Nothing says it’s a celebration like Champagne! Given that we’re deep into the holiday season, people tend to be more immersed in the creature comforts and lots of them. Hence, this felt like a fitting time to discuss a bit of the history and merits of this iconic beverage.
There seems to be a plethora of events that call for popping open a bottle of Champagne – holidays, weddings, a victory at NASCAR, getting the dishes done, etc. Whatever the occasion, Champagne makers want to make it very clear that every recipe, every ingredient and every effort that goes into producing that bubbly elixir is summed up in one word: quality.
By definition, Champagne is a wine that must be made in the Champagne region of France. According to the Bureau Du Champagne, there are many sparkling wines produced around the world, but the Champagne name can only be used on a label if the wine is made from grapes grown and harvested, under strict controls, in the French region that bears the name Champagne – everything else might as well come out of a faucet.
Historically, wine makers in France have always been possessive of the Champagne name. For decades, Champagne producers, and governing bodies alike, have gone to great lengths to preserve the authenticity of the name and product. As such, it can be made from only three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and/or Pinot Neunier. Therefore, if it says Champagne on the bottle, there can only be Champagne in the bottle.
Preserving the Champagne name and legacy has never been easy. Beginning in the early 1930s, regulatory bodies were established, dissolved, reassembled, replaced, reorganized and renamed, all for the purpose of ensuring that wines called Champagne were the genuine article. The current regulatory body is the Comite Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), which holds Champagne producers to rigid regulatory guidelines for quality and authenticity.
At its very essence, Champagne is not merely a beverage. For most people, popping the cork on a bottle of Champagne, letting half of the contents flow out like a geyser and taking that first sip of the crystalline nectar is nothing shy of euphoria. Champagne recipes have been penned, perfected and honed with precision over decades, with but one objective – the fulfillment of consumer expectations. Winston Churchill famously punctuated this notion in 1918, when he said, “Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne.”
All romanticism aside, in addition to tightly governing the production and quality processes of Champagne, regulatory bodies, such as the CIVC, continually explore new techniques for continuous improvement. Regulatory oversight of quality processes begins with grape pruning and parallels every phase of production, including product labeling. This level detail reveals that quality management is a preeminent aspect of Champagne making.
Despite operating under a stringent regulatory microscope, wine-makers are eager to comply with the guidelines. Coupled with the authenticity of their label, those in the industry are driven by maintaining their reputation of producing a widely respected product. In fact, many wine-makers go above and beyond the requirements set up by the regulatory bodies. As with all regulated products, simply following the guidelines for compliance doesn’t always guarantee a quality product.
Like the CIVC, all global regulatory bodies are in place to ensure regulations are strictly observed and that quality is articulated in production processes. Consumers of products legitimately expect a certain level of quality and performance.
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In the early days of Champagne making, wine producers likely faced plenty of challenges in making sure every drop of their product adhered to the highest standards. For example, as with all regulated products, demonstrating compliance involves comprehensive and accurate documentation. When it came to quality processes, wine-makers in France held fast to the industry tenet that if something is not documented, the product had to be made by somebody else.
Regulations required specific techniques to ensure that all wines labelled Champagne were created through similar methods. Hence, wine-makers were tasked with manually documenting every procedure, from cultivating vineyards, sowing and gathering the correct grapes, and assembling the proper blend of ingredients in every bottle.
Maintaining the proper documentation in preparation for audits couldn’t have been too difficult for the early Champagne makers. For example, making changes was probably just a matter of scribbling out a section and rewriting it in the margin, followed by an equally seamless review process:
Much to the delight of Champagne consumers everywhere, efforts to continue preserving the Champagne name and product integrity are still ongoing. Fortunately, Champagne producers today have technology at their disposal, which makes maintaining that long-established legacy of quality considerably easier. As competition escalates and regulatory guidelines become more stringent, a digital quality management solution, such as MasterControl, ensures continuous audit-readiness and compliance.
As we raise our glasses in celebration throughout this holiday season, let us also toast those dedicated Champagne producers. May they forever preserve their legacy of quality and may they forever succeed in making their fabulous products faster and more efficiently by implementing a digital quality management solution.
David Jensen is a marketing communication specialist at MasterControl. He has been writing technical, marketing and public relations content in technology, professional development, business and regulated environments for more than two decades. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Weber State University and a master’s degree in professional communication from Westminster College.