All That Bubbles Is Not Champagne
What do the Czars of Russia, a certain Prime Minister of England, and lately rap music stars all have in common? They all know a good thing when they taste it: champagne.
Champagne the region is located in Northern France—east of, and not far from, Paris, centered in and around the villages of Epernay and Reims where viticulture, by Roman hands, is said to date from as early as 79 A.D. Besides tending vines, the industrious Romans quarried the chalky hillsides of the region—the remnants of an ancient sea floor— for building blocks, thus creating the many miles of caves which later were put to use as cellars for millions of bottles.
Early winemaking in Champagne was in many respects similar to that of the Burgundy region to the south. Then, champagne had no bubbles, but was a still wine. It was, and still is, produced largely from indigenous Chardonnay (the white grape), and Pinot Noir (the red grape). It was in the mid-1600s that champagne, probably by accident, got its spark, or rather sparkle. And it was monastic cellar master Dom Perignon (now of champagne fame), who gave birth to an organized process of secondary fermentation inside the bottle, creating the exhilarating bubbles that make this the must-have drink for celebrations.
In point of fact, because mastering a successful secondary fermentation was still not an exact science (rather it seemed more of a gamble), winemakers went along producing still wines in an equal proportion to sparkling wines until advances in the mid-1800s caused still wine making in the region to virtually cease in favor of the magical mousse.
Early on, public taste in champag ne was for sweeter, but gradually, dry wines, of which champange brut has become the most popular. Champagne also comes in several other styles such as extra dry (modestly sweet) and brut zero (very dry), and rosé (a sparkler tinted pink having had brief contact with the Pinot Noir skins) among others. Champagne also comes in other styles, depending on which grapes are used. Blanc de Blanc is produced from 100% Chardonnay, while Blanc de Noir is a white sparkling champagne produced from Pinot Noir. However, most houses blend the two together (sometimes adding a third regional grape, Pinot Munier), drawing on their strengths and individual aromatic and flavor characteristics.
Lastly, champa gne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are champagne. Bubblies are made all over the world. Spain, Italy, Germany, the United States, Australia, and even other regions of France all produce interesting sparkling wines. But no other place on earth has Champagne’s unique terroir, or produces sparkling wines with the finesse, precision, and overall quality of the Champagne region.
Visit Mills and we‘ll be happy to help you select a champagne that will put you in famous company.