#1 Edited by melcene (3056 posts) -

So this weekend I wanted to pick up some champagne for celebrating  (and I was all out of champagne at home that we had been given over the years).
I know that the champagne that I've liked most over the years was a champagne from Germany.  It was almost like sparkling apple cider without the apple.  But when I go to the liquor store, or even the grocery store, nearly all the champagnes are "California Champagne."  I gathered from the clerk at the liquor store that Brut's are the driest of the bunch, while Asti's are the sweetest.

Help me understand more about champagne - and where the hell does one get some decent champagne anyway?

#2 Posted by Choffy (443 posts) -

I know you can remove the cork with a knife.

#3 Posted by Cube (4366 posts) -

Champagne is pretty good. 

#4 Posted by Paulus (176 posts) -

I know that you're only allowed to call it champagne if it's from the Champagne region in France.

#5 Posted by nemt (862 posts) -


It's time to kick ass and drink champagne

and I'm all outta champagne

#6 Posted by alternate (2717 posts) -

I think you are mixing up Champagne and sparkling wine.  Was the German one sweet?  They do a sparkling Hock which sounds similar to what you describe.

#7 Posted by swamplord666 (1762 posts) -

distant cousins of  mine own a vineyard and i'm from the champagne region so maybe I can help you ;)

In terms of where you get it, I think any big supermarket will have a couple of brands but in terms of having a larger selection you may have to look for a dedicated wine (and liquor) store. you don't want a champagne that's too fruity. The names of the champagnes escape me and I only have the name of "Jean Milan" (my family's champagne) which is better than most high class champagnes like "Mumm".  I don't really know what else to suggest. Do you have any particular questions? And just so you know, I'm not an aficionado. I won't be able to give you too many detailed answers :/
#8 Posted by melcene (3056 posts) -

Hmm.  Looks like @Paulus: is partially right and so is @alternate:.   Apparently champagne is a sparkling wine, it just comes from the Champagne area of France.  Asti is the Italian version of champagne.  Sekt is the German version of champagne.  Though that doesn't explain why there's such a thing as "California Champagne."  I'm also not sure where to get most of these other kinds of champagne.  Also still doesn't really explain the varying tastes.  I understand there's a dry to sweet scale.  But dry isn't normally a word I'd use to describe a taste.  Is it bitter?

#9 Edited by Contro (2040 posts) -
@melcene: 

You are a newb :), Champagne only comes from one place in the world, the Champagne region in France, nowhere else. What you drank was most likely a Sekt, a regular German sparkling wine. Most European counties have their own variations of sparkling wine, but none to date can compare with the French product - the conditions for the grapes to grow are absolutely perfect in that region of France.

A fine liquor importer.
#10 Posted by Underachiever007 (2468 posts) -

I know nothing about alcohol. This thread might be educational.

#11 Posted by melcene (3056 posts) -
@Contro: Admittedly, I am. I've only had champagne a handful of times.  I don't like wines but I've come to like some champagnes.  I'm just trying to figure out how I know which I like.
#12 Posted by crusader8463 (14423 posts) -

The only thing I know about champagne is that there is no sex in the champagne room. That is all.

#13 Posted by melcene (3056 posts) -
@crusader8463: I remember learning that too!  But the rules are different for girls, so one of these days I'm gonna find out for myself...
#14 Edited by Contro (2040 posts) -
@melcene said:

" @Contro: Admittedly, I am. I've only had champagne a handful of times.  I don't like wines but I've come to like some champagnes.  I'm just trying to figure out how I know which I like. "


I don't really like Champers that much tbh, but it is a celebratory drink which gets you drunk fast, I much prefer Italian & French wines you can drink with food. The only German wines I like are Reislings, those are great to drink in the summer, especially with fresh fruit inside your glass. The same goes with Champagne, you should try sticking Strawberries in your glass next time.

