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Champagne (French: [ʃɑ̃.paɲ]; English //) is a sparkling wine produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France following rules that demand secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create carbonation. Some use the term champagne as a generic term for sparkling wine, but the majority of countries reserve the term exclusively for sparkling wines that come from Champagne and are produced under the rules of the appellation.
The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are black Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier, and white Chardonnay. Champagne appellation law only allows grapes grown according to appellation rules in specifically designated plots within the appellation to be used in the production of Champagne.
Royalty became associated with Champagne in the 17th, 18th and 19th century. The leading manufacturers made efforts to associate their Champagnes with nobility and royalty through advertising and packaging, which led to popularity among the emerging well-off middle class.
Wines from the Champagne region were known before medieval times. The Romans were the first to plant vineyards in this area of north-east France, with the region being cultivated by at least the 5th century, possibly earlier. Later, churches owned vineyards and monks produced wine for use in the sacrament of Eucharist. French kings were traditionally anointed in Reims, and Champagne wine was served as part of coronation festivities. The Champenois were envious of the reputation of the wines made by their Burgundian neighbours to the south and sought to produce wines of equal acclaim. However, the northerly climate of the region gave the Champenois a unique set of challenges in making red wine. At the far extremes of sustainable viticulture, the grapes would struggle to ripen fully and often would have bracing levels of acidity and low sugar levels. The wines would be lighter bodied and thinner than the Burgundy wines they were seeking to outdo.
Contrary to legend and popular belief, Dom Pérignon did not invent sparkling wine, but he did make important contributions to the production and quality of Champagne wine. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire, near Carcassonne in 1531. They achieved this by bottling the wine before the initial fermentation had ended. Over a century later, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation, six years before Dom Pérignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautvillers and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk invented Champagne. Merret presented a paper at the Royal Society, in which he detailed what is now called méthode champenoise, in 1662. Merret's discoveries coincided also with English glass-makers' technical developments that allowed bottles to be produced that could withstand the required internal pressures during secondary fermentation. French glass-makers at this time could not produce bottles of the required quality or strength. As early as 1663 the poet Samuel Butler referred to "brisk champagne".
In France the first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally; the pressure in the bottle led it to be called "the devil's wine" (le vin du diable), as bottles exploded or corks popped. In 1844 Adolphe Jacquesson invented the muselet to prevent the corks from blowing out. Initial versions were difficult to apply and inconvenient to remove. Even when it was deliberately produced as a sparkling wine, Champagne was for a very long time made by the méthode rurale, where the wine was bottled before the only fermentation had finished. Champagne did not use the méthode champenoise until the 19th century, about 200 years after Christopher Merret documented the process. The 19th century saw an explosive growth in Champagne production, going from a regional production of 300,000 bottles a year in 1800 to 20 million bottles in 1850.
In the 19th century Champagne was noticeably sweeter than the Champagnes of today. The trend towards drier Champagne began when Perrier-Jouët decided not to sweeten his 1846 vintage prior to exporting it to London. The designation Brut Champagne was created for the British in 1876.
The Champagne winemaking community, under the auspices of the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), has developed a comprehensive set of rules and regulations for all wine produced in the region to protect its economic interests. They include codification of the most suitable growing places; the most suitable grape types (most Champagne is a blend of up to three grape varieties, though other varieties are allowed); and a lengthy set of requirements specifying most aspects of viticulture. This includes pruning, vineyard yield, the degree of pressing, and the time that wine must remain on its lees before bottling. It can also limit the release of Champagne to market to maintain prices. Only when a wine meets these requirements may it be labelled Champagne. The rules agreed upon by the CIVC are submitted for the final approval of the Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (formerly the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, INAO).
In 2007 the INAO, the government organization that controls wine appellations in France, was preparing to make the largest revision of the region's legal boundaries since 1927, in response to economic pressures. With soaring demand and limited production of grapes, Champagne houses say the rising price could produce a consumer backlash that would harm the industry for years into the future. That, along with political pressure from villages that want to be included in the expanded boundaries, led to the move. Changes are subject to significant scientific review and are said to not impact Champagne produced grapes until 2020.
Many sparkling wines are produced worldwide, but most legal structures reserve the word champagne exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne region, made in accordance with Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne regulations. In the European Union and many other countries the name Champagne is legally protected by the Madrid system under an 1891 treaty, which reserved it for the sparkling wine produced in the eponymous region and adhering to the standards defined for it as an appellation d'origine contrôlée; the protection was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. Similar legal protection has been adopted by over 70 countries. Most recently Canada, Australia, Chile, Brazil and China passed laws or signed agreements with Europe that limit the use of the term "champagne" to only those products produced in the Champagne region. The United States bans the use from all new U.S.-produced wines. Only those that had approval to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it and only when it is accompanied by the wine's actual origin (e.g., "California"). The majority of U.S.-produced sparkling wines do not use the term champagne on their labels  and some states, such as Oregon, ban producers in their states from using the term.
