Original article published at TasteAtlas

Popularly known as the gold standard of sparkling wine, true Champagne only comes from the actual Champagne region in France. It is produced using the so-called méthode Champenoise; the process in which secondary fermentation is done in the bottle with the addition of yeast and rock sugar, and it is made with the basic, traditional blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, all of which are indigenous to the Champagne region. However, there are four other permitted grape varieties in the Champagne AOP – Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane – but these are rarely mentioned as they’re almost never used for sparkling wine production outside of France. Varietal Champagne made with solely Chardonnay grapes is designated as Blanc de Blancs, while the one produced by the fermentation of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir is called Blanc de Noirs. When young, a classic Blanc de Blancs is restrained and elegant, but with aging, it develops a mouth-coating brioche richness that overlays its intense, supple fruitiness. It is also lighter in body, and thus perfect for lighter meals, such as soups and seafood.

On the other hand, Blanc de Noirs is considered to be richer in taste and typically showcases a bit more body and a vibrant red fruit character, which makes it a worthy match for foie gras in all its forms, but it can also be paired with hearty meat-based dishes. Based on their terroir-driven complexity, other styles of Champagne range from lean and crisp with lots of lemons and green apples to rich and full with aromas of toffee, brioche, and even baked apples, while rosé Champagne displays more red fruit and berry aromas. Established as an iconic drink of exquisite refinement during the French Belle Époque in the late 19th century, Champagne remains the preferred choice for celebrations of all kinds, standing alone and unmatched among a plethora of sparkling wines produced worldwide.