What’s in a name? Just as onions must come from Vidalia, Georgia to be called Vidalia onions you can’t call sparkling wine Champagne unless it’s from the Champagne region of France.
“It’s a consumer protection issue,” says Thibaut le Mailloux of the Comité de Champagne. “We are basically trying to rid the world of using Champagne as a generic term including its use to describe paint colors or in fashion.”
Located 90 miles northeast of Paris, Champagne’s climate, chalky soil, and long history of winemaking combine to produce the region’s uniquely elegant sparkling wine. While most Americans can name at least a few top brands such as Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Piper-Heidsieck and Taittinger, there are more than five thousand producers in Champagne; some very big and some very small.
So, when you’re choosing Champagne from a restaurant wine list or at a wine shop take note of wineries you might not recognize to discover a diversity of styles and prices.
Vintage Champagne is blended from the wines of a single outstanding year (read: pricier!) with the year listed on the label.
Non-vintage Champagne wines are blended from grapes grown in different years to achieve a consistent house style regardless of vintage variability.
Dosage descriptors are clues to sugar content. At the dry end of the scale is 'Extra Brut' (almost no sweetness added) and 'Brut'. At the sweet end are 'Sec', 'Demi-Sec' and 'Doux' (which is very sweet). More than 90% of Champagne wines are categorized as 'Brut'.
Cheers to your health!