Champagne, defined by the Oxford Dictionary, means a French sparkling white wine. Champagne defined by the world is a symbol of celebration. We find Champagne in the hands of our loved ones on New Year’s Eve, at college graduations, anniversaries, birthdays and other holidays. Champagne initiates the toast, begins the meal, congratulates the future – Champagne is a salute to something special.
What is Champagne? What makes it so special?
All Champagne is sparkling wine but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. In order to be labeled as Champagne your grapes must meet strict requirements. French law dictates the exact parameters, grapes permitted, the yield, and the method. The fruit must come from the Champagne region of France located in the northeastern part of France, an hour and a half from Paris.
The main varietals allowed are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Champagne made from 100% Chardonnay grapes is called Blanc de Blancs, indicating that it is a white wine made from white grapes. Blanc de Blancs are characterized by their crisp and clean flavors. Champagne made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes is called Blancs de Noirs, meaning it is a white wine made from black grapes. Blanc de Noirs are known to be full bodied, fruit forward, and sometimes even a little nutty. There are also Champagnes made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Pinot Meunier is a grape used mostly for blending
There is only one method permitted in curating Champagne, “Méthode Champenoise,” also referred to as, “Méthode Traditionelle.” This traditional method means that the wine went through a second fermentation, in the bottle, to produce its bubbles.
There are several ways producers display the vintage. NV (non-vintage) is a blend of vintages from different years. “Millesimé” or “great vintage” refers to champagne from a specific year.
The country of France continues to keep close guard around Champagne laws so that the standards do not diminish. This is what makes Champagne so special. The sparkling wine we identify as Champagne is a delicacy we raise a glass to around the world.
A votre santé!