Champagne is more
than a style of wine, it is a region, and only grapes (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay,
and Pinot Meunier) grown and vinified in la Champagne can wear the le
champagne label on the bottle. It
is the northernmost wine-growing area in France and gets its name from a
combination between champs, for field, and campagna for open. The Romans were
the first to spread word of Champagne’s vines and thankfully ignored the first
century imperial edict that all vines in France were to be pulled out. The
capital is Reims (or Rheims if you’re English) and pronounced by starting with
an “R” and following with a growl. The not so picturesque city (at least when
compared to Paris) is the great center of the champagne biz.
What are some other Sparkling Wines?
There are thousands of sparkling wines from all over the world, many produced using the same process in Champagne (often called méthode champenoise or méthode ancestral), which includes in-bottle fermentation, dosage (the addition of sugar), remuage (bottle rotatation), and dégorgement (the removal of dead yeast cells that collect during in-bottle fermentation). Sparkling wines can also be produced in tanks (typically stainless steel) or by simply adding CO2 gas.
The most common sparkling wines outside of Champagne are:
Cava – Spain’s answer to Champagne; produced using the traditional method and typically a blend of the grapes, Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo. While most of the Cava made in Spain comes from Penedès in Catalonia, it can also be produced in Álava, Aragón, Extremadura, Navarra, and even Rioja; making it an unusual multi-regional DO (Denominación de Origen).
Prosecco – Typically a dry sparkling wine made from the Glera varietal in Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia in northern Italy. Proseco is the essential ingredient in the famed Bellini Cocktail—a Venetian speciality invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice, and which consists of peach puree and a sparkling—preferably Proseco—dry, white wine.
Crémants – These are sparkling wines produced using the same method as Champagne—as well as adhering to strict AOC regulations (e.g. minimum aging of one year)—from other regions in France, including: Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Jura, Limoux, and the Loire Valley.
American Sparkling Wines – When it comes to bubbles the good ol’ USA is no slouch. Napa, the heart of American wine country, produces a number of sparkling wines made in the traditional Champenoise method, but places as far strung as New Mexico also produce some stellar, and affordable, options.