Champagne is actually sparkling wine that comes from a place called Champagne in France. If it is bubbly from another region or country, it is not called champagne anymore. It is called sparkling wine.
Champagne is generally used as a generic term for any sparkling wine. However, the French have maintained their right to call wines produced in the northeastern region of France as champagne. In fact, there was a treaty signed to protect this right! The Treaty of Madrid, which was signed in 1891, established this law and the Treaty of Versailles reaffirmed this.
Today, we’ll discuss all you need to know about champagne! Read on to start your journey to becoming a champagne expert!
Is sparkling wine the same as champagne?
To put it simply, all champagne is sparkling wine but not all sparkling wine is champagne!
There are several types of sparkling wine of which, champagne is the most common. Other types of sparkling wine include prosecco, cava, sekt and American sparkling wine.
Prosecco is from Italy and made from the glera grape. Cava on the other hand, is Spanish sparkling wine made from a mix of macabeu, parellada and xarello grapes. Sekt is the German version of sparkling wine and as the name American sparkling wine already states, is from America.
However, champagne is only called champagne if and when the bottle comes from the Champagne region in northeastern France.
To identity and tell the difference between sparkling wine and champagne, all you need to know is the region it is produced.
Only certain grapes that are planted in France, can be used to make champagne. Sparkling wines are not held to the same restrictions as champagne.
Pricing of champagne and sparkling wine
Why is champagne so expensive? Sparkling wines are often more affordable than champagne. Champagne can cost thousands of dollars!
It all depends on the quality of the grapes used to produce these drinks.
To choose the best bubbles for your party, it is best to take note of what you would like to get out of it instead. If you prefer higher quality sparkling wine, it is best to go with champagne. However, if you need to take into consideration a budget, sparkling wine is less expensive but of lower quality.
What is champagne made of?
Champagne is made out of three predominant grape varieties which are:
- Pinot Noir
These three champagne grapes make up 99.7 percent of the wine region’s grapes. The other grapes that make up the 0.3% consists of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Arbanne and Petit Meslier grape varieties.
Among the three most popular grape varieties, the Pinot Noir is the most popular, covering 38% of the wine-region.
What is the flavour of champagne?
Champagne cannot be described as a taste. It is an experience for all our senses. The colour, aroma, texture, flavour and even sound is important to best experience champagne.
To analyze the five senses when it comes to champagne, it involves:
The sound made by champagne is the first clue to the bottle’s identity. When the cork is released, a gentle hiss usually follows.
You can even judge the quality of the bottle from the sound it makes once it is poured.
Champagne is aromatic in a subtle manner. Every bottle has a distinct smell of fruity, floral, wooded or spicy notes.
To fully appreciate the aroma of the champagne, you must allow time for it to open and release its first impression. Some time later, a deeper and more complex aroma will appear.
These aromas also indicate the type of grapes used.
For most people, sight is the first sense. Judge the lightness, colour and fluidity of the champagne in your glass. The density of liquid in terms of radiance and clarity is what you are looking out for.
Bubble equals champagne and the fascinating bubbles rising to the surface is an indication of the bottle’s age and personality.
On your palate, the champagne should be able to taste an underlying fruitiness with a lingering fragrance.
The moment the liquid enters your mouth is the best point of tasting. Look for the intensity, sharpness and richness of the champagne. As time passes, you will be able to better distinguish between the flavours.
The temperature of the champagne is important to whether you get a good experience with champagne or not. The glass should be cool to the touch.
Champagne is best when you have left the bottle in an ice bucket for 30 minutes and is served at a temperature of 46.4 to 50°F.
Is champagne wine?
As mentioned above, “all champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne”. This is actually a fairly common saying.
Remember that we mentioned that it is only called champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne in France.
There are several sparkling wines that are produced throughout the world. The only difference is the taste of each bottle has a variety of fruitiness, bubble size and production methods.
The different countries, of course, produce different versions of their own bubbles but each of it has a distinct taste.
For example, American sparkling wine uses a few traditional Champagne grapes with a completely different recipe in order to produce its own distinctive flavour.
Sparkling wine can also come from France, as long as it is outside of the Champagne region. They are made into a large variety of different bubbles.
Styles Of Champagne
There are a few different styles of champagne, as we will explain below:-
1. Vintage champagne
Vintage champagne simply means that it is totally made from the year indicated on the label below. A 100%.
This style of champagne represents less than 5% of all champagnes. It can only be produced when the weather has been kind as the pick of grapes plays an important role in it.
2. Blanc de Blancs
A Blanc de Blancs champagne is made from white grapes. Most of it will be known as Chardonnay although there are other varieties included.
Such varieties of this style of champagne are Pinot Blanc, Arbane or Petit Meslier.
3. Blanc de Noirs
Blanc de Noirs are white wine made from black grapes. The taste tends to be richer and fuller and varieties tend to be either a Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.
Not many producers produce this style of champagne.
The majority of pink champagne is made via the blending of 5 to 20 percent of red wine with white champagne. The more red wine you use, the darker the colour of your rosé.
Some producers also produce this pink champagne through the saignée method whereby in order to make the drink pink, the pigment is bled from the skins of grapes.
5. Prestige Cuvée
This style of champagne is usually made from the best grapes and are the best ranges of champagne available. It is the most prestigious, like the name suggests, and therefore most expensive and impressive.
Some iconic brands under the Prestige Cuvée style include the Dom Pérignon, Cristal and Krug.
Sweetness Levels In Champagne
The sweetness level in champagne is called “brut”. There are a few differences, from dry to brut in terms of sweetness as not everyone has the same palate.
Think of it like you are adding a bit of sugar to your coffee. Some people prefer their drinks extra sweet and some like their coffee bitter.
The same analogy applies to champagne. It totally depends on the individual – some like it sweet and some like it dry.
Champagne Alcohol Content
After the first round of fermentation, the alcohol percentage is only at about nine percent. However, once the bottle of champagne is ready, after full fermentation and corking, the bottle of champagne is usually closer to 12% alcohol content.
Doctors recommend 1 glass a day for women and 2 glasses a day for men.
However, because of the bubbles, the alcohol impact is actually worse. Though studies have not proven why it is that way, bubbles, for whatever reason, creates a powerful brain-affecting impact. It somehow causes the alcohol to get into your bloodstream more quickly than other types of alcohol.
Despite their appearances of being light and airy, be wary of over-consuming champagne. Take your time!
How to open champagne
First of all, make sure the bottle you are about to open is chilled to the right temperature of about 46.4 to 50°F. If it is not cold enough, pressure inside the bottle may cause the cork to be released very quickly.
Use a wine key to cut off the foil below the large lip of the bottle. Then, place a napkin over the cork. This is to prevent the cork from flying around the room like a bullet.
Untwist the cage counterclockwise. Make sure to continue putting pressure on the cork so that it does not pop out.
Then, twist the bottle. While you continue to keep the pressure on the cork, twist the bottle. Only start to pull the cork away from the bottle slowly once the champagne bottle is loosen from the cork.
A more gentle hiss will occur when the cork is separated from the bottle.
Once the cork is removed, quickly wipe the lip of the bottle and serve!
There is a whole range of experiences, types and different facts that cover champagne. In fact, we have only just touched the tip of all the wealth of information. To become a better champagne consumer, learn more about what champagne is and all that it entails by reading and tasting different types of bubbles. Enjoy the process while you’re at it!