The wines of Champagne are made only in a small region in the north of France, 145 Km. east of Paris. The industry is centred around the medieval city of Rheims where many of the Kings of France were crowed in a magnificent cathedral, the wine town of Epernay on the south side of the Montagne du Rheims and the Cote du L’aube in the south of the region.
Made only from 3 grape varieties, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Pinot Meunier. To produce champagne a still wine with high acidic is produced then bottled. A second alcoholic fermentation then occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast and sugar to the still wine before sealing the bottle with a crown cap. After the second fermentation is complete the wine is left to mature on its lees for a minimum of 15 months before release but in practice most champagne is left to mature much longer in the bottle to attain richness and complexity.
After aging, the bottle is manipulated to an upright position, either manually or mechanically, in a process called remuage, so that the lees settle in the neck of the bottle. After chilling the tops of the bottles in a brine bath, the neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle then forces out the ice containing the lees. Some sugar and reserve wine (le dosage) is then added to refill the bottle, the amount of sugar used will define the final style of the wine, from Ultra Brut the driest style with less than 3 grams per litre of added sugar to Molleux the sweetest which may have up to 50 grams per litre. The bottle is then corked and replaced in the cellar for 3 months or so to allow the wine to blend with the dosage before it is ready for release.
The rest of the world make sparkling wines but only Champagne make Champagne. Champagne is the ultimate sparkling wine, the ultimate celebration wine.