Is Sparkling Wine Champagne?

October 10, 2011

56,000,000 bubbles. Yep that’s 56 million (I counted them, no not really) in a bottle of sparkling wine.  All those bubbles are the result of extra carbon dioxide-six atmosphere of pressure of carbon dioxide to be exact, dissolved within a bottle of sparkling wine.

When we say “Sparkling Wine” Champagne is the most famous. All Champagne is Sparkling Wine, but not all Sparkling Wine is Champagne. Huh?  Yes, it is true, in order for a Sparkling Wine to be called ‘Champagne’ on the label, verbally or as you sip, it must be produced in the Champagne region located in northern France-which is comprised of the towns of Reims, Epernay and Ay.

Since regions around the world rely on their geographic indication to differentiate themselves from other areas and to protect the name of Champagne, France in 1891 made it illegal for any vineyard not in the Champagne region of France to make a drink and call it “Champagne.” When it comes to wine, there is no ingredient more important than location (location, location, location). The land, air, water and weather where grapes are grown are a big part of what makes each wine unique.  The ban on calling Sparkling Wine “Champagne” was even written into the Treaty of Versailles which marked the end of WWI, making it law in every country that signed it.  Since the United States never signed the Treaty of Versailles, American yineyards were never forced to follow this law until recently. The U.S. amended our tax code to restrict the use of the name ‘champagne’ for all new wines made after 2006.  Wines made prior to 2006 can use the name ‘Champagne’ on their labels only when accompanied by a notification of their actual origin (i.e. Napa Valley CA) so there is no confusion.

Sparkling Wine produced outside of the Champagne region in northern France is called by other names; In Rome Italy do as the Romans do and drink Spumante or Frizzante.  A Sparkling Wine from South Africa is called Cape Classique.  Sparkling Wine from Germany is called Sekt.  The New World Wine producers which include California, Washington State, Oregon, Michigan, Argentina, Chile Australia, New Zealand refer to their wine as just Sparkling Wine.

There is a movement toward truth-in-labeling laws that protect consumers by requiring that the wine growing places are reserved exclusively for the regions where the wine comes from.  Learn more on The Champagne Bureau website, the official U.S. representative of the of the Comite’ Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France. The bureau works to educate U.S. consumers about the uniqueness of the wines of Champagne and expand their understanding of the need to protect the Champagne name.  There is a petition that you can sign on their site to protect wines places and origin names if you are interested.





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