Champagne Gift Guide

 

Find Champagne for anyone on your list! Take the quiz above, then browse the results: Pascal Redon Brut Tradition, Jean Baillette-Prudhomme Rosé de Saignée, JM Goulard Paul Tradition Magnum, Gimonnet-Oger Blanc de Blancs Millésime 2002, and Alexandre Lenique Cuvée Excellence Brut. As always, contact us for customized gift ideas and pairing suggestions.

How Champagne is Made

Fat Cork Club – Join Now!

 

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 Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


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.

How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


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!
How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


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.

How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


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.

How Champagne is Made

 


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.

How Champagne is Made How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

How Champagne is Made

 


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

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!

 

Champagne and Food Pairings

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 Food Pairings

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.

Champagne and Food Pairings

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 Food Pairings

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.

Champagne and Food Pairings

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.

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.

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

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. 
2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

2016 Champagne Harvest

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!

2016 Champagne Harvest

 

 

What is “Special Club” Champagne?

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.

Before & After: Our New Champagne cave!

We’re proud to show off our newly remodeled Champagne cave, and we’re humbled by the support that has allowed us to grow!

Before & After: Our New Champagne cave!

Before & After: Our New Champagne cave!

Before & After: Our New Champagne cave!

Before & After: Our New Champagne cave!

Before & After: Our New Champagne cave!

FC Club Members! If you’re planning a trip to Seattle (or live here now!), schedule a private, complimentary tasting in our Champagne cave! Simply email FCClub@Fatcork.com two weeks before your visit to make arrangements.

 

Bryan stars on New Day Northwest!

 

Fat Cork was on New Day Northwest! Bryan sat down with New Day Northwest host, Margaret Larson, to teach a Champagne lesson and tell the story of Fat Cork on live TV.

Millésime 2008 – Our New Favorite Vintage

Millésime (Vintage):

Unique among Champagnes, Vintage Champagne is produced solely from grapes harvested in a single year and only in exceptional vintages. Aging requirements increase and producers must age these wines for a minimum of three years prior to release—many will age considerably longer. At Fat Cork, some of our producers choose to age as much as twenty years by disgorging upon demand. The finished wines are rich and complex but still retain a freshness that belies their actual age.

The 2008 Vintage at a glance:

In the Champagne region, perfectly ripened grapes are never a guarantee. Weather, and as a result, vintage varies greatly from year to year. The 2008 vintage got off to a rocky start with a cool, damp spring. Summer weather rebounded and the exceptional harvest conditions in September resulted in grapes with wonderful acidity and perfect ripeness.

In our recent tastings, we were impressed by the abundance of fruit and acidity that the wines possessed. The charm of this vintage is twofold as the acidity and structure allow for long-term cellaring but the abundance of fruit means it can be readily enjoyed now.

 

The 2008 Collection

Millésime 2008 – Our New Favorite Vintage
Grongnet Special Club Millésime 2008 ($84) In your glass, the color of this vintage beauty is straw with a tinge of yellow. The aromas and flavors are bright with yellow apple, lime, lemon curd and white pineapple – a lively expression of fruit and acidity. The finish is beautiful, mouthwatering, lasts for what seems like months and leaves you wanting more.

Millésime 2008 – Our New Favorite Vintage
Pascal Redon Millésime 2008 Premier Cru ($64) This wine reflects the generosity of the 2008 vintage. The color is a pale yellow with a slight coppery tone. Aromas of ripe red apple, Bosc pear, citrus and chalk nearly leap from the glass. This wine will not be ignored! The delightful finish leaves a lasting impression of lemon and lime balanced by refreshing acidity.

Millésime 2008 – Our New Favorite Vintage
Hervieux Dumez Special Club Millésime 2008 ($78) The first thing you notice is the near brilliant color reflecting straw and streaks of green. As Bryan brought the glass to his nose he remarked “it smells like Champagne!” Funny, we know, but it isn’t always that way. Aromas of chalk, citrus, apple skin and cherry stone fill the senses. On the palate the flavors are full and rich with the addition of ripe yellow apple and hazelnut, highlighted by a creamy texture. The finish is bright with acidity, so fresh and so clean.

 

 

 

 

 

FC Club Featured in Seattle Magazine!

We are honored to have our name in the latest issue of Seattle Magazine! Our FC Club was named one of Seattle Magazine’s favorite local subscriptions. Check out the full feature here! 

 

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

We had an amazing week of vineyard tours, educational seminars, and Champagne tastings with Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme! We had the pleasure of hosting our producer, Laureen, her mother, Marie-France, and our business partner, Cristina.

We started the week with dinner at the Maletis home to celebrate our French guests’ arrival!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

 

Marie France, Laureen, Cristina, Abby, and Bryan, hosted a Champagne Seminar at Fat Cork. Laureen led a wonderful educational course on her family’s history and production methods, and even brought pink aprons from her Champagne house for our team to wear!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

 

We hosted a Champagne reception with Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme Tavolàta for our Seattle customers. The team at Tavolàta prepared amazing French fare that paired with each cuvée in the Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme collection.

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

 

Cheryl at Pix Pâtisserie hosted us for a lovely afternoon Champagne tasting in Portland!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

 

While in Oregon, we toured the amazing Eyrie Vineyards with Jason Lett. After our tour, we enjoyed a lovely lunch; Jason Lett made us duck and fresh morels, and even spoke perfect French the entire visit!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

 

We also enjoyed a tour of ROCO Winery with the wonderful Rollin Soles!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

 

While in Oregon, we had dinner at The Dundee Bistro with Rollin & Corby Soles of ROCO Winery, our French producers, and Dick, Nancy, and Luisa Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards!

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!

 

We ended the week at the Sparkling Wine Symposium at Ponzi Vineyards. Bryan and Laureen were honored to be featured on the panel among sparkling wine experts to teach other industry members about bubbly.

Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme’s Visit to the PNW!