Try and buy a moderately priced bottle of the real deal (I have no idea how much that costs in the US), a Moet or a bottle of Bollinger. I would also suggest trying a Rose Champagne if your'e out on a date, but only then, unless your looking for sailors.

If there's a wine bar where you live, try glasses before buying bottles.
#15 Posted by Paulus (176 posts) -
@melcene: According to wikipedia it's a legal thing, California champagne seems to get away with it because they place "California" in front of it and the legal recognition of the name champagne seems to be a fairly recent thing in America... Wikipedia explains it better. :p
#16 Posted by GunnBjorn (2911 posts) -

Yes. I don't like it. Not even if it was a grand per glass.
#17 Posted by Twisted_Scot (1180 posts) -

Drink Santana champ cos its so crisp.

#18 Posted by beej (1674 posts) -
@melcene: Champagne is a (regrettable) gap in my knowledge. Now if you wanna talk whiskey...
#19 Posted by melcene (3056 posts) -
@GunnBjorn: One thing I did find out over the weekend is that champagne is A LOT less expensive than I ever would have thought.  Most of the bottles on the shelf at the liquor store were less than $15.  Then again, perhaps that says something about their quality.
#20 Posted by ape_dosmil (514 posts) -
@melcene: In Europe you're only allowed to call sparkling wine Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region in France by law. It may be that there is no such law in the U.S. which would explain the existence of California Champagne I guess. I'm guessing most or all of those bottles selling for less than $15 weren't actually Champagne in the strict sense. Personally I think actual Champagne is over-priced anyway and generally isn't worth the premium you pay in cost over good similarly priced sparkling wines from other regions. I like Cava (Spanish sparkling wine). Dryness is just to do with how sweet it is (how much sugar is in the wine). The drier it is the less sugar is in it. The drier the better in my opinion, but I guess it's really down to your own taste.
#21 Posted by RollingZeppelin (2027 posts) -
@Contro said:
" @melcene said:

" @Contro: Admittedly, I am. I've only had champagne a handful of times.  I don't like wines but I've come to like some champagnes.  I'm just trying to figure out how I know which I like. "


I don't really like Champers that much tbh, but it is a celebratory drink which gets you drunk fast, I much prefer Italian & French wines you can drink with food. The only German wines I like are Reislings, those are great to drink in the summer, especially with fresh fruit inside your glass. The same goes with Champagne, you should try sticking Strawberries in your glass next time.

Try and buy a moderately priced bottle of the real deal (I have no idea how much that costs in the US), a Moet or a bottle of Bollinger. I would also suggest trying a Rose Champagne if your'e out on a date, but only then, unless your looking for sailors.

If there's a wine bar where you live, try glasses before buying bottles.
"
German Reislings are pretty awesome, I didn't like white wines until I tried one. My favourite so far is Dienhardt, have you ever tried that one?
#22 Posted by Gooddoggy (411 posts) -
@ape_dosmil: A lot of those "you can only call something X if it comes from X region" laws are specific to the EU, and so companies in the U.S. that are producing mostly for a domestic market don't really bother with them.  It's the same deal with geographically-limited cheeses (asiago, gorgonzola, mozzarella etc.).
#23 Posted by Tireyo (6446 posts) -

All I know is that it's just a drink.

#24 Posted by fox01313 (5083 posts) -

After wine there's Champagne & Brandy, both being wine variants. That being as much as I know & you get more info from other ppl in this post, as I tend to rarely drink red wines like port they don't tend to go into the champagne over the white wines. I don't believe that the champagne compared to wine or brandy lasts all that long so if you do get some, be sure to get just what you need as you might end up tossing what's left over that doesn't get drunk where wine & brandy can be kept for later.

#25 Posted by Contro (2040 posts) -
@RollingZeppelin said:
" @Contro said:
" @melcene said:

" @Contro: Admittedly, I am. I've only had champagne a handful of times.  I don't like wines but I've come to like some champagnes.  I'm just trying to figure out how I know which I like. "


I don't really like Champers that much tbh, but it is a celebratory drink which gets you drunk fast, I much prefer Italian & French wines you can drink with food. The only German wines I like are Reislings, those are great to drink in the summer, especially with fresh fruit inside your glass. The same goes with Champagne, you should try sticking Strawberries in your glass next time.

