Champagne is the best known sparkling wine in the world. Only sparkling wines produced using the méthode champenoise and from this region are permitted to call themselves Champagne, a right for which Champagne has fought long and hard. Similar wines from elsewhere may call themselves vin mousseux and can state they have used the méthode champenoise. However, despite this, in the United States ‘champagne’ may describe any sparkling white wine. Champagne is usually dry. It is made from a combination of red and white grapes, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. However, the juice lies on the skins for such a short time that no pigment is extracted and the wine remains white. If a Champagne is described as ‘blanc de blancs’ it will be made only from white grapes. Crémant describes a creamier Champagne with less sparkle. The wine-producing regions are in Montagne de Reims, Côte de Blancs and Vallée de la Marne.
The process for making Champagne starts exactly as for other wines, by fermentation, but the process differs when the wine is bottled. Before it is sealed, the dosage, a mixture of sugar and old wine is added. This influences the eventual sweetness of the wine and encourages a secondary fermentation in the bottle which, itself, produces the carbon dioxide which provides the characteristic bubbles.
Famous producers of Champagne include Bollinger, Krug, Louis Roederer, Moët et Chandon, Pol Roger, and Veuve Cliquot. Champagne should be served at around 10°C. An hour in the fridge should be enough.
Dom Pierre Perignon, a late 17th century cellar master, said of Champagne "I am drinking stars" and Joan Davies in "George White's Scandals" (1945) says "Oh, champagne - I love it! It tastes like your foot’s asleep"