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  • How To Taste Champagne

    Bryan shares his tips for tasting Champagne! Smelling, swirling, sipping, and enjoying, learn the best way to taste Champagne in this quick video.

    Wonderful video by Geena Pietromonaco!

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    How Champagne is Made

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    How to Make Champagne

     

    Producing Champagne is a fascinating art, passed down from many generations. From vineyard to table, the process takes years! Learn the laborious and extraordinary steps of making Champagne below.


    CHAMPAGNE VINEYARDS

    All Champagne begins as grapes growing in vineyards located in the Champagne region of France. There are three main grapes permitted in Champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. The cool climate and soil content (regions with limestone, marl, and chalk) in Champagne creates grapes that are deliciously tart, and high in acid. Once the grapes have reached their peak ripeness, growers harvest by hand-picking every grape and transporting them back to the presses. Although the process is extremely laborious, hand-picking ensures that only the highest quality grapes go into each pressing.

    How to Make Champagne

    Pascal Redon Champagne Harvest

    Grower Champagne Harvest

     


    THE PRESS & PRIMARY FERMENTATION

    Immediately after harvest, grapes are de-stemmed and delivered to cuveries for pressing. Many small growers still use traditional wooden presses (pictured below), that gently press grapes into juice that is channeled to tanks underneath. Between each pressing, the grapes are mixed with pitch forks to ensure maximum juice extraction.

    After pressing, the grape juice is stored in barrels, concrete tanks, or stainless steel vats for primary fermentation. The juice is tasted at various stages of fermentation to determine future blends and vintages.

    Wooden Champagne Press at Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme

    Chardonnay juicing in traditional wooden Champagne press

     


    SECONDARY FERMENTATION

    After lots of tasting and blending, the recently fermented wine is often combined with older reserve wine to make a cuvée. Or in exceptional years, the wine will be bottled on its own as a vintage. Once the blend is determined, the wines are bottled with yeast and sugar to start secondary fermenation. The bottles are stopped under a temporary bottle cap that keeps the bubbles inside each bottle. The reaction of the yeast and sugar inside the bottle creates the Champagne bubbles!

     


    AGING

    The Champagne ages in the bottle under a temporary bottle cap for a minimum of 15 months to be called Champagne, and a minimum of 3 years to be Fat Cork Champagne. Many producers age their cuvées for several years, and some even decades to produce complex and unique wines. The process of aging Champagne on the lees (dead yeast cells) creates more complexity and depth.

    Champagne Cave in France

    Champagne Cave in France

     


    DISGORGEMENT

    After aging is complete, and the bottles are ready to enjoy, the process of riddling begins. Bottles are slowly turned onto their necks so that the lees from the bottom of each bottle settle into the neck. Once stable, the bottles are disgorged, meaning that the lees are removed; the necks of bottles are flash-frozen so that when the bottle cap is removed, only the frozen wine (that contains the lees) is lost. Once the lees have been removed, a small dose of still wine and sugar (the dosage) is added to balance the levels of high acidity. Or, in the case of Brut Nature Champagne, the dosage will be skipped, creating a dry and acidic wine.

     


    CORKS & LABELING

    Once the Champagne is complete, corks are inserted into the bottles then covered with wire cages and foil. Finally, the front labels and the Fat Cork back labels are applied by hand.

     


    VOILÁ! 

    The process of making Champagne is complete! Fat Cork Champagne is then loaded into cases and shipped to the United States in temperature controlled containers. Once the cases reach our Seattle warehouse, they are unloaded by hand, and stored in our cool, underground Champagne cave. There the bottles await to be sent to celebrations across the U.S.!

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    Champagne and Food Pairings

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    How to Pair Champagne with Food

    Champagne is one of, if not the most versatile beverage to pair with a wide variety of foods. As long as you avoid sweet foods and overly strong flavors, it’s hard to go wrong when pairing Champagne with many of your favorite foods. Here’s our foolproof guide to pairing Champagne with easy, everyday foods. No caviar required!

