Champagne is a very special wine word. Unfortunately it has often been abused and misused. It is not a synonym for any old sparkling wine. Champagne is a region in northeast France. Only sparkling wines produced in the designated Champagne wine region can be called Champagne — did you know this? Champagne is a traditional method sparkling wine. It has always been regarded as the finest, the benchmark and the model by which other traditional method sparkling wines are made. It is synonymous with luxury, and with the marking of special moments.
Champagne was not always a sparkling wine. Originally it was a lightish-pink still wine. It was only toward the end of the 17th century and well into the 18th that Champagne became a sparkling wine.
The Uniqueness of Champagne
It is not one thing alone that sets the Champagne region apart in the production of sparkling wines. Rather it is a combination of its cool continental climate, its calcareous-clay soils, the sheer number and diversity of its vineyards as well as its long history (100 years +) and experience in making sparkling wine.
The Many Styles of Champagne
Champagne is not just one wine. While the largest category of Champagne is the Brut Non-Vintage blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, it can be rosé, Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay), Blanc de Noirs (100% Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier), Vintage dated or a special Prestige Cuvée, the name given to a Champagne house's highest quality wine.
Champagne also comes in different sweetness levels from the most popular dry 'Brut' style to the sweet style 'Doux'. (But more detail on that with next week's wine word 'Dosage'.)
Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.
Previous Wine Words
• Wine Words: Clarity
• Wine Words: Color
• Wine Words: Complexity
• Wine Words: Texture
• Wine Words: Aromas
• Wine Words: Alcohol
• Wine Words: Body
• Wine Words: Tannin
• Wine Words: Acidity
• Wine Words: Minerality
• Wine Words: Length and Finish
• Wine Words: Sweetness
• Wine Words: Style
• Wine Words: Oak
• Wine Words: Clarity
• Wine Words: Extraction
• Wine Words: Sediment
• Wine Words: Variety vs. Varietal
• Wine Words: Reserva, Riserva, Reserve
• Wine Words: Quality
• Wine Words: Vintage
• Wine Words: Non-Vintage
• Wine Words: Bordeaux Blend
• Wine Words: Traditional Method
• Wine Words: Tank Method (Charmat Method)
• Wine Words: Champagne
(Image: Underlying image by Sadovnikova Olga/Shutterstock)