Overview of Champagne


There tends to be lots of questions that swirl around champagne in particular and sparkling wine overall.  From the Champagne making process to the joys of tasting it, there are many questions that are asked.  We will review some of the more common questions regarding Champagne in this article and provide answers to them.


Is Champagne Wine?

The answer is yes.  Fermented grapes are used to make Champagne- usually Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes.  The same grape cultivation process for still wines gets used for cultivating Champagne vineyards.  The process of making Champagne involves blending somewhere between 30 to more than 50 individual still wines that come from different villages in Champagne, France.  Different vintages are often used as well, except for in the cases of “vintage” Champagne.  A primary fermentation process is used for the wines.  Then there is a secondary fermentation process that takes place as well, where yeast and sugar are infused for creating and capping the champagne bubbles.

Is Sparkling Wine And Champagne The Same Thing?

Technically, the only time Champagne is truly considered to be “Champagne” is when it is produced in Champagne, France.  All other versions are considered to be sparkling wine.  There are different wine regions that refer to their sparkling wines by various names: Cremant for sparking wines from other regions in France, Sekt in Germany, Prosecco in Italy and Cava in Spain.  However, there are many sparkling wines that are produced in other parts of the world that are made using the same method and using the same grapes, with the second fermentation occurring in the bottle instead of a closed tank.

Does Champagne Have a Dry Or Sweet Taste?

Champagne can be made in dry and sweet formats, and with varying degrees, depending on what the individual style of the bottle is.  If you are searching for a dry champagne, you should look for a bottle that says “extra brut” or “brut.”  Sweeter styles of champagne will be labeled “demi-sec” or “sec.”  Click to learn about Brut Champagne

Is Champagne Served Cold Or Warm?

All sparkling wines, including champagne, should be served at a well-chilled temperature in the 40 to 50 °F range.  They will have bright flavors, better bubbles and less risk of the cork launching if the bottle of bubbly is well-chilled.


Is Champagne Vegan?

Champagne, along with most wines, make use of a fining agent for clarifying the wine and removing larger particles.  There are many fining agents that do exist.  However, the most common ones are animal products, including fish bladders, gelatin, casein and egg whites.  Some of the smaller producers do make an effort to make wines without using traditional fining agents derived from animal products.

Is Champagne Gluten-Free?

In general, almost all wines are gluten-free.  However, there are times when neutral barrels might have been used in the past to store malt-based beverages before making their way to a winery environment.  This isn’t very common.  However, there could be situations where some cross-contamination might take place.  More producers are becoming aware of issues involving gluten and are avoiding the use of wheat-based pastes that are occasionally used for sealing the barrels.  If you have a favorite producer, you can always call the wine estate, and ask them about potential gluten contamination if this is a concern of yours.

Is Champagne Expensive?

Sometimes yes and sometimes no.  It all depends on whether you are buying entry level bottles from reputable Champagne Houses or a high-end vintage Champagne made by one of the top producers.  True Champagne can cost anywhere from $30 per bottle up to several hundreds of dollars, depending on the vintage, vineyard, village and region that the bottle comes from.  If you would like to find an entry-level Champagne that is easy to find, solid and easy to sip, you should check out Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label (priced at around $50) or Brut Cuvee from Piper-Heidseick (costs around $30).  If you would like to go up one notch, try a bottle of Louis Roederer or Bollinger.

Is Champagne Better If It Has Been Aged?

High-end Champagnes are frequently aged for a longer time period before they are released.  If well-stored, vintage Champagnes may gain extra layers of complexity.  In general, however, most bottles of sparkling wine and Champagne are ready to taste as soon as they hit the shelf and don’t taste better if they are allowed to age.