A sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of northeast France, primarily from the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. After the frst fermentation the special character of the wine is created during a second fermentation in the bottle, with the addition of sugar and yeast to create the famous bubbles. This process is called the méthode champenoise, or Champagne method, and it is the benchmark of style for sparkling wines-though the word “Champagne” can only be on wine made there. The major styles of Champagne are determined by sugar content, from the driest style Brut or Natural to Extra Dry to Demi Sec, and then the sweetest, Doux. Champagne is bottled as a vintage and nonvintage wine, the former of which must be made from no less than 80% grapes from the vintage date, and aged a minimum of 3 years.
Actually, the name “Champagne” is much more exclusive than many take it to be. Technically, only sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the area around the French city of Reims can be called this. True champagne is made according to a very specific method. The French call this the “méthode traditionelle champenoise”. The liquid is never transferred from bottle to bottle. The bottle you see on the store shelf is the same bottle it fermented in. By the way, Champagne was “invented” by someone you’ve probably heard of – the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon.
Instead of expensive champagne, you can mix your recipes with normal dry sparkling wine. The flavor difference is diminished when you mix with other ingredients.
The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Champagne appellation law only allows grapes grown according to appellation rules in specifically designated plots within the appellation to be used in the production of Champagne. Through international treaty, national law or quality-control/consumer protection related local regulations, most countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the Champagne appellation. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Other countries, such as the United States, maintain a legal structure that allows domestic producers of sparkling wine to use the term “Champagne” under limited circumstances. The majority of US-produced sparkling wines do not use the term “champagne” on their labels and some states, such as Oregon, ban producers in their states from using the term.
Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power in the 17th, 18th and 19th century. The leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging they sought to associate Champagne with high luxury, festivities, and rites of passage. Their efforts coincided with the emergence of a middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility.
With over 12,000 brands of champagne to choose from, there is certainly no lack of variety in the marketplace. You may be making your decision of what brand to choose based upon the price, the occasion and the type of champagne you are looking for. Whatever the criteria may be in choosing a particular brand of champagne, there is certainly a tremendous selection available.
There are four primary types of champagne. Non vintage (N.V.) is what is known as “house style” or “style de maison.” This type of champagne is usually a blend of 30 or 40 different kinds of wine and cannot be purchased until it is at least 15 months old.
The second type of champagne is known as vintage. Vintage champagnes are also a blend of different wines; however, the wines used in this blend are from a specific year. Vintage champagne cannot be purchased until it is 39 months old.
The third type is known as rose (pronounced rose-AY). This is defined by the red tint or hue added to the champagne. This hue is achieved by either adding a small amount of red wine to the champagne, or by saturating black grapes during the pressing process, allowing the skin of the grapes to give the champagne its color.
The fourth type of champagne is known as prestige cuvees. Prestige cuvee can be either a vintage or a nonvintage blend, but it is the highest-priced champagne available from a given champagne house. One of the most famous examples of a prestige cuvee champagne is Moet’s Dom Perignon.
Champagne Houses and Brands
Champagne houses create the different brands of champagne. Each house must adhere to specific criteria in order to be able to sell its product in the worldwide marketplace. The general criteria state that all houses must guarantee that their brand will partake in a “global strategy that includes making, selling and marketing” their champagne. Next, they must assure that their consumers will be informed of the champagne-making process. And finally, they must actively partake in wine production and research to insure improvement of their product while preserving the environment in connection with other champagne houses.
A short list of some of the most popular brands among the thousands available includes Charles Heidsieck, Moet & Chandon, Deligny Gerard, Piper Heidsieck, Gremillet, Joseph Perrier, Leroux-Mineau and Fournier Thierry.
Champagne is specifically a sparkling white wine, and the word champagne refers to the region in France where the wine is produced. Champagne is created by blending specific wines together to give the wine its superior flavor. Dom Perignon was a 17th-century Benedictine monk who is credited with creating champagne.
Preserving and Storing Champagne
The best way to store champagne while maintaining its effervescence is to place the bottle in a cool, dark place with an ideal temperature of 50 to 55 degrees. Depending upon the champagne, most types can be stored for up to two years. Champagnes have been aged prior to your purchasing them, so any additional storage time may contribute to the deterioration of the wine. To preserve the carbonation in an opened bottle of champagne, place a metal spoon in the neck of the bottle, or simply use a special pressurized bottle corker.
We selected 10 brands – 10 Champagne houses, the most famous of them all. Eight of them are listed in its book of the great wines and great farms of the world , Robert Parker , and two brands we’ve added to this list at its sole discretion, one – the “most Hollywood brand,” and another – “the most adrenaline sports.
So, the top ten:
1. The widow Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin)
2. Moët & Chandon (Moët & Chandon)
3. Dom Perignon (Dom Pérignon)
4. Roederer Louis (Louis Roederer)
5. Haydsik Piper (Piper-Heidsieck)
6. Mumm (GH Mumm)
7. Circle (Krug)
8. Paul Roger (Pol Roger)
9. Bollinzher (Bollinger)
10. Salon (Salon)