Champagne is usually served in a Champagne flute, whose characteristics include a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides and an etched bottom. The Victorian coupe (according to legend, approximating the breast of Marie Antoinette) is not recommended as it disperses the nose and over-oxygenates the wine. Champagne is always served cold, its ideal drinking temperature at 7 to 9 °C (45 to 48 °F). Often the bottle is chilled in a bucket of ice and water before opening. Champagne buckets are made specifically for this purpose, and often have a larger volume than standard wine-cooling buckets (to accommodate the larger bottle, and more water and ice).
. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Other countries, such as the United States, have recognized the exclusive nature of this name, yet maintain a legal structure that allows certain domestic producers of sparkling wine to continue to use the term "champagne" under limited circumstances. The majority of US-produced sparkling wines do not use the term "champagne" on their labels and some states, such as Oregon, ban producers in their states from using the term as it can be confusing to consumers.
Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power. The leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging they sought to associate Champagne with high luxury, festivities, and rites of passage. Their efforts coincided with the emergence of a middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility
The Romans were the first to plant vineyards in this area of northeast France with the region being cultivated by at least the 5th century, possibly earlier. Wines from the Champagne region were known before medieval times. Churches owned vineyards and monks produced wine for use in the sacrament of Eucharist. French kings were traditionally anointed in Reims and Champagne
wine was served as part of coronation festivities. The Champenois were envious of the reputation of the wines made by their Burgundian neighbours to the south and sought to produce wines of equal acclaim. However, the northerly climate of the region gave the Champenois a unique set of challenges in making red wine. At the far extremes of sustainable viticulture, the grapes would struggle to ripen fully and often would have bracing levels of acidity and low sugar levels. The wines would be lighter bodied and thinner than the Burgundy wines they were seeking to outdo.
Contrary to legend and popular belief, Dom Perignon did not invent sparkling wine. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire near Carcassonne in 1531. Over a century later, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation six years before Dom Perignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautvillers and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk invented Champagne. Merret presented the Royal Society with a paper in which he detailed what is now called méthode champenoise in 1662.
Although Dom Perignon did not invent Champagne, he did develop many advances in production of the drink, including holding the cork in place with a wire collar (muselet) to withstand the fermentation pressure. In France, the first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally; its pressure led it to be called "the devil's wine" (le vin du diable) as bottles exploded or the cork jolted away. Even when it was deliberately produced as a sparkling wine, Champagne was for a very long time made by the méthode rurale, where the wine was bottled before the only fermentation had finished. Champagne did not utilize the méthode champenoise until the 19th century, approximately 200 years after Christopher Merret documented the process. The 19th century saw an explosive growth in Champagne production going from a regional production of 300,000 bottles a year in 1630 to 20 million bottles in 1850.
In the 19th century Champagne was noticeably sweeter than the Champagne of today. The trend towards drier Champagne began when Perrier-Jouët decided not to sweeten his 1846 vintage prior to exporting it to London. The designation Brut Champagne, the modern Champagne, was created for the British in 1876.
The Champagne winemaking community, under the auspices of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, has developed a comprehensive set of rules and regulations for all wine produced in the region to protect its economic interests. They include codification of the most suitable growing places; the most suitable grape types (most Champagne is a blend of up to three grape varieties, though other varieties are allowed); and a lengthy set of requirements specifying most aspects of viticulture. This includes pruning, vineyard yield, the degree of pressing, and the time that wine must remain on its lees before bottling. It can also limit the release of Champagne to market to maintain prices. Only when a wine meets these requirements may it be labeled Champagne. The rules agreed upon by the CIVC are submitted for the INAO's final approval.
The government organization that controls wine appellations in France, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, is preparing to make the largest revision of the region's legal boundaries since 1927, in response to economic pressures. With soaring demand and limited production of grapes, Champagne houses say the rising price could produce a consumer backlash that would harm the industry for years into the future. That, along with political pressure from villages that want to be included in the expanded boundaries, led to the move. Changes are subject to significant scientific review and are said to not impact Champagne produced grapes until 2020.
There are many sparkling wines produced worldwide, yet most legal structures reserve the term "champagne" exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne region, made in accordance with Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne regulations. In the European Union and many other countries, the name Champagne is legally protected by the Treaty of Champagne is a single Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. As a general rule, grapes used must be the white Chardonnay, or the dark-skinned "red wine grapes" Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. Due to the gentle pressing of the grapes and absence of skin contact during fermentation, the dark-skinned varieties also yield a white wine. Most Champagnes are made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, for example 60%/40%. Blanc de blanc ("white from white") Champagnes are made from 100% Chardonnay. Possibly the most exquisite, and definitely the most expensive of these is grown in a single Grand cru vineyard in Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger for Salon. Blanc de noir ("white from black") Champagne is pressed from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a mix of the two.
