What’s in a name? In the case of Champagne, a bubbly brouhaha.
By international agreement, Champagne is produced exclusively in France’s 70,000-acre Champagne region using one specific method (méthode champenoise).
Only France? Aren’t there American champagnes?
By quirk of U.S. law, some American winemakers describe their sparkling wine as “champagne.”
The 1891 Treaty of Madrid reserved “Champagne” exclusively for wines made in Champagne using méthode champenoise. The Treaty of Versailles ending World War I affirmed French rights, but the U.S. never ratified the treaty, creating a legal loophole American winemakers jumped through after repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
Almost all nation’s recognize France’s exclusive right to the Champagne name. The U.S. does partially—any U.S. winemaker who used “champagne” before 2006 as a generic sparkling wine name may continue, but no one else.
Other nations use their own names for méthode champenoise sparkling wines:
Italy: Spumante and Asti (when made from muscat grapes)
South Africa: Cap Classique
France: Crémant (when produced outside the Champagne region)
All use a method in which yeast and sugar are added to cause a second fermentation in the bottle (sealed using a closure similar to a beer bottle cap). After one-to-three years, dead yeast is frozen in the bottle’s neck, removed, and the bottle corked to preserve carbonation.
Voilá, Champagne (if you did this in the Champagne region of France).
Recommended (all French):
• Mumms Cordon Rouge. Blend of 50 different wines, citrus bursts, fig, pear. $41
• Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut. Refined apple, grapefruit, creamy, lively. $56
• Dom Perignon Rose. Pour reverently at your June wedding. $357.
• Veuve de Verney Crémant. Excellent, affordable. $11.