champagne (shămpānˈ) [key], sparkling white wine made from grapes grown in the old French province of Champagne. The best champagne is from that part of the Marne valley whose apex is Reims, the center of the industry. Champagne was reputedly developed by a monk, Dom Pérignon, in the 17th cent. It is a mixture of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes and is named for the vintners and shippers responsible for each blend. After the first fermentation the wine is blended; it undergoes a secondary fermentation, then is drawn off into bottles reinforced to withstand high internal pressure, and is sweetened to induce further fermentation. The carbonic acid retained in the bottle after the final fermentation renders champagne sparkling. The wine is matured in the labyrinthine tunnels of the old chalk quarries of Reims. Any sediment that forms is collected on the cork by tilting the bottle neck downward and frequently rotating it by hand. After fermentation comes the dégorgement process, whereby the neck of the bottle is frozen and the cork is removed; the lump of frozen sediment shoots out, propelled by the pressure in the bottle. The space left is filled with the proper dosage of cane sugar dissolved in wine and usually fortified with cognac. Brut champagne is theoretically not sweetened; extra dry champagne, very lightly. Sparkling American wine is sometimes called champagne.
See studies by S. Sutcliffe (1988), F. Nicholas (1989), M. Edwards (1994), M. McNie (1999), T. Stevenson (2003), G. Giger-Belair (2004), and D. and P. Kladstrup (2005).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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