In the United States name protection of wine-growing place names is becoming more important. Several key U.S. wine regions, such as those in California (Napa, Sonoma Valley, Paso Robles), Oregon, and Walla Walla, Washington, came to consider the remaining semi-generic labels as harmful to their reputations (cf. Napa Declaration on Place).
Even the terms méthode champenoise and champagne method were forbidden by an EU court decision in 1994. As of 2005 the description most often used for sparkling wines using the second fermentation in the bottle process, but not from the Champagne region, is méthode traditionnelle. Sparkling wines are produced worldwide, and many producers use special terms to define them: Spain uses Cava, Italy designates it spumante, and South Africa uses cap classique. An Italian sparkling wine made from the Muscat grape uses the DOCG Asti and from the Glerá grape the DOCG Prosecco. In Germany, Sekt is a common sparkling wine. Other French wine regions cannot use the name Champagne: e.g., Burgundy and Alsace produce Crémant. In 2008, more than 3,000 bottles of sparkling wine produced in California labelled with the term "Champagne" were destroyed by Belgian government authorities.
Regardless of the legal requirements for labelling, extensive education efforts by the Champagne region, and the use of alternative names by non-Champagne quality sparkling wine producers, some consumers and wine sellers use champagne as a generic term for white sparkling wines, regardless of origin.
The village of Champagne, Switzerland has traditionally made a still wine labelled as "champagne", the earliest records of viticulture dated to 1657. In an accord with the EU, the Swiss government conceded in 1999 that by 2004 the village would phase out use of the name. Sales dropped from 110,000 bottles a year to 32,000 after the change. In April 2008 the villagers resolved to fight against the restriction following a Swiss open-air vote.
In the Soviet Union all sparkling wines were called шампанское (shampanskoe, Russian for champagne). The name is still used today for some brands of sparkling wines produced in former Soviet republics, such as Sovetskoye Shampanskoye and Rossiyskoe Shampanskoe.
Méthode Champenoise is the traditional method by which Champagne is produced. After primary fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast (usually Saccharomyces cerevisiae, although each brand has its own secret recipe) and several grams of rock sugar. According to the appellation d'origine contrôlée a minimum of 1.5 years is required to completely develop all the flavour. For years where the harvest is exceptional, a millésime is declared and some Champagne will be made from and labelled as the products of a single vintage rather than a blend of multiple years' harvests. This means that the Champagne will be very good and has to mature for at least 3 years. During this time the Champagne bottle is sealed with a crown cap similar to that used on beer bottles.
After aging, the bottle is manipulated, either manually or mechanically, in a process called remuage, so that the lees settle in the neck of the bottle. After chilling the bottles, the neck is frozen, and the cap removed. The pressure in the bottle forces out the ice containing the lees, and the bottle is quickly corked to maintain the carbon dioxide in solution. Some syrup (le dosage) is added to maintain the level within the bottle and, importantly, adjust the sweetness of the finished wine.
An initial burst of effervescence occurs when the Champagne contacts the dry glass on pouring. These bubbles form on imperfections in the glass that facilitate nucleation or, to a lesser extent, on cellulose fibres left over from the wiping/drying process as shown with a high-speed video camera. However, after the initial rush, these naturally occurring imperfections are typically too small to consistently act as nucleation points as the surface tension of the liquid smooths out these minute irregularities. The nucleation sites that act as a source for the ongoing effervescence are not natural imperfections in the glass, but actually occur where the glass has been etched by the manufacturer or the customer. This etching is typically done with acid, a laser, or a glass etching tool from a craft shop to provide nucleation sites for continuous bubble formation (note that not all glasses are etched in this way). In 1662 this method was developed in England, as records from the Royal Society show.
Dom Pérignon was originally charged by his superiors at the Abbey of Hautvillers to get rid of the bubbles since the pressure in the bottles caused many of them to burst in the cellar. As sparkling wine production increased in the early 18th century, cellar workers had to wear a heavy iron mask to prevent injury from spontaneously bursting bottles. The disturbance caused by one bottle exploding could cause a chain reaction, with it being routine for cellars to lose 20–90% of their bottles this way. The mysterious circumstance surrounding the then unknown process of fermentation and carbonic gas caused some critics to call the sparkling creations "The Devil's Wine".
