The Romans were the first to plant vineyards in the Champagne region. Wine produced in Champagne was traditionally held in high regard and was even associated with royalty. It is still usually drunk during celebrations. Champagne bottles are still smashed when ships are being launched.
In medieval times, wine makers in France unexpectedly produced a sparkling wine during the fermentation process. For many years following this, the wine was named ‘devil’s wine’, as bottles that were used to store this wine usually exploded or their corks popped due to the build up of pressure of the gas within. The explosion of one bottle in a cellar usually caused several other bottles to explode too. For many years the French could not make bottles strong enough to hold the champagne, until the invention of the muselet, which prevented the corks from popping. The oldest known sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was produced by bottling up the wine before the fermentation process was finished.
The present wine from Champagne has to follow the strict Champagne appellation law developed by the Interprofessional Champagne wines Committee. Only the three types of grapes, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, and white Chardonnay, can be used in the production of Champagne. Also, certain other aspects are controlled such as pruning, degree of pressing and vineyard yield.
The most famous method used in production of this wine is the classical Méthode Champenoise. At first, fermentation occurs in steel tanks. After this, a second fermentation occurs in the bottle by adding several grams of yeast and rock sugar. It can then take almost 3 years for the champagne to fully mature. The longer the maturation process, the better is the resulting taste. In a process called remuage, the bottle is manipulated to make the lees settle at the neck. The bottles are then chilled and the cap is removed. The bottle is then quickly corked to maintain the fizz.
Depending on sugar content, sparkling wine is categorized accordingly: Brut Zero (a zero content of sugar), Brut (less than 15 grams of residual sugar per litre), dry sec (17-35 grams), demi-sec (33-50 grams), and sweet doux (more than 50 grams of residual sugar per litre).
Sparkling wine is also categorized by colour, for example, white (Blanc de blancs), made only from Chardonnay grapes, or Rose Champagne, which is manufactured using a blend of all the grapes, or Blanc de noir ("white from black") Champagne, which are made solely from Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, or by blending the two. A cuvée de prestige is a blended wine that is considered exotic and the top produce of a wine manufacturer. The first of this high standard sparkling wine was Dom Pérignon. Sparkling wine is a little different from champagne in composition, method of preparation and exposure time.
Most of the champagne produced is ‘non-vintage’, which means that it is a blend of two or more harvests. If the harvesting is too good, then the champagne is not blended with the champagne of other harvests and is considered as ‘vintage’. This champagne is considered better than blended champagne.
Sparkling wine is manufactured all around the world, though the word ‘Champagne’ is used exclusively for the sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region. Popular producers in France include Moët & Chandon, Duval-Leroy and Henriot. Other regions in the world that produce sparkling wine in the world are Espumante in Portugal, Cava in Spain, and Asti in Italy.
Please remember that Champagne should always be stored correctly at a temperature of about 10-15°С in a horizontal or inclined position, so that the fuse of the bottle remains damp.
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