Champagne is, strictly speaking, a spark-ling white wine made from grapes grown in the vineyards of the Champagne area in

northern France. The soil of the Champagne region, rich in chalk and limestone, is responsible for the unique quality of the wines. Almost all cham-pagne is made from both black and white grapes. Champagne is an expensive wine because of the time, care and difficulty involved in its preparation.

Champagne ranges in sweetness from brut, the driest, through extra-dry, dry and demi-sec to doux, the sweetest. Because

part of the fermentation process of champagne occurs in the wine bottle itself, carbon dioxide gas bubbles are released

upon uncorking. These bubbles give champagne its sparkling quality.

Champagne is sold under the name or trademark of its shipper instead of the name of the vineyard. Non-vintage champagne

accounts for the bulk of the trade. It is blended from the juices of grapes from vineyards of varying quality. Wines of previous years may also be mixed in with the current crop to main-tain a consistency of taste in each year’s production.

Non-vintage wines should be drunk young.

Due to the blending process, there is not the same emphasis on a vintage year with champagne as there is with BORDEAUX and BURGUNDY. In an excep-tionally good year, however, champagne is made from that year’s crop alone and a date is put on the label. Vintage champagne is a fuller and more expensive wine than non-vintage champagne.

Light and effervescent Champagne is traditionally associated with luxury and special occasions and is served at weddings and other festivities. It is an ideal aperitif and also goes well with the more delicate white meats and desserts.

Champagne should not be served in a saucer-shaped glass, which disperses the bubbles, the essence of Champagne, too

rapidly. A tulip or flute-shaped wine glass is appropriate for this wine.

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