All champagne is sparkling wine but not all sparkling wine is champagne, so to demystify the bubbles, it is all about region.
The proud traditions of France around wine production are very similar to those of cheese production and focus on the rules that make them unique.
Champagne undergoes a second fermentation process once in the bottle, which creates the lovely carbonation that makes it so special. But along with that comes earlier practices that may be specific to the vineyard, the actual sourcing of grapes that can only be from the appellation area in Champagne itself, located in the north-west of France, and specific ways that they may press the grapes they use.
To bear the name of Champagne it needs to come from the region itself and follow the strict guidelines. If not, it is given another name altogether: ‘Mousseux’ or ‘Crémant’ in France.
Champagne is made from white Chardonnay or the dark-skinned ‘red wine grapes’, Pinot noir and/or Pinot Meunier, which, due to the gentle pressing of the grapes and absence of skin contact during fermentation, usually also yield a white base wine. Most Champagnes, including Rosé wines, are made from a blend of all three grapes, although Blanc de blanc (white from white) Champagnes are made from 100 percent Chardonnay and Blanc de noir (white from black) Champagnes are made solely from Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier or a mix of the two.
Our picks: Champagne Laurent-Perrier La Cuvee Brut: A glorious citrus and white fruit-laden wine from the long-established French Champagne house founded in 1812.
Around the world Sparkling wine comes with different names.
Méthode Traditional is a sparkling wine that is produced according to the rules of champagne but outside the region, so using the same high quality of process but using fruit from elsewhere.
Our picks: French Méthode Traditional – Monmousseau Brut: From a French champagne house established in 1886 in an old quarry, the resulting cellars have provided a beautiful resting place for the well-balanced fruit with slight acidity Méthode they produce.
New Zealand Méthode from Quartz Reef –royal gala apple, hints of lime and brioche, this bottle of bubbles has beautiful length with a creamy elegant acidity made from Demeter-certified, biodynamically grown grapes.
Is made from Glera grapes in the Italian village of Prosecco near Trieste, from where the grape and wine originate. Strict regulation governs production and grape varieties that can be used. A main ingredient in the classic Bellini cocktail, this is also a perfect drink for Christmas day.
Our pick: Prosecco Borgo San Leo: A beautiful floral bouquet of apple and wisteria leads to a well-balanced Prosecco with hints of delicate almond.