Edit 02/09/11: Good news! Ratafia de Champagne has finally won official status as a product of the region and is to be given Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status by the INAO. Read more at www.thedrinksbusiness.com
Buy Ratafia de Champagne here.
Ratafia de Champagne is a natural aperitif drink made exclusively with fresh grape juice from the Champagne wine growing region fortified with spirit (grape brandy) also sourced from the region. It is a mistelle or vin de liqueur similar to Pineau des Charentes or Floc de Gascogne. 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”.
The etymology of the word Ratafia is believed to derive from the latin “Rata Fiat”. This phrase is used in Catholic wedding ceremonies to announce the official ratification of the marriage hence literally it means “it is ratified”. Thus Ratafia became the drink that was shared at such occasions and at the ratifications of treaties.
Ratafia de Champagne is not to be confused with “Ratafia” which is a liqueur (normally wine-based) or cordial flavoured with lemon peel and various herbs and spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, mint, rosemary and anise although this liqueur may have more in common with the orginal Ratafia than Ratafia de Champagne. Not to be confused with Ratafia biscuits either!
Ratafia de Champagne producers have been fighting for recognition and protection for their product since the 1970s, demanding its protection in 1988 without success. In January 2008 the decision was relegated further into the appendices of EU law. The association of producers of Ratafia de Champagne got together in January 2009 to fight for an IGP, an Indication Géographique Protégé for their product. If the Champenoise are unsuccessful the term Ratafia de Champagne could disappear in 2015. More information here (in French).
Distillerie Jean Goyard
Distillerie Jean Goyard is a family business founded by Jean Goyard. A true Burgundian and son of a peasant wine-grower, Jean Goyard began his conquest of the Champagne region in 1911 with two distilling machines towed behind lorries. Eventually he settled in Ay, in the heart of the wine growing area, and started out as an artisan-distiller, offering his services to wine growers and wine merchants. Over the decades, the business evolved from its artisan and travelling origins into the modern company today with premises in Ay and Mareuil sur Ay. The business has modernised, diversified and is now the specialist distillery for the Champagne wine growing area. Goyard was run as a family business until 2007 and is now owned by Cristal Union Group and the Cohesive Group.
Ratafia de Champagne Rubis 18%, Distillerie Jean Goyard
This cuvee owes its character to the subtle marriage of grape and eaux-de-vie (grape brandy) aged in oak barrels. It has sweet and spicy notes on the nose leading to flavours of candied fruit, grape and quince jelly on the palate. It has a magnificent smooth and creamy texture.
How to serve Ratafia de Champagne
Ratafia de Champagne can be served neat, chilled, not over ice as an aperitif and in cocktails. It is also a great match for food. It is a great match for foie gras, rich cheese such as Maroilles, Livarot, Munster , Epoisse and with a whole range of desserts.
Ratafia de Champagne Cocktails
Ratafia Rubis 5 cl
Orange Juice3 cl
1 dash of fresh lime juice
Serve and mix in a tumbler with ice and a slice or two of lime
Ratafia Rubis 4 cl
Pinapple Juice 3cl
Crème de Mûre (blackberry) 1 cl
Serve in a Champagne glass with a few ice cubes and some blackberries to garnish.