- a famous winemaking region in northeastern France, centred on the two towns of Reims and Épernay. The region has a chalky soil and, as the most northerly AOC, a relatively cool climate. The most famous wine of the region is the sparkling wine Champagne, though some still wines are also made. The sparkling wine is made using the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier grape varieties; blanc de noirs Champagne is produced entirely from red Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes, or a mixture of both, while blanc de blancs Champagne is made entirely from white Chardonnay grapes. Rosé Champagne is also made, usually by adding a little red wine to the basic blended Champagne (called the ‘cuvée’). The grapes for Champagne are fermented once in a large vat, usually using a specially developed yeast strain, and then fermented a second time in the bottle. This second fermentation produces carbon dioxide that is forced into the wine within the closed bottle. This method of producing wine is often termed the ‘méthode champenoise’ and is used to produce other sparkling wines, but under European Union laws only wines produced within the Champagne region can be labelled Champagne. Most Champagnes are non-vintage blends made to a consistent style, the house style of the producer (the best of which are unofficially termed ‘grandes marques’). Vintage Champagne is made from the best grapes of the harvest in a year when the winemaker considers the harvest to be particularly good. Vintage Champagnes must then be aged for three years. The sugar level of Champagne is described on the label as ‘brut’ for very dry Champagne with less than 1.5 per cent sugar, ‘extra sec’ for slightly sweet wine, ‘demi-sec’ for sweet wine or ‘doux’ for very sweet wine.