Champagne – why such a premium drink?
Champagne is the only drink to celebrate with. But what makes it such a luxury? And one that can command such a price?
Unlike many other more expensive wines, champagne isn’t premium due to its branding (although names like Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, and Cristal, will be able to command higher prices), but the where and way that it is produced. It is a unique and very special wine, and has the kudos (and let’s be honest, cost) to go with it.
But why is this the case?
Champagne is produced in a specific location
To be called champagne, it has to have been made in the Champagne region of France. Roughly 150 kilometres east of Paris, the highly protected region of France is home to the world's most prestigious wine makers and cellars. The land here is some of the most expensive in the world, and as it is a relatively small area, any product created here already has niche status. The area has a strict code of practice and the name is looked after to ensure that there are no imitations.
It requires specific grapes and vines
The grapes used in champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. They are the only authorised grape varieties, and the specificity means that no others can make it into the bottle. The vines are also ‘short pruned’ through using Cordon de Royat, Chablis and Guyot pruning.
It grows in tricky conditions
The climate in the region is not very grape-friendly — the average temperature in champagne is just 11°C, compared to say 24°C in Provence. It’s at risk of harsh weather and crop damage. Grape growers have to spend a lot of time and energy tending to the vines, and a lot of care goes into getting a bumper harvest.
The production takes time
Champagne is made through a natural winemaking process known as the ‘Méthode Champenoise.’ This process takes time and effort. The wine is fermented twice: once before bottle, and then again once it has been bottled, by adding yeast and sugar. After the second fermentation is complete, the dead yeast, known as lees, is removed, via a long process call remuage, or riddling. Finally, liquor is added to enhance the champagne’s sweetness. The whole process is very time intensive, taking at least 15 months, and up to three years for vintage champagne.