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Moet champagne and glass.

Moet champagne and glass. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Champagne is a sparkling white wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. The primary grapes used in the creation of champagne are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. In order to be called Champagne it must meet certain requirements.

  1. There must be a secondary fermentation within the bottle which creates the carbonation
  2. The grapes used in the production of the wine must be grown within designated plots within the Champagne region of France.

If it does not meet those requirements then it is referred to as a sparkling wine.

To create the second fermentation process the winemaker takes still wine and adds a few grams of sugar and yeast. This yeast and sugar then convert to carbon dioxide,which form the bubbles, and alcohol. The carbonation increases the pressure in the bottle to about 80 psi. For champagne the second fermentation occurs within the bottle. For sparkling wines the second fermentation can also occur in the fermentation tank, it’s up to preferred method of the winemaker.

Champagne first gained its reputation because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty throughout Europe spread the message of this unique sparkling beverage and its association with luxury and power. The producers at that time did not discourage that notion and it quickly became associated with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging that was ahead of their time they sought to associate Champagne with high luxury, festivities, and rites of passage. Their timing was excellent as the middle class was emerging and they were looking for ways to spend money on symbols of upward mobility and class.

Sparkling wines and champagnes are categorized by their sugar levels, however different terms are used to define them.

Extra Brut – is “extra” dry
Brut – dry
Extra dry – middle of the road dry, between dry and sweet.
Demi-sec – semi sweet
Doux – The sweetest of Champagnes and sparkling wines

Champagne is designed be consumed shortly after purchase and is not meant to be collectible. Most Champagnes and sparkling wines will begin loosing quality within about three years.