Wine Word of the Week: Champagne

By Kori ~ May 3rd, 2011.

This week’s Wine Word of the Week is Champagne.

Official definition from Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine:
Champagne is a name derived from the Latin term Campania, originally used to describe the rolling open countryside just north of Rome. In the early Middle Ages, it became applied to a province in north east France. It is now divided into the so-called ‘Champagne pouilleuse,’ the once-barren but now cereal-growing chalky plains east of Rheims, and the ‘Champagne viticole’ (capital letters indicate the geographical region while lower case is used for the wine).

Champagne, with its three champagne towns Rheims (Reims in French), Epernay, and Ay, was the first region to make sparkling wine in any quantity and historically the name champagne became synonymous with the finest, although Champagne is now responsibly for less than one bottle in 12 of total world production of sparkling wine. ….

In the past, a number of grape varieties were planted in Champagne. But today almost the whole vineyard is planted with three: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. ….

Layman’s terms from Kori:
The Champagne region of France is one of the coldest and most northerly winegrowing regions in the world, which is why it is best suited to sparkling wine. Champagne is the most well-known sparkling wine in the world, but it can only be called Champagne if it is produced in the Champagne region of France. Champagne is produced from any or all of the three grape varieties allowed for sparkling wine production in the Champagne region: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The majority of Champagne, about 85 percent, is non-vintage and produced in a “house style” by blending wines from several vintages. In the best years, a vintage Champagne is produced in which all of the wine is from the year indicated on the bottle.

Filed under: Wine Word of the Week

Reader's Comments

  1. itsoffal | May 3rd, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Darn, now I feel like Seth Meyers at the White House correspondents dinner, when President Obama beat him to the punch by releasing his long form form birth certificate and left him with no jokes to tell, well sort of.
    I am referring to Champagne/Campania/countyside.
    What else am I gonna talk about now : – ))
    Well actually, I’ll just mention the wonderful still wines from the region that don’t get to call themselves Champagnes, but they are not orphans,
    1- the white wines from the Coteaux champenois, not dissimilar to the wines of Chablis.
    2- the delicious Rose’ of Riceys.
    3- the unforgettable reds from Bouzy.
    Take care Kori.

  2. itsoffal | May 3rd, 2011 at 11:27 am

    man I hate it when I double check my spelling and post, only to find out I should have triple checked.
    countryside. :-/

  3. TheGourmetCoffeeGuy | May 3rd, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Very interesting post, Kori. Reminded me of some trivia about sparkling wine, bubbly champagne. Read a while back that scientist Bill Lembeck measured 49 million bubbles in a 750ml bottle of champage with 5.5 atmospheres of pressure stored at 20 degrees Celsius. Funny how such trivia sometimes sticks in your mind…
    We enjoy a glass of champagne at special celebrations: the bubbly drink is indeed very special and festive. Thank you for the thoughtful posts you write.

  4. Kori | May 5th, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    As always, thanks for sharing your insight. Sorry to beat you to the punch, but I think you made a nice recovery. 🙂

    I love trivia facts. Funny how we remember things like that but sometimes forget where we put our keys.


  5. Bryan Maletis | May 9th, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Hi Kori,

    Great post. If you are ever looking for some detailed Champagne info, please reach out as I’m a Seattle local who is importing grower Champagne direct to lower Queen Anne. I love to collaborate on ideas with a fellow Seattle wine lover!



  6. Kori | May 14th, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks so much. I’d love to chat with you about grower Champagne sometime. Cheers!