The characteristics of traditional Champagne, such as taste, scent and other attributes are the result of various factors. One of the chiefly determining factors in the characteristics of a Champagne is the grapes used in the wine’s production. The grapes used for Champagne differ in several aspects, such as color, taste, the method in which they are individually grown and more.
Source of Champagne Grapes: The Soil of Champagne, France
The climate of northern France is considered harsh by comparison to the rest of the country. As a result, the qualities of the soil in the Champagne region are essential to the favorable growth of the various grapes used to produce Champagne wines.
Fortunately for the region’s vintners, the soil in Champagne is widely known among wine-making professionals and wine enthusiasts for its quality. The soil is deep and thick, allowing for rainwater to easily reach the roots of the vines. Vines are planted on sloped areas, allowing optimal levels of sunlight to hit the plants at all times of day.
For this reason and others, the wines of Champagne are truly unique. No other location where sparkling wines are produced could claim to produce true, traditional Champagne even if they’re legally allowed to make such a declaration.
Black Grape Varietals Used in Champagne
Three grape varieties are permitted for legal use in the production of traditional Champagne under the same French laws that protect the use of the term “Champagne.” Two of these are black or red grapes, and one is white.
The authorized black grape varietals in Champagne production are as follows:
• Pinot Meunier: A black grape with white juice, typically grown in the valley of Marne, France. When used, it’ll supply a wine with a slightly spicy taste and a strong, exquisite aroma.
• Pinot Noir: Similar to Meunier, Pinot Noir grapes have white juice. Pinot Noir is widely known as one of the most difficult grapes to grow in the world, requiring precise attention and optimal soil and climatic conditions. Noir grapes give Champagne a strength and fullness it occasionally otherwise lacks.
The juice of these grapes, coupled with the specifics of the Champagne grape-pressing process, produces a white wine. When used to make other wines, the final products of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier will be red.
Chardonnay Grapes in Champagne
Planted mostly in the Cotes des Blancs area of Champagne, Chardonnay supplies finished Champagne wines with floral aromas, acidity and vibrant, fruity flavors. Throughout much of the history of Champagne production, these grapes are often blended with Noir or Meunier grapes to complete the wine, though they may sometimes be used on their own to make blanc de blanc Champagne.