There are more than one hundred Champagne houses and 19,000 smaller vignerons (vine-growing producers) in Champagne. These companies manage some 32,000 hectares of vineyards in the region. The type of Champagne producer can be identified from the abbreviations followed by the official number on the bottle:
The popularity of Champagne is attributed to the success of Champagne producers in marketing the wine. Champagne houses promoted the wine's image as a royal and aristocratic drink. Laurent-Perrier's advertisements in late 1890 boasted their Champagne was the favourite of Leopold II of Belgium, George I of Greece, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Margaret Cambridge, Marchioness of Cambridge, and John Lambton, 3rd Earl of Durham, among other nobles, knights, and military officers. Despite this royal prestige, Champagne houses also portrayed Champagne as a luxury enjoyable by anyone, for any occasion. This strategy worked, and, by the turn of the 20th century, the majority of Champagne drinkers were middle class.
In the 19th century, Champagne producers made a concentrated effort to market their wine to women. This was in stark contrast to the traditionally "male aura" that the wines of France had—particularly Burgundy and Bordeaux. Laurent-Perrier again took the lead in this area with advertisements touting their wine's favour with the Countess of Dudley, the wife of the 9th Earl of Stamford, the wife of the Baron Tollemache, and the opera singer Adelina Patti. Champagne labels were designed with images of romantic love and marriage as well as other special occasions that were deemed important to women, such as the baptism of a child.
In some advertisements, the Champagne houses catered to political interest such as the labels that appeared on different brands on bottles commemorating the centennial anniversary of the French Revolution of 1789. On some labels there were flattering images of Marie Antoinette that appealed to the conservative factions of French citizens that viewed the former queen as a martyr. On other labels there were stirring images of Revolutionary scenes that appealed to the liberal left sentiments of French citizens. As World War I loomed, Champagne houses put images of soldiers and countries' flags on their bottles, customizing the image for each country to which the wine was imported. During the Dreyfus affair, one Champagne house released a champagne antijuif with antisemitic advertisements to take advantage of the wave of Antisemitism that hit parts of France.
Champagne is typically drunk during celebrations. For example British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a Champagne reception to celebrate London winning the right to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. It is also used to launch ships when a bottle is smashed over the hull during the ship's launch. If the bottle fails to break this is often thought to be bad luck.
Champagne is a single appellation d'origine contrôlée. As a general rule, grapes used must be the white Chardonnay, or the dark-skinned "red wine grapes" Pinot noir or Pinot Meunier, which, due to the gentle pressing of the grapes and absence of skin contact during fermentation, usually also yield a white base wine. Most Champagnes, including Rosé wines, are made from a blend of all three grapes, although Blanc de blanc ("white from white") Champagnes are made from 100% Chardonnay and Blanc de noir ("white from black") Champagnes are made solely from Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier or a mix of the two.
Four other grape varieties are permitted, mostly for historical reasons, as they are rare in current usage. The 2010 version of the appellation regulations lists seven varieties as allowed, Arbane, Chardonnay, Petit Meslier, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot noir. The sparsely cultivated varieties (0.02% of the total vines planted in Champagne) of Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Pinot blanc, might still be found in modern cuvées from a few producers. Previous directives of INAO make conditional allowances according to the complex laws of 1927 and 1929, and plantings made prior to 1938. Before the 2010 regulations, the complete list of the actual and theoretical varieties also included Pinot de Juillet and Pinot Rosé. The Gamay vines of the region were scheduled to be uprooted by 1942, but due to World War II, this was postponed until 1962, and this variety is not allowed in Champagne today.
The dark-skinned Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier give the wine its length and backbone. They are predominantly grown in two areas – the Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de la Marne. The Montagne de Reims run east-west to the south of Reims, in northern Champagne. They are notable for north-facing chalky slopes that derive heat from the warm winds rising from the valleys below. The River Marne runs west–east through Champagne, south of the Montagne de Reims. The Vallée de la Marne contains south-facing chalky slopes. Chardonnay gives the wine its acidity and biscuit flavor. Most Chardonnay is grown in a north–south-running strip to the south of Épernay, called the Côte des Blanc, including the villages of Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. These are east-facing vineyards, with terroir similar to the Côte de Beaune. The various terroirs account for the differences in grape characteristics and explain the appropriateness of blending juice from different grape varieties and geographical areas within Champagne, to get the desired style for each Champagne house.
