Champagne Versus Sparkling Wine
Did you know that all wine with bubbles is categorized as Sparkling Wine but not all wine with bubbles is considered Champagne? That’s right, only wine that is produced in the small region known as Champagne, located about 90 miles Northeast of Paris, can be called Champagne and it is required that it be made in accordance with the strict guidelines of the CIVC (the governmental body that regulates the production, etc.). Champagne is produced with only 3 specific grape types; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The villages of Champagne were at one time classified into categories called, Cru, Premier Cru and Grand Cru; although that system was discarded in the early 2000’s, the Premier Cru and Grand Cru villages continue to use the classification because, well, why wouldn’t they? Champagne can vary in sweetness from Brut Nature at 0-3 grams of sugar per liter to Doux, or Sweet which can have up to 50 grams per liter of sugar. While dry is usually a term used to distinguish a wine (still or sparkling) with little to no residual sugar, when it comes to Champagne, the term Extra Dry actually means it has a bit more sugar than Brut versions. This came about through a survey done many years ago of American consumers; A group of them were asked if they prefer a sweet or dry Champagne, and the overwhelming majority answered dry. The same group was then given a taste of a variety of Champagnes ranging in sweetness levels and the same overwhelming majority selected the sweeter Champagne as their favorite; prompting the Champagne marketers to adopt the term Extra Dry for the mid-level of sweetness in a Champagne. Another topic that is getting a lot of attention as of late, is the question of which type of Champagne is better: that of a Grower/Producer (a producer who also grows the grapes from which he/she produces wine), versus a Negociant Manipulant (one who purchases fruit from which he/she produces wine.) It is the humble opinion of this Sommelier that both can be fantastic; you just need to trust and follow your own palate.