Champagne

The wines of Champagne, the region in northeast France where the world’s greatest sparkling wines come from, are the only ones allowed to bear the word on the label, but that hasn’t stopped ‘Champagne’ from becoming shorthand for any wine that fizzes. Although most countries make sparkling wine, Champagne remains the undisputed king, with little else coming close to the very best examples made here.

Champagne is located further north than the rest of the world’s major vineyards. At this latitude, cooler temperatures prevail, and grape growing can be very difficult.  The traditions of blending champagne and creating reserve wines were originally a way to guard against this cold climate factor. Separated into 4 major regions: Montagne de Reims, Vallee de la Marne, Cotes des Blancs, and the Aube, the landscape of Champagne is wide and varied as its producers.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are the three main grape varietals grown, but also Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane, and Petit Meslier.  If you've ever tasted a vin clair (or still champagne), you may be shocked to find that the acidity can be bracing due to the terroir and climate. To balance the acidity, Champagne must be aged on its lees anywhere from 15 months to an average of 3 years and upwards of 18 years (!).  Most producers also use dosage, or added sugar at bottling to give their wines a further roundness.  These time and labor intensive methods suit sparkling wine perfectly, but is also part of the reason why Champagne is so widely imitated and so rarely bettered. 

Some of the best Champagnes in the world are known as the Prestige Cuvées of a certain producer.  These are champagnes that represent the best quality grapes selected meticulously in the best vintages and typically aged for much longer than the producer’s other cuveé’s. A lot of myth and mystery sometimes surround these wines as they are the ultimate symbol of luxury, at one point only created and served to kings and tsars. We should consider ourselves extremely lucky today to have access to a wide array of these exquisite wines, some of which have been incrementally improved upon and perfected for centuries. 

Champagne

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