Hugh Johnson: the Story of Champagne Essay

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Mr. Johnson started the video off by talking about how we all celebrate with champagne when we can. He ask the question, “What is champagne and how did it come to be so different?” To start with; it’s a place, a region northeast of Paris, which is the northernmost area in France to grow wine. The growing conditions of the grapes in this region has a lot to do with the soil and the climate. The ground is white chalky soil which reflects the sunlight onto the vines which will assist with the ripening of the grapes. The drainage is very good and roots grow deep into the ground. These conditions are very good for fine wine. The chalky ground in this area also has a huge advantage by allowing for the digging of cellars to store the champagne. The temperature never varies in these cellars. Miles and miles of cellars under Reims were dug by the Romans over two thousand years ago. Champagne is divided into villages that grow black grapes and villages that grow white grapes. Both of these grapes are used to make white wines. Blending these two types of grapes together is the secret of making champagne. The white grapes are the Chardonnay. It’s obvious that you can make white wine with Chardonnay grapes, but how do you do it with black grapes? Mr. Johnson explained that you must use extreme care when doing so. You have to make sure that the black grapes are not rotten, because if they are, they will give a pink tint to the wine which would affect the white champagne. Dom Perignon was a perfectionist when it came to separating the bad grapes from the good ones. This act was known as triage. In the past there used to be a long line of ladies that would be responsible for triaging the grapes, but today you have a better system in place to get the grapes to the press house a lot quicker. The presses that were used to extract the juice without the color were unique to champagne.

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