The sparkling wines of Champagne are revered the world over. Mainly produced with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier, these wines are the model for traditional method sparkling – with the best capable of ageing beautifully in bottle.

About the wines of Champagne

Adored by kings, queens and tsars, the sparkling wines of Champagne became the ultimate accessory in royal courts once its effervescence was restrained by strong glass bottles, corks and the wire cages still used today. Its early associations with luxury and the novelty of its sparkle continue to make it the aspirational and symbolic product it was more than 200 years ago.

The region is one of the fiercest when it comes to protecting its name, which can only be used for wines from the Champagne appellation, a cool region in northern France, east of Paris and around the city of Reims.

Pinot Noir provides structure to blends, while Chardonnay offers minerality and purity, with Meunier generally used to contribute a more open, fruity character. Although these are the main grapes employed, producers can use Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane and Petit Meslier as well.

Typically made in a Brut style, the most common non-vintage (NV) category is a Champagne blended from a number of years (often a house’s calling card), while vintage Champagnes, made only in the best years, are aged extensively before release, creating richer, satisfying flavours including the lees-derived brioche-like characters.

The region is divided between the Grandes Marques – its most established names, such as Bollinger, Taittinger, Dom Pérignon, Krug, Pol Roger, Veuve Clicquot and Louis Roederer, who generally buy much of their fruit and represent the majority of the region’s output – versus the smaller growers (Selosse, Cédric Bouchard, Egly-Ouriet, Chartogne-Taillet and more), who farm their own land to produce more terroir-driven Champagnes, often from a single vintage.

Whiile a relative rarity, still wines are also made in the region – under the Coteaux Champenois appellation, from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

This spirit is one of Champagne’s best kept secrets. The most gently pressed, delicate juice from each crop is dedicated to the region’s sparkling wines. The later press segments, however, which contain more flavour and phenols, are often used to make Ratafia. These musts aren’t fermented but are fortified with grape brandy, making a mistelle, which is then aged in cask. 

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