-vintage Champagnes (blends from more than one year) have to be aged for a minimum of one and a half years. In great years where a vintage or millesime is declared the ageing must be for a minimum of three years and the Champagne just from that singular year. Whilst it is ageing Champagne bottles are sealed with a crown cap similar to those used on beer bottles.

After the secondary fermentation and the ageing of the bottle, Lees, which are deposits of dead or residual yeasts are present in the wine. Ageing on the lees leads to a distinctive yeasty aroma and taste that is a hallmark of the taste of Champagne. However, the lees being a sediment, are removed before the wine is sold and to do this it is manipulated either mechanically or manually, this process is called remuage or riddling in English.

In this process bottles are placed on special racks called pupitres that hold the bottles, crown cap down, at a 35-degree angle. Every two days the bottles are given a slight shake and turned alternatively to the left then right and ‘dropped’ back into the pupitres, the angle is also gently increased. This process along with the slight ‘drop’ allows the lees to settle in the neck of the bottle. After about eight to ten weeks the bottle is pretty much vertical and the lees are sitting in the neck

The bottles are then chilled and the neck is frozen so that the lees are now encompassed in a block of ice. Still upside down, the cap is then removed and the pressure (6 bars) within the bottles pushes out the ice containing the lees. This process is known as Disgorgement. Some wine from previous vintages and possibly some additional sugar (ie dosage) is added and this maintains the level within the bottles and adjusts the sweetness of the finished wine. The bottle is then corked and the muselet attached in order to maintain the carbon dioxide within the Champagne. Simples!  

The Houses


Founded in 1822 and based in Epernay.

Bauget-Jouette is a family house that we have known for many years. It has its own vineyards and makes and bottles its own Champagne.

Harry managed a few weeks work experience here back in 2013.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin

Founded in 1772 and based in Reims. It is one of the largest of the Champagne Houses.

Madame Clicquot created the first known vintage Champagne in 1810. She is also credited with inventing the riddling table process mentioned previously.

Further to the above during the Napoleonic period she established her wine in the Royal Courts of Europe, particularly Imperial Russia and thus made Champagne synonymous with high society and nobility.

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin was purchased by Louis Vuitton in 1986 and subsequently became part of the LVMH group.


Founded in 1734 and based in Reims.

In 2005 the Taittinger family sold Champagne Taittinger to a US private Investment firm. Then in 2006 Credit Agricole in collaboration with Pierre-Emmanue Taittinger bought the Champagne business for 660 million Euro’s.

In 2017 Taittinger became the first Champagne house to plant vines in the UK.

Moet Et Chandon

Moet et Cie was founded in 1743 by Claude Moet in Epernay.

In 1833 the company was renamed Moet et Chandon when Peter-Gabriel Chandon de Briailles (Remy Moet’s son-in-law) joined the company as a partner of Jean Remy Moet, Claude Moet’s grandson.

Moet & Chandon merged with Hennessy Cognac in 1971 and then with Louis Vuitton in 1987 to become LVMH (Louis-Vuitton-Moet-Hennessey) the largest luxury group in the world.

Moet et Chandon holds a royal warrant as a supplier of champagne to Queen Elizabeth II.

Their best known label, ‘Dom Perignon’ named after the monk, was owned by Champagne Mercier but was given to Moet in 1927.

To the wines…

This evenings tasting will be conducted by myself and Harry, with able (or not) assistance lent by Kim, Jen and Luke.

And to the food…

Courtesy of ‘Ding Dong Dim Sum’ and Luke’s ability to choose and steam a dumpling we are all really looking forward to something totally non-Christmassy. This tasting happened on New Year’s Day. Sounds like a good way to celebrate the beginning of 2023.

1st up is…

Bauget-Jouette Blanc de Blancs 2008

Like all vintage wines this is only made in great years. It is 100% Chardonnay from a generous and powerful vintage.

Nose: Pale straw – yellow colour on first viewing. Aromas of brioche, white stone fruits, citrus and honey.

Palate: Structured extremely well, notes of brioche, biscuit and apples. Tart grapefruit coming through with full acidity on the finish. Medium bodied with a medium – full length finish. A lovely wine that is drinking extremely well and should do for a few more years at least!

Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2004

Exceptional weather conditions in September 2004 allowed an abundant crop of grapes to ripen beautifully. Soft and creamy.

A blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 7% Pinot Meunier.

Nose: Pale straw – yellow colour on first viewing. Laminated pastry with caramel and touches of white stone fruits.

Palate: Caramel really pronouncing itself with pastry and an extremely persistent mousse. Medium – full bodied with high acidity this great wine will continue to age and can drink for the next 5-8 years minimum. A lovely long finish rounds this out perfectly. 

Taittinger Millesime 2006

The 2006 vintage harvest was a great year with June and July creating perfect conditions for flowering and remained hot through harvest. Late rain in August promoted healthy grapes. Harvest  was spread out over a longer time than usual due to uneven fruit ripening, but great fruit.

A blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. Aged for five to six years on the lees prior to disgorgement.

Nose: Pale straw – yellow colour on first viewing. Molasses, burnt caramel with extreme savoury notes. Very powerful and very inviting.

Palate: Marmalade, caramel and a pure mousse. Very decadent and very rich. Medium bodied (the mousse is extremely light) with moderate acidity. A medium length finish, this is drinking perfectly well now. Perhaps can continue to keep for 3-5 years however I would drink up now!

Moet et Chandon Grande Vintage 2006

Each vintage released of the Grande Vintage Champagne is a unique and original wine. The Cellar Master is empowered to give a personal interpretation to reveal the exceptional personality of each vintage. Therefore the wine is not necessarily the same blend of grapes or ageing from year to year.

Released in 2014. 42% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir and 19% Pinot Meunier.

Nose: Pale straw – yellow colour on first viewing. White stone fruits with apples and citrus. Biscuit and brioche coming through but powerful fruit aromas certainly gaining traction.

Palate: Pastry, brioche and biscuit much more pronounced on the palate. White stone fruits with apple and pears creating a beautiful presence as well. Well structured and the mousse is very fine. Medium bodied with moderate acidity. Medium length finish here, this wine is drinking superbly. You could keep it for a few more years of course. However I am reasonably certain that this wine is primed and ready to go.

Dom Perignon Vintage 2006

Dom Perignon was the first prestige Cuvee Champagne. The first vintage was the 1921 which was only released for sale in 1936.

A hot and dry vintage. 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. Aged for 8 years on the lees.

Nose: Pale straw colour on first viewing. Laminated pastry with caramel and cooked white fruits. Extremely powerful and mineral.

Palate: This is just purring. Beautiful cooked white fruits with caramel and pastry. All together a gorgeous wine. A super-fine mousse manages to accentuate the fruit and caramel features. Full bodied with high acidity, this wine is drinking really well now. I would certainly suggest keeping this back a few more years as well, it will only continue to get better. A beautiful long finish brings this tasting to an incredible conclusion.


Arguably most of these wines are from some of the best Champagne houses. There was no doubt in my mind that any of these were not going to be fantastic. So my immediate thought on starting this tasting was actually to see how ready to drink most of these were.

I appreciate, of course, that they are all 15 – 20 years old so why should they not be ready? Well the beauty of Champagne (specifically Vintage) is it’s indelible ability to age for decades. Take the 2004 Veuve Clicquot, this will continue to enter its prime drinking window in the next 5-8 years. My suggestion is that at 27 years old (approaching its 30th Birthday) this will be fantastic, if not even better than it is now. Something that none of us should ever disregard when drinking Vintage Champagne.

The scores:

Blanc de Blancs 2008 – 91 Points

Veuve Clicquot 2004 – 92 Points

Taittinger 2006 – 93 Points

Moet et Chandon 2006 – 94 Points

Dom Perignon 2006 – 96 Points

The scores on this tasting are more preliminary findings as we do not taste Champagne often I must admit. The real gems (if I may be so bold) are the tasting notes. They will give you a much better idea of which Champagnes we thought stood out for different reasons. All I can say is that this was a brilliant experience and we thank you all for reading!

David & Harry

Share this post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published