What makes Champagne, well Champagne?
Champagne is a single Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, meaning only sparkling wine produced in its namesake region and adhering to defined standards can be called Champagne.
Grapes must be the white Chardonnay, or the red Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier (a few very rare other grapes that were historically important are allowed, but very unusual). Champagnes made exclusively from Chardonnay are known as blanc de blancs, and those exclusively from the red grapes as blanc de noirs.
Champagne’s sugar content varies. The sweetest level is doux (meaning sweet), proceeding in order of increasing dryness to demi-sec (half-dry), sec (dry), extra sec (extra dry), brut (almost completely dry), and extra brut / brut nature / brut zero (no additional sugar, sometimes ferociously dry).
There are sparkling wines made all over the world, and many use special terms to define their own sparkling wines: Spain uses Cava, Italy calls it spumante, and South Africa uses Cap Classique. A sparkling wine made from Muscat grapes in Italy uses the DOCG Asti. In Germany, Sekt is a common sparkling wine. Other regions of France are forbidden to use the name Champagne; for example, wine-makers in Burgundy and Alsace produce Crémant.
Champagne is always served cold and is best drunk at a temperature of around 43-48 °F
Opening a bottle of Champagne:
To reduce the risk of spilling Champagne and/or turning the cork into a projectile – open a Champagne bottle as follows:
- Remove the foil and pull down the wire loop;
- Drape a towel over the bottle;
- Place your hand over the cork;
- Loosen but don’t remove the wire cage;
- Grasp the cork and the cage firmly with your hand, then rotate the bottle (rather than the cork) by holding it at the base; this should allow the cork to come out on its own.
- The desired effect is to ease the cork out with a sigh or a whisper rather than a pop or to shoot the cork across the room or produce a fountain of foamy wine. Most wine connoisseurs insist that the ideal way to open a bottle of Champagne is to do it so carefully and gently that very little sound is emitted at all.