Champagne and its people
Whole lives devoted to this outstanding wine
Know-how passed down through the generations
A people dedicated to their land
Champagne owes much to the generosity of nature. But it is also thanks to the dedication and hard work of the Champagne community that it has become such an iconic wine today.
Through the centuries, they have shaped, worked, sustained and cared for this terroir and these vines. They have built up a whole industry around the wide variety of trades that represent complementary interests and areas of expertise.
These men and women working in Champagne have passed their knowledge, their know-how and their values down through the generations, and that is what makes Champagne wines what they are today: multi-faceted, diverse and luxurious beyond compare.
All sorts of professionals are involved, whether directly or indirectly, in making Champagne. The winegrower tends the vine, pruning it, working the land and trellising; the cellar master works literally in the shadows to watch over the Champagne-making process, rotating the bottles, disgorging the sediment and bottling the wine… On this page, you can find out more about what the jobs of the winegrower, cellar master and oenologist entail.
The winegrower, the vine guardian
Champagne winegrowers are guided by a philosophy, a state of mind: that of experimenting and turning what nature has given them to best advantage. Their work is the fruit of a legacy passed down through generations. Over time, they have successfully adapted to bring the best out of this unique terroir, in a climate that can at times be harsh and has often severely tested the vines.
This mentality is also demonstrated today in a commitment to protecting nature. This has always been a key concern for winegrowers, who know from experience that nature is both fragile and unpredictable. But the need to protect the environment is now more pressing than ever at a time when new societal challenges are emerging. Since the early 2000s, the industry has been committed to a sustainable viticulture programme. This collective initiative has already halved the use of plant protection products in the vineyards.
Wholeheartedly dedicated to their profession, they are also technical experts. Their skills are apparent in every task they accomplish, starting with the basis of good vine husbandry: pruning. This guarantees a healthy vine which will produce an abundant crop next season.
New technologies are making some vineyard tasks easier, but much of them are still done by hand. A winegrower’s knowledge is irreplaceable when it comes to many technical tasks, including desuckering, trellising or grape picking – which is done entirely by hand in Champagne.
Winegrowing is also about prescience in terms of the development of the grape’s sensory characteristics: under the combined action of several factors (grape variety, soil and subsoil type, sunlight, etc.), each plot in the vineyard will develop a range of aromas and a potential for the future wine that will be unique to it.
The cellar master and the oenologist, custodians of the harmony and balance of Champagne wines
Once the grapes are ripe and have been picked, they are taken to the pressing centre. To become Champagne, they will go through various stages which, each in turn, will shape the wine, developing its personality and profile.
The future potential of each Champagne is harboured deep within the grapes: the cellar master and the oenologist form an essential team and, together, must tap into this diversity, adapting to it to craft a Champagne in keeping with the signature style of the House.
There is a delicate balance to be struck, between the wine and the effervescence. The effervescence should magnify the wine, elevate it: without ever overpowering or overshadowing it.
Champagne is above all about the art of blending. This is another stage where cellar masters and oenologists strive jointly to find the perfect match. Through the marriage of wines with different characteristics, they seek to create a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. One with a carefully balanced harmony of notes in which no one note is dominant. This sense of balance is not found naturally and could not exist without the intervention of Champagne’s dedicated teams.
In smaller wineries, the role of winegrower, cellar master and oenologist is assumed by one and the same person: the Grower.
A number of groups, associations and brotherhoods in Champagne strive daily to protect and perpetuate the Champagne-making traditions in the future and to continue promoting the designation and defend its image.