What is champagne?

Champagne is a sparkling wine that is made in the Champagne region of France using the traditional method (méthode traditionnelle).

This method involves a two-step fermentation process, the grape juice is fermented into alcohol and then bottled to turn into a magic sparkling wine. The labour-intensive process whereby wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, creating the bubbles.

The second fermentation process begins with the addition of a liqueur de tirage (a wine solution of sugar and yeast) to a bottle of still base wine, triggering a secondary fermentation inside the bottle which produces both carbon dioxide and spent yeast cells, or lees, which are collected in the neck of the bottle during the riddling process. The lees are then disgorged from the bottle, and replaced with a solution of wine and sugar, giving the sparkling wine its final touch of finesse. All Champagne and most high-quality sparkling wine are made by this process.

Champagne is predominantly made from a blend of mainly three different grape varieties – Pinot NoirChardonnay and Meunier. The producers use different percentages of these grapes to get a result they are happy with. Each of the grapes adds a different characteristic to the final blend.

  • Pinot Noir: is a black skin/white juice grape variety that adds body, structure, aroma and a complexity of flavours. Champagnes made of 100% Pinot Noir are called Blanc de Noirs.

  • Chardonnay: is a white skin/white juice grape variety that adds freshness, elegance and a certain finesse to the final product. Champagnes made of 100% Chardonnay are called Blanc de Blancs.

  • Meunier: is another black skin/white juice grape variety. It adds fruitiness to the blend. Champagnes made of 100% Meunier are also called Blanc de Noirs.

All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. While Champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of France and with very distinct grapes, sparkling wines aren’t held to the same restrictions. Sparkling wine may be made with the exact same grapes as Champagne or an entirely different blend. Some popular varieties of sparkling wine from different regions include Prosecco (Italy), Sekt (Germany), Cava (Spain) and Cremant (France), among others.

You can drink Champagne as an aperitif, accompanying your meal or just on a normal weekday when you are in the mood to drink Champagne. It is always Champagne time!

view of the North-Eastern side of Reims Notre-Dame Cathedral, August 2019