Champagne is a protected name which only the sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France are allowed to use. Even how they call the method by which they get the bubbles into the wine is protected; méthode champenoise or the Champagne method.
Despite the fact champagne has a light colour it is made from two red grapes and one type of white grape. The wines are made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Pinot Noir is a robust grape, the Pinot Meunier ensures maturity (only small amounts are being used) and the white grape gives a light, fruity and fresh taste to the champagne. Champagnes with less or no Pinot Meunier are seen as the best champagnes. This because the Pinot Meunier grape matures fast and has a limited expiration date. Therefore this grape is only being used for champagnes that are in the cellars to mature for a short period of time. The longer the maturing process, the more expensive the champagne is.
How it’s made
When the flavours are good, the wine goes in the bottle. A liquor that contains sugar and yeast is added. The bottle then gets its bottle cap and is stored in a cellar. Because of the liquor after a few weeks another yeasting takes place. This time they don’t let the carbon dioxide escape. Because of the pressure the carbon dioxide mixes with the wine and the non-sparkling wine turns into a sparkling wine: champagne.
Most champagne houses leave a non-vintage champagne (a mixture of multiple years old) ripen in their cellars for about three years. After that a special process known a riddling or “Le Remuage” is being used to remove the dead yeast from the bottle without losing its sparkle. In the final stage the bottle again gets another dosage of liquor. Depending on the type of champagne the liquor contains a certain percentage of sugar. After that it’s time to insert the cork, put the muselet over it and give the bottle of champagne its label for recognition. Cheers!