Most of the Champagne produced today is "Non-vintage", meaning that it is a blended product of grapes from multiple vintages. Most of the base will be from a single year vintage with producers blending anywhere from 10–15% (even as high as 40%) of wine from older vintages. If the conditions of a particular vintage are favourable, some producers will make a "Vintage" wine that must be composed of at least 85% of the grapes from vintage year. Under Champagne wine regulations, houses that make both vintage and non-vintage wines are allowed to use no more than 80% of the total vintage's harvest for the production of vintage Champagne. This allows at least 20% of the harvest from each vintage to be reserved for use in non-vintage Champagne. This ensures a consistent style that consumers can expect from non-vintage Champagne that does not alter too radically depending on the quality of the vintage. In less than ideal vintages, some producers will produce a wine from only that single vintage and still label it as non-vintage rather than as "vintage" since the wine will be of lesser quality and the producers have little desire to reserve the wine for future blending.
A cuvée de prestige is a proprietary blended wine (usually a Champagne) that is considered to be the top of a producer's range. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, Duval-Leroy's Cuvée Femme and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. Perhaps the original prestige cuvée was Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, launched in 1936 with the 1921 vintage. Until then, Champagne houses produced different cuvées of varying quality, but a top-of-the-range wine produced to the highest standards (and priced accordingly) was a new idea. In fact, Louis Roederer had been producing Cristal since 1876, but this was strictly for the private consumption of the Russian tsar. Cristal was made publicly available with the 1945 vintage. Then came Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne (first vintage 1952), and Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle 'La Cuvée' in 1960, a blend of three vintages (1952, 1953, and 1955) and Perrier Jouët's La Belle Époque. In the last three decades of the 20th century, most Champagne houses followed these with their own prestige cuvées, often named after notable people with a link to that producer and presented in non-standard bottle shapes (following Dom Pérignon's lead with its 18th-century revival design).
A French term (literally "white from black" or "white of blacks") for a white wine produced entirely from black grapes. The flesh of grapes described as black or red is white; grape juice obtained after minimal possible contact with the skins produces essentially white wine, with a slightly yellower colour than wine from white grapes. The colour, due to the small amount of red skin pigments present, is often described as white-yellow, white-grey, or silvery. Blanc de noirs is often encountered in Champagne, where a number of houses have followed the lead of Bollinger's prestige cuvée Vieilles Vignes Françaises in introducing a cuvée made from either Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier or a blend of the two (these being the only two black grapes permitted within the Champagne AOC appellation).
A French term that means "white from whites", and is used to designate Champagnes made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes or in rare occasions from Pinot blanc (such as La Bolorée from Cedric Bouchard), Pinot Gris, Arbane or Petit Meslier. The term is occasionally used in other sparkling wine-producing regions, usually to denote Chardonnay-only wines rather than any sparkling wine made from other white grape varieties.
The rosé wines of Champagne (also known as Pink Champagne) are produced either by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on its skins for a brief time (known as the saignée method) or, more commonly, by adding a small amount of still Pinot noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvée. Champagne is typically light in color even if it is produced with red grapes, because the juice is extracted from the grapes using a gentle process that minimizes the amount of time the juice spends in contact with the skins, which is what gives red wine its color. Rosé Champagne is one of the few wines that allows the production of Rosé by the addition of a small amount of red wine during blending. This ensures a predictable and reproducible color, allowing a constant Rosé color from year-to-year.
The ripeness of the grapes and the amount of sugar added after the second fermentation—dosage—varies and will affect the amount of sugar remaining in the Champagne when bottled for sale, and hence the sweetness of the finished wine. Wines labeled Brut Zero, more common among smaller producers, have no added sugar and will usually be very dry, with less than 3 grams of residual sugar per litre in the finished wine. The following terms are used to describe the sweetness of the bottled wine:
The most common style today is Brut, although throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century Champagne was generally much sweeter than it is today.
Champagne is mostly fermented in two sizes of bottles, standard bottles (750 millilitres), and magnums (1.5 litres). In general, magnums are thought to be higher quality, as there is less oxygen in the bottle, and the volume to surface area favours the creation of appropriately sized bubbles. However, there is no hard evidence for this view. Other bottle sizes, named for Biblical figures, are generally filled with Champagne that has been fermented in standard bottles or magnums.
Sizes larger than Jeroboam (3 L) are rare. Primat sized bottles (27 L)—and as of 2002 Melchizedek sized bottles (30 L)—are exclusively offered by the House Drappier. The same names are used for bottles containing wine and port; however Jeroboam, Rehoboam and Methuselah refer to different bottle volumes. Unique sizes have been made for special occasions and people, the most notable example perhaps being the 20 fluid ounce / 60 cL. bottle (Imperial pint) made especially for Sir Winston Churchill by Pol Roger.
