Saturday, March 25, 2023

The Knights of Champagne

 The Champagne brand is associated with all things elegant & extravagant

The Champagne brand is the most protected wine brand in the world.  This careful and arduous protection is done by a group of modern-day-knights known as the CIVC (Comité Interprofessional de Vins de Champagne).  The CIVC is actively involved around the world in protecting the Champagne brand.

                                    The CIVC is a formidable force in protecting the brand

The CIVC was formed in 1941.   The German army had marched into the Champagne district and its commanders demanded all of the sparkling wine be given to them.  Local wine producers banded together to protect themselves and were able to negotiate partial gifting (much of what was given was of a lesser quality, but cleverly passed off as "premier").  After the war, this group morphed into the CIVC.  One of their important functions is still to protect Champagne, but in this era it’s from invaders of a different type---brand invaders. 


Champagne is a brand.  It is a powerful brand.  The mere name connotes luxury.  Many would consider Champagne the globe’s most important wine, therefore, any intrusions on the Champagne name are serious offenses.   The CIVC has a cadre of attorneys around the world acting as knights in legal armor.

                        Not even fellow luxury brand Yves Saint Laurent could escape the CIVC

There have been dozens of lawsuits won by the CIVC regarding brand infringement.   Some of them have been against major corporations.  Take for example, Yves Saint Laurent, another French brand synonymous with extravagance.  The CIVC pounced on YSL over its perfume, Champagne.   The perfume had to be removed from the market.

Less well known companies have also felt the legal force of the CIVC.  Businesses producing such items as a lingerie line called Champagne, or Champagne candy in the shape of a cork, are no longer in business. Chinese beer manufacturers calling their products the “Champagne of Beer,” no longer abuse the brand of Champagne after their tangle with the CIVC legal beagles.  There have been cigarettes, toothpaste, and even cola called Champagne.  They no longer exist thanks to the CIVC.

Coming on the September 2024 tour next year to Champagne with Wine-Knows?   We will have a private seminar at the CIVC with one of its Directors.   There are 3-4 spots available on this trip.

Burgundy & Champagne – Wine-Knows Travel (

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Person Who Changed the Course of Champagne

                                        Veuve Clicquot's cellars will be visited in next year's trip

If you’re thinking Dom Perignon (whom many mistakenly attribute as the person who invented Champagne), think again.   Fast forward 150 years to the early 1800’s.   The person who undeniably changed everything for Champagne was Veuve Clicquot…whose name translates to the 'widow' Clicquot. 

                                              The widow Clicquot was a formidable force

Madame Clicquot was widowed unexpectedly at the age of 27 with a six year-old child.   The year was 1805, and veuve Clicquot was left with her husband’s  company which was involved in banking, wool trading and Champagne production.  In this era it was unthinkable for a woman to work outside the home, and it was simply unimaginable for a women to run a business.  The fact that the woman was from a wealthy family (who were friends of Napoleon), made it all that much more inconceivable that she would run a business.

The widow Clicquot broke all of the stereo-types of women in her day.  Never-mind that France was in the middle of the Napoleonic wars.  Not only did she run her husband’s business but she took all facets of the company to new soaring heights…especially the Champagne part of it.   Here are just a few of her many contributions that championed an entire Champagne industry:


                  "Riddling" bottles was a game-changer for marketing a beautifully clear Champagne

  • The widow Clicquot developed a process (“riddling”) which turned the unappealingly cloudy Champagne into a brilliant clear wine.
  • Veuve was the first Champagne producer to sell wine outside of France…her customers were the Royal families of Europe.
  • Madame Clicquot pioneered the making of Rosé Champagne.
  • Widow Clicquot was the first person to use colored labels…all labels at this time were white.


Today, the much-heralded Champagne company still bears her name, Veuve Clicquot.   Travelers who will be joining Wine-Knows’ September 2024 tour next year may even have the opportunity to see Madame Clicquot’s office, left much as it was after her death in 1856.   You’ll also have a private tour and tasting at the winery.   There are 3-4 spaces remaining on this harvest trip to Champagne, Burgundy and Provence.

Burgundy & Champagne – Wine-Knows Travel (

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Do You Know How Champagne Differs from Other Bubblies?

                                   Cava & Champagne have many similarities...and differences 

The month of March on this blog will feature three articles on Champagne.  The first of the trio identifies how Champagne differs from other sparklers.

There is a plethora of sparkling wines available from around the world.   While Champagne is generally the most expensive of them all, is there even a difference between it Cava, Prosecco, Crémant, Sekt, Fizz and the array of other bubblies?   There are definitely differences, so let’s jump right to the most important point.

                          The Champagne wine district is located 100 miles east of Paris

Legally, Champagne can only be called Champagne if it is produced in a specific demarcated region in France called Champagne.   These laws are strictly enforced by a barrage of world-wide attorneys hired by the French Champagne Wine Association.   In short, the name Champagne is based totally upon a geographic location in a specific wine district of France---it has nothing to do with a winemaking style.

The Champagne Wine Association sued YSL for                                                  brand infringement & won!

There are more differences between Champagne and sparkling wines, however, other than geography.  Below are some of the major differences:

Champagne, by law, can only be made from 3 grapes:  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier.  This is not true with other sparkling wines, many of which are made from completely different grapes.

           Yeasts during secondary fermentation create bubbles & add complex flavors

Champagne, by law, must be made with a secondary fermentation in the bottle.  Most of us know that all wine is made by alcoholic fermentation (where yeasts turn the sugar in grapes to alcohol.)  Champagne, however, requires a second fermentation called methode Champenoise.  This second fermentation occurs when yeasts are purposely added to regular wine and the bottle is then tightly capped with a pressure resistant top.   Carbon dioxide, produced by these yeast, is what gives sparkling wine its bubbles.  

                  Special tanks, made for the addition of carbon dioxide gas, are used in Prosecco

While other sparkling wines, such as Cava, are produced by using a second fermentation, not all bubblies are created by a second fermentation.  For example, in the case of Prosecco, carbon dioxide is added to large stainless steel vats to create the bubbles.   Both Cava and Prosecco also use completely different grapes than those used in Champagne.

Crémant, a sparkling wine produced using a second fermentation in many regions of France (other than Champagne), differs from Champagne because Crémant has less atmospheric pressure in its bottles---this translates to softer bubbles.  It should also be noted that Crémant is often made from entirely different grapes than used in Champagne.  For example, in Alsace, Crémant can be made from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and even Riesling.

In summary, Champagne differs from other bubblies because it is based upon a specific geographical location, and there are very stringent rules within the Champagne appellation on how this sparkling wine is produced.