Some facts about Champagne:
- The term Champagne only refers to those wines from the Champagne region of France. The sparkling cavas, bruts, spumantes and more should not be labeled Champagne but often are referred to in that way. Instead, in 2005 a court ruled that the term méthode traditionnelle should be used in those cases. (Sidenote: "In 2008, more than 3000 bottles of sparkling wine produced in California labelled with the term "Champagne" were destroyed by Belgian government authorities." - Wikipedia)
- Méthode Champenoise is the traditional method by which Champagne is produced. The second fermentation that occurs includes several grams of yeast and sugar. Again, there are more rules stating that it must sit for 1.5 years to get the proper flavor. After that time has passed, the bottles are then "riddled" meaning the lees settle in the neck of the bottle by being placed on a slant. The bottle is then chilled, the neck is frozen and the cap is replaced with a cork, sealing in all the carbon dioxide.
- Most modern Champagnes are non-vintage (NV) meaning that the grapes in the bottle are blends of different vintages. There is a such thing as Vintage Champagne which consists of at least 85% of the grapes from one vintage.
- There's 3 classifications of Champagne: Prestige Cuveé, Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Blanc. The prestige cuveé is the high end selection from the producer (Moet & Chandon Dom Pérignon, Louis Roederer Cristal, etc). Blanc de Noirs means "white from black" literally so the juice is from black grapes. The typical grapes used are Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier or a blend of the two. Blanc de Blanc is the easily enough "white from white". The only grape in a Blanc de blanc is the Chardonnay grape.
- Rosé Champagne or "Pink Champagne" starts the same way Blanc de Noirs do but the grape skins sit with the juice longer to make it a pinkish color (macerate) or a little bit of Pinot Noir or cuveé wine is added.
- Obviously the amount of sugar determines the sweetness. There are 3 classifications: Brut natural (<3 grams of sugar/liter), Extra Brut (<6 grams of sugar/liter), and the most commonly seen Brut (<12 grams of sugar/liter).
So enjoy a bottle of your favorite French bubbly, or explore and find a new one! Just be sure it's true Champagne. It's worth it to indulge sometimes ;)