Champagne is the protected name of the world's most famous sparkling wine and the French wine region it comes from.
Located in the north east of France, north of the Paris region, with a cool climate and with the growing season rarely warm enough to ripen grapes to the levels required for standard winemaking, it represent the perfect climate to make sparkling wine. Due to climate change and temperature rising, producing Champagne is becoming more and more challenging for wine makers.
Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay are the main and most used grapes to make Champagne but four other varieties are also permitted, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier and Arbane and each grape bring its own qualities to the Champagne. Pinot Noir add body and color. Pinot Meunier acidity. Chardonnay bring elegance and finesse.
Champagne can be Blanc de Noirs (made from black-skinned grapes) or Blanc de Blancs (made from green-skinned grapes) whilst Champagne Rosé is made either by adding red wine or fermenting the juice in contact with the skins and come with varying degrees of sweetness. Grand Cru Champagnes and Premier Cru Champagnes are those made from the region's finest vineyards.
Champagne like Cava (Spain) or Franciacorta (Italy) is made following the classic method with the second fermentation taking place in the bottle by adding yeast and sugars. All Champagne must spend at least 12 months aging on its lees, for Cava is 9 and Franciacorta is 16 months.
The majority of Champagnes are "Non-Vintage" or NV and the main reason for this is the variability in vintages, by blending vintages there is consistency across years. In exceptional vintages, however, many houses release a vintage Champagne (millesimé in French) obtained exclusively from grapes harvested in the year.
Champagne's fame and success is, of course, the product of many factors but mainly the clever marketing that has presented the Champagne over the last 2 centuries, together with its higher prices, an exclusive and special wine.