What is the definition of Champagne?
Champagne is a sparkling wine originated and produced in the Champagne wine region of France. The rules governing Champagne are strict, they demand specific vineyard practices, sourcing of grapes only from designated places in the region, specific grape-pressing methods, and the secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle (this is what causes the carbonation).
Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, and Chardonnay grapes are used to produce almost all Champagne, but small amounts of Pinot blanc, Pinot gris (AKA Fromenteau in Champagne), Arbane, and Petit Meslier are also used. It is generally not legal to use the word Champagne on the bottle, unless the bubbly was produced in accordance to the rules of the champagne district, or in some other isolated cases; where the word Champagne must include an indication of where the spirit was made. Mostly the words Sparkling Wine are used to label Champagne-like spirits.
Vintage vs Non-Vintage Champagne
Most of the Champagne produced today is "Non-vintage", meaning that it is a blended product of grapes from multiple seasons. Usually the base will be from a single season, with the distillers blending anywhere from 10-40% of wine from older vintages.
Under Champagne wine regulations, houses that make both vintage and non-vintage wines are allowed to use no more than 80% of the total vintage's harvest for the production of vintage Champagne.
This allows at least 20% of the harvest from each vintage to be reserved for use in non-vintage Champagne. This ensures a consistent style that consumers can expect from non-vintage Champagne that does not alter the taste much from year to year.
- Prestige cuvée Or cuvée de prestige
- A cuvée de prestige is a proprietary blended wine (usually a Champagne) that is considered to be the top of a producer's range. Commonly known examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle, and Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon. The first prestige cuvée available to the public was Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, launched in 1936 with the 1921 vintage. If you say Cristal, or Dom Perignon, everyone knows what you are talking about.
- Blanc de noirs
- A French term meaning "white from blacks" or "white of blacks" for a white wine produced entirely from black grapes — either pinot noir, pinot meunier or a blend of the two.
- Blanc de blancs
- A French term meaning "white from whites", and is used to designate Champagnes made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes or in rare occasions from Pinot blanc. The term is occasionally used in other sparkling wine-producing regions, usually to denote Chardonnay-only wines, rather than a sparkling wine made from other white grape varieties
- Rosé Champagne
- Rosé Champagnes are characterized by their blush color, fruity aroma, and earthy flavor. Rosé is produced by one of two methods. The first method, the producers leave the clear juice of dark grapes to macerate with the skins for a brief time, resulting in wine lightly colored and flavored by the skins. The second method, producers will blend a small amount of still red wine to a sparkling wine cuvée. Result from the 2nd method allows the production of rosé with a predictable and reproducible color, allowing winemakers to achieve a consistent rosé appearance from year to year. Because of the complex variety of flavors it presents, rosé Champagne is often served in fine dining restaurants, as a complementary element in food and wine pairing
- A blend of (generally) cane sugar and wine is added to adjust the levels of sugar in the Champagne when bottled. When the sweetness of the wine is adjusted, it changes how we taste the acidity in the wine. This also protects champagne from oxidation because it includes a bit of Sulfer Dioxide (SO2), and sugar also acts as a preservative, and contributes to the wine's aging potential. Wines labeled Brut Zero have no added sugar and will usually be very dry, with less The following terms are used to describe the sweetness of the wine, and list from Most Dry (Brut) to Most Sweet:
|Name||grams of sugar/liter in final product|
|Brut Zero||Less Than 3|
|Extra Brut||Less Than 6|
|Brut||Less Than 12|
|Extra Dry||between 12 and 17|
|Sec||between 17 and 32|
|Demi-sec||between 32 and 50|
- Champagne corks are mostly built from three sections. The mushroom shape that occurs in the transition is a result of the bottom section's being composed of two stacked discs of pristine cork cemented to the upper portion, which is a conglomerate of ground cork and glue. The bottom section is in contact with the wine. Before insertion, a sparkling wine cork is almost 50% larger than the opening of the bottle, starts out looking like a cylinder. The cork is compressed before insertion into the bottle. Over time, their compressed shape becomes more permanent and the distinctive "mushroom" shape becomes more apparent. The longer a cork has been in the bottle, the less it returns to its original cylinder shape
- Champagne etiquette
- Champagne is usually served in a Champagne flute, whose characteristics include a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides and an etched bottom. It is shaped especially for champagne, as the shape reduces the surface area, preserving carbonation. The tall narrow glass is also designed to increase the visibility of the bubbles. Champagne is always served cold; its ideal drinking temperature is 45 °F to 48 °F. Often the bottle is chilled in a bucket of ice and water, half an hour before opening, which also ensures the Champagne is less gassy and can be opened without spillage. Champagne buckets are made specifically for this purpose and usually have a larger volume than standard wine-cooling buckets, to accommodate the thicker bottles, and hold more water and ice
- Opening Champagne
- To reduce the risk of spilling or spraying any Champagne, the bottle is opened by holding the cork and rotating the bottle at an angle in order to ease out the stopper. This method, as opposed to pulling the cork out, prevents the cork from flying out of the bottle at speed which can injure someone. Also, holding the bottle at an angle allows air in and helps prevent the champagne from squirting out of the bottle. A sabre (sword) can be used to open a Champagne bottle with great ceremony. This technique is called sabrage (the term is also used for simply breaking the head of the bottle)
- Pouring Champagne
- Pouring sparkling wine while tilting the glass at an angle and gently sliding in the liquid along the side will preserve the most bubbles, as opposed to pouring directly down to create a head. Colder bottle temperatures also result in reduced loss of gas.
- Spraying Champagne
- Champagne has been an integral part of sports celebration since Moët & Chandon started offering their Champagne to the winners of Formula 1 Grand Prix events. At the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, winner Dan Gurney started the tradition of drivers spraying the crowd and each other. It is now widely used to celebrate the winner of almost every type of contest. The Muslim-majority nation of Bahrain banned Champagne celebrations on Formula 1 podiums in 2004, replacing it with a nonalcoholic pomegranate and rose water drink.
Common Champagne Bottle Sizes
|Name||Capacity (liters)||Equivalent Bottles||Approx|