Many people refer to any type of sparkling wine as Champagne. However, as Rob Lowe explained in Wayne's World:
"Oh, actually all champagne is French, it's named after the region. Otherwise it's sparkling white wine. Americans of course don't recognize the convention, so it becomes that thing of calling all of their sparkling white "champagne", even though by definition they're not."
If you are ever in Champagne, it's a good idea to check out a check out a Champagne cellar. The guided tour will show you how Champagne is made and, most importantly, give you some samples. We went to the Mumm's Champagne cellar but it was randomly closed. They told us to come back the next day to catch the 5pm tour. Fortunately, we stumbled upon another cellar on our way home.
It certainly didn't have the same feel as the Mumm's cellar but it was only 10 euros and we had our own personal guide!
Champagne starts out the same as regular white wines and is created using a mix of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
The second fermentation process is where the bubbles are made. Yeast is added to the bottle and it's sealed and aged for a minimum of 1.5 years.
During this process, the yeast dies and settles to the bottom of the bottle.
No one would want to drink Champagne with this stuff in it so it needs to be removed. This was done manually by slightly rotating the bottle everyday until the yeast settle in the neck of the bottle. This is called "remuage" which probably translates into "extremely frustrating". Now they have machines that do it in a fraction of the time.
After the yeast is at the neck of the bottle, it is removed. They do this by freezing the part of the neck that contains the yeast and shooting it out using the pressure from the bottle. They add a little bit of syrup and liquor and then voilà! You have Champagne.
By far the most rewarding part of the tour was the tasting!
The next day, all pumped up on our Champagne knowledge, we headed to the Mumm Cellar to catch the 5pm tour. DJB confirmed with security that the 5pm tour was a go and we headed to the main building where we were greeted by a snotty receptionist that told us the last tour had already departed at 4:30. Oh well, the tour was 20 euros each and you only received one sample! We headed to the Champagne tent at the Christmas market and treated ourselves to 40 euros worth of 5 euro a glass Champagne :)
"A meal without wine is breakfast, but breakfast is not breakfast without Champagne"