Ratafia de Champagne is a natural drink made exclusively with fresh grape juice from the Champagne wine growing region fortified with spirit (grape brandy) also sourced from the region. After the grape juice is fortified the Ratafia de Champagne is then aged in barrel. The sweetness of the sugar in the grapes, their flavours, the spirit and the barrels all interact to produce the mellow, amber coloured liquid recognisable as Ratafia de Champagne. It originally originated in the 13th Century mainly as a method for preserving grape juice. The author of The Count of Montecristo and The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas, was one of the biggest fans of Ratafia and wrote about it as an “incomparable elixir”.
With many of the smaller artisanal producers you find usually tucked away in a corner of the wine cellar an old oak barrel or two producing Ratafia de Champagne. Yes, proud they are of their Champagne and it’s their main focus for business, but sometimes an excitement stirs in the wine maker when they introduce their ratafia and await your thoughts on its taste.
Ratafia is a liqueur and usually around 18% alcohol content. No fizz in this drink but a creamy and smooth tasting sweet liqueur expressing plenty of grape juice, almonds, marzipan and ripe fruits. It can be served as an aperitif, as well as a being enjoyed as a dessert drink. It can be the ideal ingredient for many cocktails, used instead of a Vermuth.
Production is limited to 15 million bottles, which makes up around six percent of the total Champagne AOC.