In its purest, most traditional form, Champagne comes from a specific, legally designated region of origin within the French province of Champagne-Ardenne. All of the top Champagne estates, vineyards and winemaking facilities are found in this area. Some of these are particularly distinguished due to their history, reputation and the quality of their wine.
Veuve Clicquot: The First Modern Champagne Estate
The French Champagne estate of Veuve Clicquot is highly regarded and widely respected by virtually all wine enthusiasts who are knowledgeable about Champagne and its production. Founded in 1772 as an initially wide-ranging business involved in wool trading as well as winemaking, the Clicquot house has been exclusively producing Champagne since 1805.
Veuve Clicquot is sometimes referred to as the house behind the first “modern” Champagne, the winery’s 1811 vintage. This reputation stems from the estate’s advances in Champagne technology, specifically regarding the proper maintenance of the naturally occurring carbonation characteristic of Champagne. The process developed by Clicquot, known in contemporary winemaking culture as “riddling,” allowed the wine to continue fermenting in the bottle while separating it from any sediment that had developed.
Moet & Chandon: Producer of Dom Perignon
This Champagne estate, part of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) company who also owns Veuve Clicquot, is known for producing the world-renowned Dom Perignon Champagne.
Established by Claude Moet in 1743, this winery has been distinguished since its earliest days, when it supplied the court of King Louis XV with Champagne. Its next milestone as a Champagne estate came in 1920, when it first produced the debut vintage of Dom Perignon.
Named for a Benedictine monk who served as one of Champagne’s earliest progenitors, Dom Perignon is remarkable for being a vintage Champagne. It’s not a blend, unlike many Champagnes, and it comes from grapes taken from a single harvest, making it one of the more expensive champagnes. Older vintages of Dom Perigon are often sold at auction for tens of thousands of dollars.
Louis Roederer: Producer of Cristal
Cristal, bottled by Louis Roederer, has a less extensive history than Veuve Clicquot or Moet, having only been commercially available since 1945. That said, its reputation in wine culture and pop culture is considerable.
This aspect of the cultural impact of Champagne is partially due to Cristal’s popularity in the 1990s and 2000s among black American hip-hop musicians, though this stature (and sales) fell after Roederer’s managing director made comments perceived by some clientele and the public at large as disparaging to Roederer’s customers. Regardless of this public relations issue, Roederer has consistently lagged behind Moet and Veuve Clicquot in sales.