Where is it?
What are the main grapes grown?
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
What is distinctive about it?
Almost the entirety of its production is sparkling wine, and the region is steeped in history. Locals claim that Dom Pérignon was the inventor of Champagne's delicious bubbles – a much contested story! Champagne is made according to a traditional method, whereby a second fermentation occurs in every single bottle.
The (still) base wine is bottled then yeast, sugar and a small amount of fining agent are added. Next, the bottle is securely capped. The yeast consumes the sugar, and the by-product of this process, carbon dioxide, is trapped and dissolves in the wine, creating those bubbles. It is the contact of the (now sparkling) wine with the dead yeast (lees) that is responsible for the distinctive bready, biscuity taste.
Champagne is made by the traditional method, whereby a second fermentation occurs in every single bottle.
How do you spot a good bottle?
The Champagne region comprises a single AOC, so that’s not too helpful. A clearer distinction is Vintage vs Non-Vintage (NV). Vintage spends a minimum of 3 years on yeast lees, as against 1 year for NV. If you like bakery tastes and are happy to spend a few more ££, then Vintage is for you. Vintage Champagne is like a time capsule of a single year and is made only in the best years.
Consequently, it accounts for just 5% of production, and also includes the Prestige Cuvées category – the very top wine of the house. NV, on the other hand, is all about consistency of house style. Find a house style you like and stick with that.
Vintage spends a minimum of 3 years on yeast lees, as against 1 year for Non-Vintage.
What are its classic dishes?
With the exception of Roses de Reims (pink biscuits), and ham and mustard, there are few local culinary specialities – curious for such a famous wine region. However, Champagne pairs with just about anything, from river trout to hard cheese.
Imagine yourself there...
Champagne is THE drink for celebrations, but in the Champagne region, it is enjoyed daily. So crack open a bottle – just because! – and bask in the glamour of a Bond movie.