The program will be composed of the following 15 live webinars.
This is, in scope and design, the most comprehensive wine study program on Champagne bar none. Through this program, students will acquire a profound knowledge of the region and develop a greater sensory understanding of its wines.
1. Champagne History: Steve Charters MW
Champagne is a wine region whose character is shaped profoundly by its 2000 years of history. This webinar provides the historical context of the region by examining how it has evolved. We talk about the influence of the Romans and the sinking of the crayères, the development of the region as a centre of trade in the Middle Ages, and how champagne came to be sparkling. We also look at the refinement of champagne and the growth of exports – including the key influence of Germans, and relationships with the British, Russian and American markets.
2. Growing the grapes: Carl Sherman
In this webinar, we examine today’s key viticultural practices and challenges in the Champagne region. We begin with an overview of authorized grape varieties, both mainstream and grandfathered varieties. We outline issues of ripeness and examine how site selection, rootstock, vine management and yields all contribute to the maturity of the grape. In addition, we discuss how attitudes towards ripeness are being influenced by the advent of climate change and the trend towards organic and biodynamic viticulture. We also look at the primary maladies that exist in Champagne’s vineyards and the tools that growers use to combat them.
3. Sub-Regional Studies: Côte des Blancs & Montagne de Reims: Peter Liem
Champagne can be divided into distinct sub-regions based on the characteristics of the various terroirs. In this two-part webinar, we review the major sub-regional distinctions, beginning with the Côte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. For each sub-region, we examine soil type, exposition and climate and illustrate their impact by looking at the wines of key producers. In addition, we break down each sub-region further and discuss the individual characteristics of the major villages as well as relevant lieux-dits, or single parcels.
4. Sub-Regional Studies: Vallée de la Marne & other Sub-regions: Peter Liem
In the continuation of our sub-regional studies, we take a look at the Vallée de la Marne. This is a complex sub-region that deserves to be divided into three distinct parts: the Vallée de la Marne, the Grande Vallée, and the Coteaux Sud d’Epernay. We will also examine the Sézanne and the viticultural regions of the Aube in the southern portion of the appellation. As with the first sub-regional webinar, we will look at the broad terroir characteristics of each sub-region before focusing on narrower distinctions of village/vineyard and identifying the key producers of each.
5. Making Champagne and the Sensory Impact of Choices: Essi Avelan MW
In this webinar, we look at the process of making champagne and how it has evolved over the centuries. We look at the key innovations, particularly those at the end of the 19th century, that resolved problems in the production process and paved the way for a rapid expansion in volume. We examine each step in the process and discuss the options available to the producer and the sensory impacts of those decisions.
6. Blending and Balance: Essi Avelan MW
This webinar studies the role of blending to create balance, complexity and consistency as well as house style. The chef de cave utilizes various means to achieve these goals. He can change the grapes (and their proportions), the origin of those grapes, the amount and age of reserve wines incorporated, the time the wine spends maturing on its lees—and a host of other winemaking variables. We discuss the effects of multi-regional blending and the structural and aromatic influences of each variety in the blend.
7. House Styles : Essi Avelan MW
Each house of Champagne has a signature style created by varietal and multi-regional blending, use of reserve wines, ageing practices, and winemaking techniques. In this webinar, we define and discuss the house styles of the most significant champagne producers. The emphasis is on the analysis of the brut non-vintage and how the house NV style reflects upon the rest of each house’s range. To conclude, we summarize the examined house styles on a style matrix.
8. The Development and Organisation of the Champagne Industry: Steve Charters MW
This webinar places champagne, its styles and its success, in a context of how the industry is organised. We examine the recent history of the industry: the conflicts between the growers and houses, what this meant for wine styles and how resolution resulted in the formation of the CIVC. We consider the CIVC’s role and powers, which are unequalled elsewhere in the world of wine (including the protection of the name of champagne), and think about how the houses operate today and their relations with the growers.
