Champagne is a sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France under special rules which require secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle in order to create carbonation.
Champagne has become an integral part of sports celebrations ever since Moët et Chandon started offering their wines to the winners of Formula One Grand Prix races – and in 1967, 24 Hour Le Mans winner, Dan Gurney, started the tradition of drivers spraying champagne over each other and the crowd.
There are of course many sparkling wines produced all over the world, yet most legal structures reserve the word ‘champagne’ exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne region, made in accordance with the rules of the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne.
After ageing, the bottle is manipulated, either manually or by a machine in a process called remuage, so that the lees settle in the neck of the bottle. After chilling the bottles, the neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide in solution. Some syrup (dosage) is added to maintain the level within the bottle and, where necessary, adjust the sweetness of the finished wine.
Blanc de Blancs is a French term that means “white from whites” and is used to denote Champagnes that are made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes or on rare occasions from Pinot Blanc.
The rosé wines of Champagne (or Pink Champagne) are made either by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on the skins for a short time (known as the saignée method) or, more commonly, by adding a small amount of still Pinot noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvée. Champagne is typically light in colour even when produced with red grapes, as the juice is extracted from the grapes using a gentle process that minimizes the amount of time the juice spends in contact with the skins. Rosé Champagne is one of the few wines that allows the production of Rosé by the addition of a small quantity of red wine during the blending. This ensures a predictable colour, allowing a constant Rosé year after year.