    Champagne Pairing Basics

    Match weight and texture: light foods tend to taste best with lighter wines; heavier foods usually taste best with stronger wines.

    Match flavor intensity: Mild flavors usually pair better with delicate wine; more intense flavors typically taste better with richer wines.

    Skip the sweets: Because Champagne is typically dry (and Fat Cork Champagne is almost always on the dry side), pairing Champagne with a sweet dessert can make the Champagne taste bitter. Instead, try pairing Champagne with dark chocolate and berries, or finish your meal with a bright, refreshing brut nature!

     

    Pairing Champagne with chips

    Champagne and Salty Foods

    Champagne paired with salty foods makes one of the easiest and most delicious pairings! Salt balances acidic wine, so salty foods are especially great when paired with dry Champagnes (like brut natures). We love pairing dry Champagne with thick-cut potato chips, popcorn tossed with olive oil and parmesan, or homemade oven fries.

    Champagne and Seafood

    Classic and foolproof, almost all seafood pairs well with Champagne. A few of our favorites: oysters and blanc de blancs, grilled salmon and rosé, spicy fish tacos and pinot meunier.

    Pairing Champagne with take out food

    Champagne and Take Out

    Our favorite way to celebrate a weeknight: take out and Champagne. Pinot meunier Champagne compliments spicy food (try it with Vietnamese or Thai food), and brut nature shines with lighter foods (like sushi).

    Champagne and Cheese

    Stinky, creamy, hard, or soft, almost all cheeses pair well with Champagne! Add cured meats, olives, nuts, dried fruit, and bread to your cheese plate for even more delicious pairings.

    Pair breakfast with wine

    Champagne with Brunch

    Enjoy bubbly with brunch! Paired with rich eggs, salty bacon, tart berries, and buttery croissants, Champagne turns an always fun brunch into a super fun morning celebration.

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    2016 Champagne Harvest

    The Champagne harvest is complete for 2016! The grapes have all been picked by hand and are now bubbling away in their fermentation vessels! Learn about the laborious and extraordinary process of harvesting in Champagne below.

    (Below: The youngest member of Champagne Redon helping with harvest and the cutest harvest picture ever!)

    HAND-PICKED

    All of our growers hand-pick their grapes each harvest season. Bunches of grapes are snipped directly from the vine using secateurs (small pruning clippers), then placed in buckets and baskets that are transported to each family’s press.

    Although the process is extremely laborious and requires a lot of people, hand-picking ensures that only the highest quality grapes go into each pressing.

    PRESSING

    Once the grapes arrive at each family’s cuverie, they are weighed and measured into the press. Many of our growers still use traditional wooden presses (pictured below), that gently press grapes into juice that is channeled to tanks underneath. Between each press, the grapes are mixed with pitch forks to ensure maximum juice extraction. 

    PRIMARY FERMENTATION

    After pressing, the grape juice is stored in barrels, concrete tanks, or stainless steel vats for primary fermentation. The juice is tasted at various stages of fermentation to determine future blends and vintages.

    Bryan will be headed back to Champagne in January to taste the freshly fermented wines. We can’t wait to see what’s bubbling up!

     

     

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    What is “Special Club” Champagne?

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    The Special Club, or Club Trésors de Champagne, was originally founded in 1971 by 12 of the oldest families of the Champagne region. Since then, the club has grown to include 29 producers committed to excellence in all aspects of production. This exclusive membership is only open to Recoltant Manipulants (a French designation for a producer of grower Champagne). Champagnes must be produced, bottled and aged at the member’s estate. The Special Club Champagnes represent the tête de cuvée (a premier bottling often carrying a vintage date) selection for each member.