9. The Growth of the Growers: Robert Walters
Récoltant manipulant, RM, grower champagne, farmers fizz – whatever you call it, this category is enjoying time in the spotlight. In this webinar, we look at why these wines have won the hearts of wine enthusiasts around the world and how their success has triggered change in the region. With many houses owning vineyards and successful growers expanding by buying grapes to meet demand, we explore the real differences between the growers and the big houses and consider the long-term future of the category.
10. Champagne and the World of Fizz: Essi Avellan MW
The world of sparkling wine is rapidly expanding. How does Champagne compare style-wise to the other major or up-and-coming sparkling wines? We examine Franciacorta, TrentoDoc, Cava, English sparkling wine and the most important traditional method sparkling wine regions in the New World. We also look at the key tank method sparkling wine styles, such as Prosecco and Riesling Sekt.
11. Champagne Who’s Who: Charles Curtis MW
In this webinar, we examine the importance of human influences in the evolution of Champagne starting with Dom Pérignon. We highlight the many entrepreneurs and pioneers who played a key role in promoting, marketing and selling champagne outside of France and helped create the modern Champagne market. We also examine how various crises, like phylloxera and two world wars, were overcome and who the influential figures were in the 20th century. Finally we look ahead at how the Champenois are facing up to the challenge that increased competition from other quality sparkling wine regions presents.
12. Branding, Distributing and Selling Champagne: Steve Charters MW
Champagne is one of the strongest territorial wine brands in the world, and the individual brands are equally formidable. In this webinar we consider both aspects as we explore the creation of the wine’s image and the marketing of champagne. Is champagne a wine or a luxury? Is it a wine of place or a branded wine? We go on to consider how champagne is distributed and presented around the world, its global market, and the changing character of the houses (public and private), the cooperatives and the vignerons.
13. Vintage, Prestige & Icon Cuvées: Charles Curtis MW
It has been said that too much champagne is drunk standing up. For the best wines in the region, however, one should sit down and pay attention: these are fabulous wines with food and worthy of extended aging. Everyone knows the top wines from the major houses, but there are also many amazing vintage wines produced throughout the region by small growers. This webinar will explore both the well-known and the little known, and will give an assessment of recent vintage and vintage wines.
14. What Price Champagne? Charles Curtis MW
The success of champagne has been based, in part, on its perception as a luxury good. Many wine lovers who would otherwise drink it daily, wonder “why does it cost what it costs?” This in-depth webinar begins with an exploration of all of the factors that contribute to the cost, from the land to the length of time on the lees, from marketing expenses to factors such as “blocage” and the 2008 expansion of the Champagne viticole. Everything impacts price. Lastly, we address the fascinating secondary market in champagne with an overview of collecting and investing in champagne.
15. The Changing Face of Champagne: Steve Charters MW
Champagne has shaped its history by continually reinventing itself. This process of change continues today, even though many Champenois believe they have a wine and an industry fixed in stone. New houses appear, cooperatives are more aggressively promoting their brands, and growers are focusing more and more on quality. Meanwhile a debate is quietly developing about the nature and importance of terroir. At the same time, external factors (new markets, global warming, a new focus on environmental issues) are forcing a re-evaluation of where and how champagne is made. This webinar considers all of these factors, and asks what champagne might look like in the decades to come.
15. The Changing Taste of Champagne: Patrick Schmitt MW
Although the major producers of branded Brut Non-Vintage Champagne are rightly proud of a consistent ‘house’ style, the taste of their blends has changed significantly over time. Using historical records, and originally-sourced detailed data going back to 1991, this webinar will consider how climate, viticulture and winemaking have affected the character of Champagne’s best-known and biggest-selling brands. Expect to find out how the cellar master and end-consumer have also played their part in shaping how famous Champagnes taste today, as well as the extent of change over a 25-year period, from altered sugar levels to changes in the proportion and age of reserve wines. The webinar will also consider whether Champagne has reached a satisfactory balance today, or whether further change is necessary, and likely.