Several other grape varieties, although permitted for historical reasons, are rare in current usage. The sparsely cultivated varieties (0.02% of the total vines planted in Champagne) of Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc, might still be found in modern cuvées. while the directives of INAO make conditional allowances according to the complex laws of 1927 and 1929, and plantings made prior to 1938. The complete list of the nine actual and theoretical varieties reads Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot gris (in Champagne named Fromenteau), Pinot de juillet and Pinot rosé. The Gamay vines of the region were scheduled to be uprooted by 1942, but due to World War II, this was postponed until 1962.
The dark-skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier give the wine its length and backbone. They are predominantly grown in two areas – the Montagne de Reims and the Valée de la Marne. The Montagne de Reims run east-west to the south of Reims, in northern Champagne. They are notable for north-facing chalky slopes that derive heat from the warm winds rising from the valleys below. The River Marne runs west–east through Champagne, south of the Montagne de Reims. The Valée de la Marne contains south-facing chalky slopes. Chardonnay gives the wine its acidity and biscuit flavour. Most Chardonnay is grown in a north-south-running strip to the south of Épernay, called the Côte des Blanc, including the villages of Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger. These are east-facing vineyards, with terroir similar to the Côte de Beaune. The various terroirs account for the differences in grape characteristics and explain the appropriateness of blending juice from different grape varieties and geographical areas within Champagne, to get the desired style for each Champagne house.
Most of the Champagne produced today is "Non-vintage", meaning that it is a blended product of grapes from multiple vintages. Most of the base will be from a single year vintage with producers blending anywhere from 10–15% (even as high as 40%) of wine from older vintages. If the conditions of a particular vintage are favorable, some producers will make a "Vintage" wine that must be composed of at least 85% of the grapes from vintage year. Under Champagne wine regulations, houses that make both vintage and non-vintage wines are allowed to use no more than 80% of the total vintage's harvest for the production of vintage Champagne. This allows at least 20% of the harvest from each vintage to be reserved for use in non-vintage Champagne. This ensures a consistent style that consumers can expect from non-vintage Champagne that doesn't alter too radically depending on the quality of the vintage. In less than ideal vintages, some producers will produce a wine from only that single vintage and still label it as non-vintage rather than as "vintage" since the wine will be of lesser quality and the producers have little desire to reserve the wine for future blending.
A cuvée de prestige is a proprietary blended wine (usually a Champagne) that is considered to be the top of a producer's range. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, Duval-Leroy's Cuvée Femme and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. Perhaps the original prestige cuvée was Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, launched in 1936 with the 1921 vintage. Until then, Champagne houses produced different cuvées of varying quality, but a top-of-the-range wine produced to the highest standards (and priced accordingly) was a new idea. In fact, Louis Roederer had been producing Cristal since 1876, but this was strictly for the private consumption of the Russian tsar. Cristal was made publicly available with the 1945 vintage. Then came Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne (first vintage 1952), and Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle 'La Cuvée' in 1960, a blend of three vintages (1952, 1953, and 1955). In the last three decades of the 20th century, most Champagne houses followed these with their own prestige cuvées, often named after notable people with a link to that producer (Veuve Clicquot's La Grande Dame, the nickname of the widow of the house's founder's son; Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, named for the British prime minister; and Laurent-Perrier's Cuvée Alexandra rosé, to name just three examples), and presented in non-standard bottle shapes (following Dom Pérignon's lead with its 18th-century revival design).
Blanc de noirs
A French term (literally "white of blacks") for a white wine produced entirely from black grapes. It is often encountered in Champagne, where a number of houses have followed the lead of Bollinger's prestige cuvée Vieilles Vignes Françaises in introducing a cuvée made from either Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a blend of the two (these being the only two black grapes permitted within the Champagne AOC appellation). Although Bollinger's wine is famed for its intense richness and full-bodied nature, this has more to do with the way the grapes are planted and when they are harvested than any intrinsic property of blanc de noirs Champagne, which is often little different from cuvées including a proportion of Chardonnay.
Blanc de blancs
A French term that means "white of whites", and is used to designate Champagnes made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes. The term is occasionally used in other sparkling wine-producing regions, usually to denote Chardonnay-only wines rather than any sparkling wine made from other white grape varieties. A famous example is Ruinart.
