Champagne is a version of sparkling wine that is probably the most famous type of wine in the world. The wine gets its name from the French region of Champagne and only wines made in this region actually count as being true Champagnes.
Champagne tends to be made from specific types of grapes that are grown in the Champagne area. Grapes here can either be red or white - most Champagnes are white wines as they do not come into contact with the grape skins (which add colour to wines) during the wine making process. The exception is rose Champagne that will either have some exposure to grape skins or that has some red wine added to it. The three main types of Champagne grapes are:
- Pinot Meunier
- Pinot Noir
The actual bubbles within a bottle of Champagne are formed by adding a 'liqueur de triage' to white wine. This is basically a mixture of yeast and sugar which, as it ferments, will add to the alcohol content of the wine and will add carbon dioxide to the mix. The carbon dioxide is effectively trapped in the bottle of wine which is what makes it bubbly. The wine is aged and then the yeast residue that forms at the top of the bottle is removed.
There are various kinds of Champagne on offer all of which come with different price tags. Non vintage Champagnes (often referred to as NV) are Champagnes that have been made from various blends of white wines which may all have been produced in different years. Vintage Champagnes are made from one year's wines only. These wines will cost more than non vintage bottles and you'll probably pay most for the prestige cuvees released by the major Champagne wine makers.