A case of champagne is like a treasure chest for wine drinkers, with beautifully shaped bottles of sparkling gold and rose wine ready to be popped.
The best champagne comes from the Champagne region, France - the place it was first invented. Now, you may be wondering: is champagne wine? It certainly is!
Famous French wineries like Dom Pérignon, Moët & Chandon, and Veuve Cliquot produce some of the most expensive champagne on earth, while local producers in other regions produce sparkling wine using a similar method.
A glass of sparkling champagne immediately looks different from regular rose or white wine, primarily due to the bubbly nature of the beverage. If you’ve ever attended a champagne tasting you’ll remember the distinctive, bubbly crispness that this iconic wine delivers to your palate - but how did it get that way?
What is champagne made of? Like regular white and rose wine, champagne is made from grapes that are fermented and sometimes aged. The difference is that champagne goes through an additional fermentation process which creates its distinctive bubbles.
So, how is champagne made? Legend has it that the monk Don Pérignon, who lived in Champagne, France, invented champagne accidentally sometime in the 1600s. If you’ve been wondering, “where is champagne made?” - you have your answer.
To this day, the only place on earth that can produce real champagne is the Champagne region in France, using the same legendary method.
Sparkling wine may look, smell, and taste almost the same as champagne, but if it’s not from the Champagne region, it’s legally prohibited from being called anything but sparkling wine. Names aside, is sparkling wine champagne? If it’s made using the Champagne method, it may taste very similar.
If it’s made using the Italian or Charmat-Martinotti method, where the wine is fermented in a tank and not in the bottle, chances are it may taste different than champagne or other french sparkling wine. Next time you’re reading a sparkling wine list, you’ll be able to guess what method was used to make each wine on offer.
As we mentioned above, champagne gets its name from the specific region in France where it was first cultivated and is still produced today. Here are some popular questions we receive about champagne from customers just like you.
Why can Korbel be called champagne?
Technically, Korbel sparkling wine is made using the champagne method. Even though it’s not true champagne, some people refer to it by that name.
What’s the big bottle of champagne called?
A magnum - which means great or large in Latin. It contains roughly 2 liters of champagne, or enough to fill 12 glasses.
What is french sparkling wine called?
French sparkling wine is called mousseux - in fact Champagne is a type of mousseux. Sparkling wine produced in Bordeaux, Loire, Alsace or Bourgogne is called Cremant.
What are some famous french champagne brands?
Moët & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Laurent-Perrier, Taittinger, and Pommery are just some of the iconic French champagne producers.
If you’ve ever seen the tiny champagne grapes used to make champagne, you may have noticed that they look pretty unique. That’s because there are 3 grapes in champagne: Arbane, Petit Meslier and Pinot (which includes several varieties including chardonnay).
The champagne grapes price is significantly higher than those of other wine cultivars and they are more difficult to grow too. This contributes to the higher price of champagne.
The best champagne is made using the Méthode Champenoise. Almost all premium champagne brands use this method, which produces some of the most delicious and expensive champagne available. Here’s how it works.
Champagne fermentation begins like that of any other wine. The grapes may be picked a little earlier than usual to prevent high sugar levels. Once fermentation is complete, the resulting base wine is ready to be assembled.
Top champagne producers usually blend various wines to produce a blend or cuvée in French. Wines of the three champagne varieties are usually blended together. The exception to this rule is vintage champagne, which is made from a single harvest.
Liqueur de Tirage
To produce its characteristic bubbles, champagne undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. To feed this fermentation process, extra sugar is added to each bottle to produce tirage champagne.
If you’re wondering about the factors that answer what is the best champagne, it’s simple: it is all about the second fermentation. The bottles are sealed with a temporary cork or crown seal and left to ferment for 15 months or a full three years in the case of vintage champagne.
Remuage or Riddling
Good sweet champagne - in fact all good champagne - must undergo a process called riddling to remove the excess yeast, sugar, and lees at the bottom of the bottle. The bottles are placed cap-down at a 45 degree angle in a special rack, and are tapped and turned gently each day until the lees move into the neck of each bottle. This makes them easy to remove.