The rosé wines of Champagne are produced either by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on its skins for a brief time (known as the saigneé method) or, more commonly, by adding a small amount of still Pinot noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvee. Champagne is typically light in color even if it is produced with red grapes, because 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, which is what gives red wine its color. Rosé Champagne is one of the few wines that allows the production of Rosé by the addition a small amount of red wine during blending. This ensures a predictable and reproducible color, allowing a constant Rosé color from year-to-year.
Due to the comparatively high risk and cost of using the saigneé or 'skin contact only' technique, there are very few producers who habitually do not add any additional red wine. These include Laurent Perrier, Louis Roederer, and Guy Charbaut
The amount of sugar (dosage) added after the second fermentation and aging varies and will dictate the sweetness level of the Champagne.
The most common is Brut, although throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century Champagne was generally much sweeter than it is today.
Champagne is mostly fermented in two sizes of bottles, standard bottles (750 millilitres), and magnums (1.5 litres). In general, magnums are thought to be higher quality, as there is less oxygen in the bottle, and the volume to surface area favors the creation of appropriately-sized bubbles. However, there is no hard evidence for this view. Other bottle sizes, named for Biblical figures, are generally filled with Champagne that has been fermented in standard bottles or magnums.
Sizes larger than Jeroboam (3.0 L) are rare. Primat sized bottles (27 L) – and as of 2002 Melchizedek sized bottles (30 L) – are exclusively offered by the House Drappier. The same names are used for bottles containing wine and port; however Jeroboam, Rehoboam and Methuselah refer to different bottle volumes. Unique sizes have been made for special occasions and people, the most notable example perhaps being the 20 fluid ounce / 60 cL. bottle (Imperial pint) made specially for Sir Winston Churchill by Pol Roger.
In 2009, a bottle of 1825 Perrier-Jouët Champagne was opened at a ceremony attended by 12 of the world's top wine tasters. This bottle was officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest bottle of Champagne in the world. The contents were found to be drinkable, with notes of truffles and caramel in the taste. There are now only two other bottles from the 1825 vintage in existence.
168 bottles were found in July 2010 on board a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, near Åland islands by Finnish diver Christian Ekström. Analyses show that there were at least two types of bottles from two different houses, Veuve Clicquot in Reims and the long-defunct Champagne house Juglar, absorbed into Jacquesson in 1829.The shipwreck is dated to between 1630 and 1830, and the bottles may predate the 1825 Perrier-Jouët.The bottles' contents were described to be in a very good state by Champagne experts Richard Juhlin and Essi Avellan MW.The majority of the bottles are planned to be sold off at auctions, the price of each bottle estimated at near £40,000 or $70,000.
Champagne corks are built from several sections and are referred to as aglomerated corks. The mushroom shape that occurs in the transition is a result of the bottom section, which is in contact with the wine, being composed of two stacked discs of pristine cork, cemented to the upper portion which is a conglomerate of ground cork and glue. Prior to insertion, a sparkling wine cork is almost 50% larger than the opening of the bottle. Originally they start as a cylinder and are compressed prior to insertion into the bottle. Over time their compressed shape becomes more permanent and the distinctive "mushroom" shape becomes more apparent.
The aging of the Champagne post disgorgement can to some degree be told by the cork, as the longer it has been in the bottle the less it returns to its original cylinder shape.
Opening Champagne bottles
Champagne has been an integral part of sports celebration since Moët et Chandon started offering their Champagne to the winners of Formula 1 Grand Prix events. At the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, winner Dan Gurney started the tradition of drivers spraying the crowd and each other. Instead of pushing the cork out, a Champagne bottle can be opened by holding the cork and rotating the bottle at an angle in order to ease out the stopper, a method that reduces the risk of spilling or spraying any Champagne, and that also stops the cork flying out of the bottle at speed. The quieter pop or "sigh" made while opening the bottle this way is sometimes named "le soupir amoureux" (loving whisper).
A sabre can be used to open a Champagne bottle with great ceremony. This technique is called sabrage (the term is also used for simply breaking the head of the bottle).
Pouring sparkling wine while tilting the glass at an angle and gently sliding in the liquid along the side will preserve the most bubbles, as opposed to poured directly down to create a head of "mousse", according to the study On the Losses of Dissolved CO2 During Champagne Serving. Additionally, colder bottle temperatures result in reduced loss of gas. And the industry is developing champagne glasses designed specifically to reduce the amount of gas lost.
The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Through international treaty, national law or quality-control/consumer protection related local regulations, most countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the Champagne appellation