The region that produces the world’s most famous sparkling wine, Champagne is located along the 48th parallel in northern France. With a relatively cool continental climate, Champagne is impacted by wet, windy winter conditions from the Atlantic Ocean and diurnal temperature shifts. These conditions produce high acid and low alcohol based wines, with vintages varying drastically due to frost, rain, and fungal diseases.
While most of the Champagne region is focused on producing sparkling wines, there are two appellations that produce still wines. Amongst the eight districts within Champagne, the four most well-known districts are Montagne de Reims, Côte des Blancs, Marne Valley, and Côte des Bars. Champagne region’s main varietals are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay, while grapes like Arbanne, Fromenteau (Pinot Gris), Petit Meslier, and Pinot Blanc play a more minor role.
Despite the hardships that the region has faced – multiple wars, the phylloxera epidemic, and fraud – sparkling wines produced within Champagne are considered luxury products. The irony being that before the 1700s, any wines that had fizz were considered defective in France, as the effervescence was thought to distract from the overall quality and caused bottles to burst from the pressure.
Eventually discovering the beauty in sparkling wines, Champagne originally made their wines via méthode ancestrale, a single fermentation process that starts in the tank and then finishes in the bottle, which is typically used when making Pet-Nats. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Champagne started using the méthode champenoise, a double fermentation process that happens both in the tank and bottle, which is what makes Champagne distinct from other sparkling wines.