Try and buy a moderately priced bottle of the real deal (I have no idea how much that costs in the US), a Moet or a bottle of Bollinger. I would also suggest trying a Rose Champagne if your'e out on a date, but only then, unless your looking for sailors.

If there's a wine bar where you live, try glasses before buying bottles.
"
German Reislings are pretty awesome, I didn't like white wines until I tried one. My favourite so far is Dienhardt, have you ever tried that one? "


Sure, it's one of the most common brands here.
#26 Posted by Wes (258 posts) -

I know it gets the bitches, at least that's what rap "culture" has taught me.

#27 Edited by sickVisionz (1268 posts) -

I think it taste better than wine.  That is where my knowledge on it stops and starts.  I'm more of a beer and hard liquor guy.  Wine and Champagne are things I only drink if I'm with my female cousins and they bust some out.


@Wes said:
" I know it gets the bitches, at least that's what rap "culture" has taught me. "
You've been listening to too much pop rap from over a decade ago then.
#28 Posted by WickedFather (1733 posts) -

Champagne is overrated junk.  For most people they wouldn't know the difference between it and £1 a litre white cider (Trampagne as I call it).  One of the worst champagnes I ever had was a Harrods own.  My girlfriend loves champagne but I'm not sure how much is occasion and how much is genuine love of the taste.  German wines are regarded quite badly because they tend to be a bit sweet.  It's off topic but for me red wines are where it's at.  I had a £30 bottle of Chateau Neuf for my birthday and it was amazing.  I drank it while playing co-op Gears of War and it was wow.  The wine was amazing, like somebody pushing warm pieces of dark chocolate into the corner of your mouth and then later a taste almost like lolly-sticks.  I drink wine a few times a week but really expensive ones can transcend the norm.  If you're buying in a restaurant then a £30 bottle won't be anywhere near as good as something you'd get from a supermarket.  If you're just doing it to get drunk, though, I can find two bottles for a fiver that are very, very drinkable.  Merlot is always a good starting point because it's basically gluggable with a low tannin level.  You could move from that to shiraz.  Actually I'm apologising for saying that because it's assuming you'll be like my mother and a lot of other people who find their experiences of wine a bit overpowering and you might jump on the horse right away.  I genuinely apologise.

Aaaaanyway - back on course you can get Champagne that's not Champagne by name (yup, the region thing) that are as good or better for a fraction of the price.  Cava is getting really popular as well as any number of sparkling wines or perrys.  If you have to get real Champagne then go for Veuve Clicquot over Moet, most people who like say it's better.

Rambling and yes, a little drunk.

#29 Posted by Example1013 (4834 posts) -
@Contro said:
" @melcene said:

" @Contro: Admittedly, I am. I've only had champagne a handful of times.  I don't like wines but I've come to like some champagnes.  I'm just trying to figure out how I know which I like. "


I don't really like Champers that much tbh, but it is a celebratory drink which gets you drunk fast, I much prefer Italian & French wines you can drink with food. The only German wines I like are Reislings, those are great to drink in the summer, especially with fresh fruit inside your glass. The same goes with Champagne, you should try sticking Strawberries in your glass next time.

Try and buy a moderately priced bottle of the real deal (I have no idea how much that costs in the US), a Moet or a bottle of Bollinger. I would also suggest trying a Rose Champagne if your'e out on a date, but only then, unless your looking for sailors.

If there's a wine bar where you live, try glasses before buying bottles.
"
You are a blasphemer. Who could ever think of ruining a good champagne with strawberries?

Anyways, @melcene: the wikipedia article is a decent place to start for information. It pretty much corroborates what I learned while in Champagne, but that I had forgotten about.

