Global Champagne Day occurs on 18 October but we're fans of the bubbly drink year-round. There are few people that know their bubbles better than Champagne Lanson’s managing director for UK & North America, Paul Beavis, so we sat down with him to find out more about everyone's favourite celebratory tipple.
For nearly 260 years, the multi-award-winning House of Lanson has been crafting fine Champagne using a traditional method in Reims, France.
From its most popular classic range to the exceptional Extra Age and Noble Cuvée ranges, Lanson has crafted Champagnes for many different tastes and occasions. Lanson is known as the perfect ‘aperitif’ Champagne because of its unique taste that is fresh and mouth-watering, with an exceptional purity of fruit which prepares the palate for food.
We sat down with Paul Beavis to talk about grapes, the Champagne-making process, Wimbledon and Queen Victoria.
Can you tell us about the traditional Champagne wine-making process?
“The Champagne region is a strictly defined area of France encompassing over 600 villages in five different departments. However, the viticultural appellation (the cultivation of grape vines) is even more restricted, and only 318 of these villages have the right to produce the wine called Champagne. Therefore, Champagne, the wine, can only come from Champagne, the region, and in the European Union, as well as those countries who have agreed to reciprocal arrangements with the E.U., the use of the word Champagne to refer to any other products in the sparkling category is strictly forbidden.
“Champagne must be made from any combination of three main grape varieties grown in the Champagne region: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Two of these are red, yet Champagne is usually pale lemon in colour. When the harvest is over and the grapes have been pressed, the grape ‘must’ (juice) is stored in cellars according to grape type and villages.”
What methods are used when making Champagne?
“At the beginning of following year after the harvest, the wines complete the first fermentation and the winemaker begins to craft and blend with a selection of base wines. The key differentiator in Champagne is the secondary fermentation process. The wines are bottled and blended with a small mixture of yeast and sugar in order to initiate the second fermentation. This mixture is called the ‘Liqueur de Tirage’. The wines are then aged for a period of time on the lees. At Lanson, we age our Champagnes for a minimum of three years (as opposed to the minimum legal requirement of 18 months) because of our commitment to tradition and quality.”
What makes a great bottle of Champagne?
“We are fortunate to benefit from a distinctive microclimate and particularly chalky soil in Reims and we even have our very own walled vineyard where we produce our vintage Clos Lanson. We are also a Grand Marque Champagne House, which means that we are able to source the very best Grand and Premier Cru vineyards crus from the Champagne region including Avize, Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger, Ay, Chouilly, Cramant, Verzenay and Bouzy. For us as a brand, it’s all about consistency and taste.”
How long should we store our Champagne?
“When you receive a bottle of Lanson, because it has already been aged for a minimum of between three to nine years (if it’s a vintage), it is already in optimum condition. However, we would also suggest that our non-vintage Champagne can be kept for a further three to four years; and between five to 10 years for our vintages.”
What is your oldest variety of Champagne?
“We are in a somewhat privileged position to have a Vintage Collection dating back to the early 1930s. However, each year, a small number of bottles from 1976 and beyond are proposed to a restricted circle of our private customers, connoisseurs on a quest for oenological (the science and study of wine) emotions. Each vintage in our collection is a work of art and is blended with passion and devotion.”
What is unique about this Champagne House?
“We do have an unusual fact: we are proud to be one of a small selected number of Champagne Houses to have been awarded a Royal Warrant. The House of Lanson was bestowed such an award in 1901, by Queen Victoria, making us one of the oldest and first Official Champagne Supplier to the Royal Household, which we continue to supply to, to this day.
“Another significant partnership for our brand is that we are also the Official Champagne Supplier at The Championships, Wimbledon, where 24,000 bottles of our Champagnes are purchased each year during the fortnight of the tournament. We also celebrated our 42nd year in partnership with the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club this year.”
How should we fully enjoy the drink?
“We have produced a really light-hearted and useful ‘Little Black Book of Champagne’ – if you register with us at champagnelanson.com you will receive a free copy. It is full of useful information, facts, hints and tips, and provides you with an insight into every aspect of Champagne. It’s the ideal bite-size book and/or perfect gift for someone who is keen to know more about Champagne.”
What food pairings would you recommend with a particular bottle of Lanson?
“All of our Champagnes have a unique style profile, but here are a few tips for you to consider. We always recommend that you start with our Black Label. We think that our Rose Label is the perfect accompaniment to fish, salads and fresh red berry desserts; our Gold Label pairs beautifully with dishes such as white meat and/or fish; our Green Label is organic so pairs beautifully with most light main courses and our Noble Cuvée Brut is a wonderful partner with any game dish.”
How should we properly taste Champagne?
“It’s imperative that you start with the right glassware. We believe the ‘tulip’ glass works best for Champagne. All great wines need to open up and breathe, so the right glassware is vital for this to happen. Champagne ‘flutes’ and ‘saucers’ are great for fun Champagne moments. But, ultimately, Champagne is all about enjoyment, sharing with family and friends and above all else, celebrations and magical moments.”
If all this talk of Champagne has made your mouth water and you’d like to have a glass of Champagne Lanson, head to The Amicable Society of Lazy Ballerinas, The Lampery or Off the Wall Bar & Grill in our London hotels.