Not just beer

I guess the title is self explanatory. My interests are Not just beer but also other fermented/distilled beverages. I may home brew beer only but every time we get a chance to visit a winery or distillery I get fascinated by the similarities and differences of the production methods to beer.

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This time the visit was to the Champagne region in northern France. We visited two Champagne houses, one in Reims (pronouce Rãm) and another in Epernay (pronouce Eperne).

In Reims we visited Veuve Clicquot and it’s midle age caves (around 25km) where all whine is matured. The uniqueness about Veuve Clicquot is that Madame Clicquot actualy inventend the “le remuage” (riddling) and “le dégorgement” (disgorging) (techniques responsible for clarifying and removing the yeast from the wine bottles) in the beginning of the 19th century. And even though most of today’s champagne riddling and disgorging is done in machines at Veuve Clicquot they still do it manually for some special vintages and wines.

In Epernay we visited Moët & Chandon and the underground cellars (more than 100km) where the whine is matured. The difference at Moët & Chandon is it’s history being tightly connected to the kings and queens of Europe. The Emperor Napoleon was an usual guest at the house of Moët & Chandon and the house was the main supplier of wine to the British Royal family.

In the end what fascinated me in both visits is the patience, the time and the craftsmanship required to produce even the simplest of the wines and the similarities to Lambic/Gueze making. After all while most beer styles are ready for sale between 2 weeks to 2 months Champagne wine takes at least 3 years. Another particular aspect is that Champagne wine, like Lambic/Gueze, goes through a special unique blending each year to try to get to the same flavor every year requiring a very skilled cellar master and wine makers.

My conclusion is that brewers are actually the Anxious/Impatient beverage makers. Most brewers think that lagering a beer for 2 months is too much. Imagine doing that for 7 years (like on a special vintage of Champagne). We (brewers) definitely need to learn a thing or two about patience with our wine maker colleagues.