Champagne is ubiquitous at celebrations, holidays and special events, but not all sparkling wines are actually champagnes. Champagne is a special variety of sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. It can be made from different types of grapes, but sparkling wines from other places have different names such as Spanish Cava, Italian Asti Spumante, South African Cap Classique and German Sekt.
Champagne is categorized as either blanc de blanc or blanc de noir. This specifies the type of grape used for making it. Blanc de blanc is made from chardonnay grapes, while blanc de noir is made from pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. Rose champagne is made by mixing a small amount of pinot noir wine with champagne to create a light pink color. Blanc de blanc champange is lighter and crisper than the fuller-bodied blanc de noir.
Sweet or Dry
Champagne can be extra dry, brut, sec or demi-sec. Extra dry means that the champagne has no additional sugar added during processing. Brut has very little sugar added, or less than 1 1/2 percent of the total volume. Sec is sweeter, even though the word means dry in French, and can contain up to 4 percent sugar. Demi-sec has the most sugar at up to 8 percent of the total contents of the bottle.
Champagne can either be vintage or non-vintage. Vintage means that all the grapes used for that particular champagne came from grapes that were harvested in one year. Non-vintage means that the grapes could have come from any year. Vintage champagne is usually more expensive due to this fact because non-vintage champagne is not dated. This makes it more difficult to keep for long periods of time to serve at a later date, because the original date is unknown.
Other Sparkling Wines
Other areas of the world have sparkling wines of similar quality to champagne. Spain, Italy, Germany and South Africa have sparkling wines that can be used in place of champagne. These wines differ in taste and cost, but are often mistaken for champagne when they are served. True champagne lovers realize that champagne comes from a very specific part of the world and value the fact that the temperature, soil and grapes of the region create a certain product.