Friday, October 24th marks the Fifth Annual Champagne Day, a celebration of the sparkling wine from the only place from which “Champagne” is produced: Champagne, France.
Sponsored by the Champagne Bureau, Champagne Day seeks to remind consumers that while they can drink lovely sparkling wines from anywhere in the world, only wine produced in Champagne, France is truly Champagne.
The Champagne production zone (AOC vineyard area) is defined and delimited by the law of 22nd July 1927. Extending into the departments of the Marne (67% of plantings), Aube (23%), Aisne (9%), Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne, the zone is spread across 319 villages (‘crus’) of which 17 traditionally rank as ‘Grands Crus’ and 44 as ‘Premiers Crus’. Since 1927, only three grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, have been allowed in the production of Champagne, and account for nearly all the plantings in the region. Pinot noir accounts for 39% of Champagne’s surface area, followed by Meunier (33%) and Chardonnay (28%).
The name “Champagne” is legally protected in the European Union as well as many other countries, first by the Treaty of Madrid, which in 1891 reserved “Champagne” for the sparkling wine produced in the region of the same name and adhering to the standards defined for it as an Appellation d’origine contrôlée. The label-of-origin protection was reaffirmed in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles after World War I. But the U.S., under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson at the time, did not sign the Treaty because we were approaching Prohibition.
The 18th Amendment was approved by a 36th state on January 16, 1919, and then ratified as a part of the Constitution. By its terms, the United States went dry one year later, on Jan. 17, 1920. Production and consumption of the bubbly and anything else containing alcohol not relegated to Holy Communion was illegal for the next 13 years. Sad for Americans not friends with bootleggers like Atlantic City’s Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, now in its final season. (Thompson’s character is based on real Atlantic City bootlegger and influence peddler Enoch Lewis “Nucky” Johnson.) Viva la France!
Last year we marked Champagne Day with delightful pairings and sabering demonstrations. Champagne can pair with practically anything: cheese, smoked salmon, caviar, chocolates, strawberries, fresh fruit, and even potato chips, says Canada’s Most Quoted Wine Writer Natalie MacLean.
This year consumers across the U.S. will have many special opportunities to enjoy Champagne with a host of Champagne Day deals at retailers, bars and menu pairings at restaurants and other spontaneous celebrations. The Champagne Bureau, USA is also supporting the large Champagne social media conversation. Wine lovers around the globe are encouraged to blog, tweet, post and share their celebrations with using #ChampagneDay. Consumers can also send a Champagne Day greeting card to send good cheer and spread the word. Visit www.champagneis.com/ecard/ for information.
You may want to host a Champagne Day gathering yourself, complete with festive sabering. You have a few days to practice, so here’s our little video that shows you how to saber a bottle of champagne.
To find out where some of the events are happening and learn more about the worldwide effort to protect the Champagne name, visit the official Champagne Day event page on Event Bright ChampagneDay2014.