Many people call any sparkling white wine Champagne. While it’s become widely “accepted”, there is no such thing as “Italian Champagne”. Just like Highlander – there can be only one.
In order for wine to be called Champagne, it must:
1. Be effervescent (bubbly).
2. Be produced in the Champagne region of France.
3. Be made of either pinot noir, pinot meunier or chardonnay grapes.
How is Champagne made?
The juices of the above grapes are fermented. At a point, the fermentation is slowed down. Then the wine is cooled in cellars to stop the fermentation completely. The wine is chilled for a winter and is bottled in the spring. The key here is to bottle the wine sooner than you would think. The reason for this is that the wine will continue to ferment in the bottle. Extra sugar and yeast is added to egg on the process. This secondary fermentation results in gas that dissolves in the wine and after a minimum of two years, it’s officially champagne. This process of double fermentation was discovered by Dom Perignon (a monk) and now the namesake for one of the genre’s most famous sparklers.
Non-vintage: 15 months – A blend containing wines from multiple past harvests.
Vintage: 3 years
Cuvees: Specially selected vintages or blends of various special vintages.
Blanc de Blancs: Made from Chardonnay grapes.
Blanc de Noirs: Made from pinot noir or pinot meunier (dark grapes).
Cremant: (One of my favorites) gently sparkling champagne.
Grand Cru: Coming from one or more of the top 17 villages in the Champagne region.
Rose: Blended with still red wine and sparkling white from the Champagne region.
Brut: super dry
Extra Brut: very dry
Sec: Dry with a touch of sweetness
Doux: Medium-sweet to sweet
A Rose by Any Other Name (Is not Champagne, but can be very nice too)
Asti Spumanti: A Sweet Italian sparkling white wine, made of moscato grapes from Asti in Piedmont.
Cava: A Spanish sparkling white wine from Catalonia made in the methode champenoise.
Prosecco: A dry Italian sparkling white wine made of Prosecco grapes from the Veneto region.
Sekt: A German sparkling white wine made of riesling and chardonnay.
Sparkling: Lots of it made in California, Mexico and other countries.
Most Champagne should be drank in its infancy (unless you can find some amazing stuff).
Store your Champagne is a cool, dry place at 56 degrees.
Chill the Champagne 2 hours before serving and serve at no higher than 46 degrees.
The pressure in the bottle makes opening Champagne dangerous. That “pop” sound is NOT desireable. Grab a dish rag and cover the cork. Hold the cork firmly and twist slowly until the cork is loosened.
Skip the old fashioned wide rim glass. Flutes will help you preserve the bubbles (perlage) longer.