The important part for you about taste, though: Brut Natural or Brut Zero has less than 3 grams of sugar per liter, and thus is the driest Champagne.
Extra Brut has less than 6 grams (but more than 3), and is mid-level
And Brut has less than 12 grams, and will be the sweetest Champagne.

I can't tell you how those will apply to California "Champagnes", though, since they're not French, and thus probably don't follow the (pretty strict) rules that the French use in the production.

I also can't tell you what's a really good-quality one. Definitely make sure that "Produit de France" is on the label, but beyond that, you're going to need the expertise of someone with experience in this kind of purchase.
#30 Posted by Contro (2040 posts) -
@example1013 said:
" @Contro said:
" @melcene said:

" @Contro: Admittedly, I am. I've only had champagne a handful of times.  I don't like wines but I've come to like some champagnes.  I'm just trying to figure out how I know which I like. "


I don't really like Champers that much tbh, but it is a celebratory drink which gets you drunk fast, I much prefer Italian & French wines you can drink with food. The only German wines I like are Reislings, those are great to drink in the summer, especially with fresh fruit inside your glass. The same goes with Champagne, you should try sticking Strawberries in your glass next time.

Try and buy a moderately priced bottle of the real deal (I have no idea how much that costs in the US), a Moet or a bottle of Bollinger. I would also suggest trying a Rose Champagne if your'e out on a date, but only then, unless your looking for sailors.

If there's a wine bar where you live, try glasses before buying bottles.
"
You are a blasphemer. Who could ever think of ruining a good champagne with strawberries?


The French have been adding summer fruits to Champagne since the drinks conception : /
#31 Posted by Vodun (2370 posts) -
@melcene: What are you after? Do you want something sweet like the German sekt? Or are you after what many consider "real" champagne? Personally I'm somewhere in between, I find the sweeter versions sickening and the really dry ones make me choke.
#32 Posted by Example1013 (4834 posts) -
@Contro: I was kidding...
#33 Posted by Kouerson (242 posts) -

Everything I know about champagne, I learned from The Continental. So naturally, a lot.

#34 Posted by Xeiphyer (5606 posts) -

Tastes disgusting.

#35 Posted by HitmanAgent47 (8576 posts) -
@crusader8463: making a reference to this video, I was going to say that too. 
#36 Posted by melcene (3056 posts) -

I appreciate the tips and advice.


@Vodun said:
" @melcene: What are you after? Do you want something sweet like the German sekt? Or are you after what many consider "real" champagne? Personally I'm somewhere in between, I find the sweeter versions sickening and the really dry ones make me choke. "
The problem is I'm really not sure.  I've only ever had champagne a couple times, and I'm not completely sure what it was.  It's possible it wasn't even true champagne.  I'm just looking to find a kind that I don't mind so much, so that when I have to buy the stuff for special occasions, at least I'll buy some that I intend to drink, if that makes sense.
#37 Posted by Vodun (2370 posts) -
@melcene I'm afraid there's no two ways about it then. You'll have to sample a bunch... and that can get expensive. Unfortunately you often get what you pay for. That's not saying there are no good cheap ones, just that it's easier to find them with a bigger number on the price tag.

I don't know what kind of shops you have available, here in Sweden we are blessed with a government monopoly on the sale of alcohol, which means every store has a fairly good expertise on hand. I'd any way suggest you try to get some help finding different kinds, and try them out. Then when you find one, jot it down and stick to it.

There's no right or wrong with taste, only what you like... and no one can really tell you what that is.
#38 Posted by lazyturtle (1229 posts) -
@melcene said:
I know that the champagne that I've liked most over the years was a champagne from Germany. "

No such thing. You were enjoying sparkling wine. Champagne refers to a sparkling white wine from the Champagne region of France.
Parmesan cheese, Port wine, Cognac, Armagnac all have similar naming rules...they refer to the region where the item was produced. 

Veuve Clicquot is a quite a nice Champagne.