Champagne is a sparkling wine from the Champagne area of France. Anything bubbly from elsewhere, strictly speaking, is ‘sparkling wine’ as opposed to champagne. The ‘methode Champagnoise’ is the name of the process used to create this popular celebratory beverage. After the grapes are harvested, pressed and undergo a primary fermentation, the liquid is bottled with sugar and yeast and then it has a secondary fermentation in the bottle, which is why it’s bubbly.
Bottles of champagne are stored on their side for a minimum of 15 months, then the bottoms are turned upside down so the dead yeast can settle. The bottles are then opened and the yeast discarded. A little more sugar might be added at this point too. Extra-brut champagne has under 6g of sugar added per liter, while brut champagne has less than 15g of sugar per liter in there. Drier champagnes are more popular.
Grapes and Growing Conditions
The grapes used in the Champagne region to make champagne are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, and these combine beautifully to make our favorite sparkling beverage. This area in France has a porous, chalky soil (because of earthquakes there millions of years back) which is perfect for drainage.
Did Dom Perignon Invent Champagne?
Most people have heard of Dom Perignon but no, he didn’t invent champagne. Dom Perignon was a Benedictine monk working at Epernay as a cellar master in the 1600s and 1700s. Sparkling wine was considered a flaw of winemaking back then, but Perignon added thicker glass bottles that wouldn’t explode and a rope to keep corks in place, so champagne could be created without exploding bottles all over the place.
Champagne is associated with celebrations and victories, such as parties, New Year’s Eve celebrations and ship launches. The tradition of spraying champagne was born in 1967 when Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt won the 24-hour Le Mans race. Gurney shook the bottle and sprayed the crowd, and the rest is history.