Pronounce it: sham-pain
A sparkling wine and name of the most northerly wine region in France. Most Champagnes are a blend of three grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Champagne has three tiers of quality, where non-vintage is the lightest, vintage is made in the good years and is generally more flavoursome than non-vintage. The top Champagnes are known as de luxe cuvées and are mainly vintage.
Choose the best
1998, 1996, 1995, 1990, 1989, 1989 are considered to be some of the best years to watch for.
Most Champagne is brut (dry), while sec is just off-dry, demi-sec is medium sweet and rich is sweeter still. If you see ultra brut or brut zéro on the label, these are the driest Champagnes.
Top open a bottle of Champagne, or any corked fizz without an explosion, turn the bottle while holding the cork still with your other hand, rather than twisting the cork or pushing it out with your thumbs.