Disgorging or Dégorgement
Whether you choose premium champagne or good inexpensive champagne, you’ll want to see a clear, sparkly wine with no hints of cloudiness. Disgorging - or removing the lees - ensures that the best price champagne comes out looking clear, golden and ready to be enjoyed in premium champagne flutes.
Addition of the Liqueur d’Expedition
Champagne’s fancy brand names all add a final solution containing sugar and other ingredients called Liqueur d’Expedition to their champagne bottles before corking. This helps to balance the champagne’s flavor for optimal drinking pleasure.
The best champagne options experienced all begin with popping the cork. Recorking the champagne is the final step in the production process. After re-corking, the champagne is ready to be shipped and enjoyed.
Expensive champagne: those words just seem to fit together naturally. What sets the most expensive champagne apart from other sparkling wines, and why is it so expensive?
Expensive champagne brands are all located in the Champagne region - a small area which produces more than 300 million bottles annually to the highest standards. This contributes to the cost of each bottle.
The most expensive bottle of champagne can retail for thousands of dollars, while the champagne price of non-vintage bottles ranges between $50 and $500 on average. The best price champagne may sometimes drop below $50 thanks to specials and campaigns from champagne clubs.
There are various types of champagne, defined by the type of grapes that were used to produce them.
The more you know about the different types of champagne, the more you’ll be able to enjoy drinking them. From the various easy drinking sweet champagne types to the types of expensive champagne reserved for special occasions, there’s something for everyone.
Blanc de Blanc
Blanc de Blanc literally means the whitest of white. This refers to champagnes that are made exclusively from chardonnay. Chandon reserve blanc de blancs and Ruinart blanc de blanc LCBO are two excellent choices in this category.
Blanc de Noir
Blanc de Noir champagne is made from light-colored red grapes.Only Pinot Noir Pinot Meunier may be used in authentic French champagne. Pannier blanc de noirs champagne 2011 is an iconic vintage of this type.
The best rose sparkling wine is made either from peeled red grapes or a blend of red and white grapes. French rose champagne is deliciously dry and fruity.
Non vintage champagne is produced from a blend of grapes, with different years sometimes being blended. Some readers may ask, how long does non vintage champagne last? The answer is around three to four years at the most. This is one of the biggest differences between champagne, vintage vs non vintage.
What is vintage champagne? When the harvest is exceptional, a vintage may be declared. Only grapes from that year’s harvest can be used to make vintage champagne.
The best sweet champagne and the best sweet champagne brands use specific terminology to describe the sweetness of their wines.
Brut Naturelle/Non Dosage
The best brut champagne is dry and crisp, with a hint of sweetness.
Extra brut champagne is extra dry, with very little sugar on the palate. The brut champagne price can be on the higher side, depending on the brand and vintage. Some famous brut champagne brands include Veuve Cliquot and Taittinger.
What does brut mean in champagne? It simply means dry. Brut champagne has just a little sweetness to balance its flavor.
Extra Sec or Extra Dry
Extra sec champagne is also known as extra dry, and this can be confusing. It’s actually sweeter than brut champagne, but not as sweet as Sec and Semi Sec.
Is brut champagne dry? It certainly is! If you prefer a sweeter palate, Sec champagne may be ideal for you. It has less crispness and a rounder finish thanks to its sugar content.
Semi Sec, also called Demi Sec, is even sweeter than Sec, and appeals to sweet wine drinkers. Chandon Reserve Demi Sec is an excellent choice in this category.
The sweetest champagne of all is called doux. It’s often enjoyed as a dessert wine. Veuve Clicquot rich doux champagne is one of the finest out there.
Now that we’ve learned more about the best champagne and how it differs from sparkling wine - having covered some of the most famous champagne brands - it’s time to sample some for yourself.
Wine clubs are an excellent way to sample good champagne. With various types of champagne available in every price range, you’ll be able to pop open a celebratory bottle and celebrate all the great moments in your life.