    Special Club Champagnes are only made in outstanding vintages from grapes harvested from member’s own vineyards. Each producer must submit his wine to two blind tastings panels of esteemed oenologists and wine professionals. The still wines (vins clairs) are tasted first and if approved may be bottled in the uniquely-shaped Special Club bottle before undergoing secondary fermentation. After a minimum of three years aging on lees, the wines are tasted again for final approval.

    In essence, the purpose of the club is to showcase the terroirs of Champagne. Every bottle is assured to be excellent, but they will vary in flavor as a result of the specific place and time the Champagne was produced.

    Fat Cork is proud to be the exclusive importer and retailer of Special Club Champagnes from two different producers Hervieux-Dumez & Grongnet.

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    Champagne Movie Night: Oct. 4th

    Save the date! On the evening of Tuesday, October 4th, we’re taking over Edmonds Theater (415 Main St, Edmonds, WA) for a Champagne movie night! Join us for Fat Cork bubbly, popcorn and a big screen feature.

    More information and tickets coming soon. Help us decide which movie pairs best with Champagne and popcorn by leaving a comment, or emailing us with your vote! 

    1) Princess Bride
    2) Midnight in Paris
    3) James Bond: Bryan’s Choice

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    Fat Cork featured in Market Watch Magazine

    We are honored to be featured in Market Watch Magazine! Bryan was quoted on the unique appeal of Grower Champagne in their article “Grower Champagne Goes Mainstream”. Check out the full article here. 

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    Fat Cork goes to IPNC, 2016

    Our Champagnes have been consumed and celebrated at the International Pinot Noir Celebration since Bryan first visited in 2011, rolling a cooler around filled with bubbles!

    Thibaud Mandet (Winemaker at WillaKenzie), Bryan, Rollin Soles (Winemaker at ROCO Winery)

    Pinot Noir from Australia, excellent!

    Champagne and sparkling wine fanatics: David Speer (Ambonnay), Rajat Parr (Evening Land, Sandhi Wines, Domaine de la Côte), Bryan

    Bryan, Ken Meyer (FC Club Member), Nelson Daquip (Canlis Head Sommelier), Chris Tange (Seattle wine distributor and Master Sommelier)

    Bryan, Chris, Carrie (Wine buyer for Sea Creature Restaurants), Renee Erickson (Chef and Owner, Sea Creature Restaurants)

    IPNC’s volunteer sommeliers enjoying Fat Cork Champagne with their brunch.

    Larry Stone (Master Sommelier, Lingua Franca Wines), Raj, Mimi Castille (Oregon vigneronne and FC Club Member), Bryan

    Bryan, Dawn Smith (Sommelier extraordinaire and Fat Cork General Manager)

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    Meet our Grower: Champagne Redon

     

    Trépail, the beautiful home village of the Redon family, is one of the sunniest places in all of Champagne. The additional light makes their grapes—mostly Chardonnay—extra ripe upon picking, leading to fruit-forward and elegant wines.

    The Redon family now produces two distinct lines of Champagne, one by the father, Pascal, and one by the eldest son, Adrien. Pascal Redon’s cuvées are classic and full-bodied, while Adrien’s cuvées are fresh and dry. Both labels use the same old vine vineyards and the family’s traditional wood press, but create their final cuvées in their own unique style.

    Watch the video for a quick look at the sunny vineyards of Champagne Redon! 

     

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    Go Outside!

    Enjoy the great outdoors with your Champagne this summer (no cooler required!).

    AT A CAMPSITE
    Pitch your tent near a stream, nestle your bottles along the shore, and let the fresh water cool your Champagne.

     

    IN A POOL
    Use a kiddie pool as an ice bath! Fill the pool with half ice, half water, add Champagne and chill in the backyard with your bottles!

     

    ON A HIKE
    On a high-altitude hike, look for leftover snowbanks to chill your bubbly.

     

    SHARE YOUR ADVENTURES WITH US!

    Share your best photos on Instagram and Twitter and tag us (@fatcork) #FatCorkSummer. Or, send your best snaps to info@fatcork.com.

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