In 2009, a bottle of 1825 Perrier-Jouët Champagne was opened at a ceremony attended by 12 of the world's top wine tasters. This bottle was officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest bottle of Champagne in the world. The contents were found to be drinkable, with notes of truffles and caramel in the taste. There are now only two other bottles from the 1825 vintage extant.
In July 2010, 168 bottles were found on board a shipwreck near the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea by Finnish diver Christian Ekström. Initial analyses indicated there were at least two types of bottle from two different houses: Veuve Clicquot in Reims and the long-defunct Champagne house Juglar (absorbed into Jacquesson in 1829.) The shipwreck is dated between 1800 and 1830, and the bottles discovered may well predate the 1825 Perrier-Jouët referenced above. When experts were replacing the old corks with new ones they discovered there were also bottles from a third house; Heidsieck. The wreck, then, contained 95 bottles of Juglar, 46 bottles of Veuve Clicquot and four bottles of Heidsieck, in addition to 23 bottles whose manufacture is still to be identified. Champagne experts Richard Juhlin and Essi Avellan MW. described the bottles' contents as being in a very good condition. It is planned that the majority of the bottles will be sold at auction, the price of each estimated to be in the region of £40,000–70,000.
Champagne corks are built from several sections and are referred to as agglomerated corks. The mushroom shape that occurs in the transition is a result of the bottom section, which is in contact with the wine, being composed of two stacked discs of pristine cork, cemented to the upper portion which is a conglomerate of ground cork and glue. Prior to insertion, a sparkling wine cork is almost 50% larger than the opening of the bottle. Originally they start as a cylinder and are compressed prior to insertion into the bottle. Over time their compressed shape becomes more permanent and the distinctive "mushroom" shape becomes more apparent.
The aging of the Champagne post-disgorgement can to some degree be told by the cork, as the longer it has been in the bottle the less it returns to its original cylinder shape.
Champagne is usually served in a Champagne flute, whose characteristics include a long stem with a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides and an etched bottom. The Victorian coupe – according to legend, designed using a mould of Marie Antoinette's left breast as a birthday present to her husband, Louis XVI – tends to disperse the nose and over-oxygenate the wine. Champagne is always served cold; its ideal drinking temperature is 7 to 9 °C (45 to 48 °F). Often the bottle is chilled in a bucket of ice and water before opening, which also ensures the champagne is less gassy and can be opened without spillage. Champagne buckets are made specifically for this purpose and often have a larger volume than standard wine-cooling buckets to accommodate the larger bottle, and more water and ice.
To reduce the risk of spilling or spraying any Champagne, open the Champagne bottle by holding the cork and rotating the bottle at an angle in order to ease out the stopper. This method, as opposed to pulling the cork out, prevents the cork from flying out of the bottle at speed.
Pouring sparkling wine while tilting the glass at an angle and gently sliding in the liquid along the side will preserve the most bubbles, as opposed to pouring directly down to create a head of "mousse", according to the study On the Losses of Dissolved CO2 during Champagne serving. Colder bottle temperatures also result in reduced loss of gas. Additionally, the industry is developing champagne glasses designed specifically to reduce the amount of gas lost.
Champagne has been an integral part of sports celebration since Moët & Chandon started offering their Champagne to the winners of Formula 1 Grand Prix events. At the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, winner Dan Gurney started the tradition of drivers spraying the crowd and each other.
On 18 April 2007, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published the results of a recent joint study by the University of Reading and University of Cagliari that showed moderate consumptions of Champagne may help the brain cope with the trauma of stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. The research noted that the high amount of the antioxidant polyphenols in sparkling wine can help prevent deterioration of brain cells due to oxidative stress. During the study scientist exposed two groups of mice with blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay composition) and blanc de noir (Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier based) and a control group with no exposure to Champagne. All groups were then subjected to high levels of neurotoxicity similar to what the human brain experiences during inflammatory conditions. The study found that the groups pre-treated with exposure to Champagne had a higher level of cell restoration compared to the group that wasn't. The study's co-authors noted that it was too early to conclusively say that drinking Champagne is beneficial to brain health but that the study does point researchers to more exploration in this area.
Mireille Guiliano, former CEO of Clicquot, Inc. (the U.S. subsidiary of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin) and author of the Number 1 best-seller French Women Don't Get Fat, believes that many of Champagne's health benefits are due to its trace minerals such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, and lithium (a natural mood regulator).
It is a common perception that people become intoxicated more quickly from Champagne. It has been shown that alcohol is more rapidly absorbed when mixed with carbonated water, and this may explain this anecdotal assertion.
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