France - Champagne Champagne Blend Champagne / Sparkling Wine
All Champagne is sparkling wine. But not all sparkling wine is Champagne. The wine known as Champagne can only come from the region in France of the same name. La Champagne (the region) is located 90 miles northeast of Paris, and in the northernmost wine region in Europe. Of its 84,000 acres, 60,000 (300 individual vineyards) are planted to the varieties that go into Le Champagne (the wine). These include: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The soil of Champagne is a unique chalk which lies just below the thin, constantly-fertilized top soil. The cool climate is almost marginal for grape growing, even in warmer years, dictating the grapes will always be high in acid--not ideal for still wine--but perfect for sparkling.
Most of the important Champagne houses (producers) are located in the city of Reims, famous for cathedrals as well as Champagne, and the town of Epernay to the south. These houses are famous for their miles of cold, dark, chalky cellars, in which their prized Champagne ages for many years.
The sparkling wines of Champagne have been revered by wine drinkers for hundreds of years, and even today they maintain their reputation for excellence of flavor and character, and are consistently associated with quality, decadence, and a cause for celebration. Their unique characteristics are partly due to the careful blending of a small number of selected grape varietals, most commonly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These grapes, blended in fairly equal quantities, give the wines of Champagne their wonderful flavors and aromas, with the Pinot Noir offering length and backbone, and the Chardonnay varietal giving its acidity and dry, biscuity nature. It isn't unusual to sometimes see Champagne labeled as 'blanc de blanc', meaning it is made using only Chardonnay varietal grapes, or 'blanc de noir', which is made solely with Pinot Noir.