Region is located in northeastern
(about 1 1/2 hours from Paris by train or car) and is the home
of sparkling wine. The soil in the best vineyards of the
Champagne Region is mostly of the same white, chalky clay that
forms the white cliffs of Dover on the English Channel.
The only three legal grape varieties for Champagne are Chardonnay
(for delicacy), Pinot Noir
(for power) and Pinot Meunier.
Champagnes go through an initial fermentation in tanks that form
a very acidic still wine. Next the wine is put through a
second fermentation in an individual bottle. The CO2 that
is formed during this second fermentation is trapped in the bottle
and over a period of time is forced into solution with the wine.
The longer that Champagne ages in the cellars, the tinier the
Champagne comes in a variety of sweetness levels. By far
the most popular is a style know as 'Brut' which is fermented
to dryness. In North America, a slightly sweeter type know
as Extra Dry has a substantial market share. There are dryer
(Natural, Savage) and sweeter versions (demi-sec, doux) of Champagne
that are produced, but they represent very tiny segments.