Buy Champagne

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Champagne is a region, a method, and a product like no other. The producers of what could be called "liquid magic" are known as the Champenois, and are fiercely protective of the Champagne name. They will not hesitate to take legal action against those outside the region who attempt to use it.

If a label announces itself as Champagne, then it is without doubt made within the Champagne region of France, using the Methode Champanoise. All others, no matter how delightful, are referred to as "sparkling wine." However, not all Champagnes are created equal.

Typically, there are three grapes used in the making of Champagne. The first two are black, the Pinot Noir and the Pinot Meunier. The third grape is the white Chardonnay. Because the juices of all grapes are white (it is the amount of time that pressed juice is allowed to remain in contact with the expelled skins which gives blushes, roses and deep reds their color), "white" Champagne may be made from any combination of the above three grapes. "Blanc du Noir" is made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes, and "Blancs du Blanc" are exclusively Chardonnay grapes.

It Was a Very Good Year

Champagnes range from dry, (called "Brut") to semi-sweet (called "Demi-Sec"). Vintage, as a term, refers to the finest crop of grapes possible under any conditions. Vintage years are very rare. When a vintage year occurs, the champagne is made exclusively with the bounty of that crop, and the use of the regular "house blend" is temporarily suspended. Portions of the vintage crop are set aside as "reserves" to be incorporated during non-vintage years. Most Champagnes are non-vintage, and are marked "NV" on the bottle. In addition to their popularity for celebrating special and momentous occasions, champagne is an excellent accompaniment to oysters and shellfish, as well as mild cheeses like Gruyere.

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