Champagne is produced from wine grapes grown in the Champagne region in France. Champagne appellation law requires grapes to be grown according to appellation rules in order to be used in the production of Champagne. Most Champagne is made up of a blend of three different grape varieties. Champagne is categorized as either "vintage" or "non-vintage". The majority of Champagne produced today is "non-vintage", meaning that it was produced with a blend of grapes from different vintages. "Vintage" Champagne is made from grapes that are at least 85% of the same vintage. "Non-vintage" Champagne is bottle aged for approximately 15 months and should be consumed within 1-2 years. "Vintage" Champagne is bottle aged for at least 3 years before it is released for sale and can usually benefit from some bottle-aging but there is generally no improvement 10 years beyond the vintage date. The vast majority of Champagne will lose flavor and fizz after a couple of years in the bottle, especially if it is not stored in optimum conditions.
The bubbles in Champagne are formed during the second fermentation process when sugar and yeast are added to the wine. This typically occurs in the actual bottle but can also take place in a fermentation tank. The body or sweetness of Champagne is determined by the amount of residual sugar per liter. Champagne is classified as Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, and Demi-Sec. Extra Brut Champagne is extra dry and contains 0.0-0.5% of residual sugar per liter. Brut Champagne is dry and contains 0.5-1.5% of residual sugar per liter. Extra Dry Champagne is middle of the road dry and contains 1.2-2.0% of residual sugar per liter. Demi-sec Champagne is pretty sweet and contains 3.3-5.0% of residual sugar per liter. Champagne typically has bouquets / flavors of apple, citrus, toast, butter, pear, strawberry, and vanilla. Champagne pairs well with a variety of appetizers, caviar, mild and strong cheese, spicy Asian food, chips, popcorn, nuts, Mexican food, and pizza that is light on tomato sauce.
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