Champagne is known to pretty much everyone, and yet it’s so widely misunderstood. The basics? First off, it’s not synonymous with sparkling wine. It comes from the wine region Champagne in France, where wine production mainly uses three grapes, two of them red (pinot noir and pinot meunier) and one white (chardonnay). And it’s made via a process known as méthode champenoise, where the second of two fermentations occurs inside the bottle.
The double fermentation process contributes to Champagne’s high price tag. “Time is really expensive,” says Ariel Arce, founder of multiple wine-focused restaurants in NYC, including Air’s Champagne Parlor. “[No matter the vintage of the wine] it has to spend a minimum of one and a half years in the cellar.”
Finally, the Champagne region is characterized by the soil beneath the vineyards, made largely of chalk. “That’s what makes the wine the wine,” says Arce, referring to the chalky terroir. “After the terroir, it’s about the winemaker, and how the winemaker makes the wine.”
But the traditional style of making Champagne, via méthode champenoise, is used all over the world; it’s used elsewhere in France to make cremant — the term for sparkling French wines made outside Champagne, which Arce dedicates an entire section of her upcoming book to — and even in the US, to create enviable sparkling wines in regions across California, Oregon, and New York.
In her Bubbles 101 Eater Wine Club, part of the Eater @ Home virtual event series, while gushing about her favorite Champagne domaines and cuvees, Arce also recommended paying closer attention to sparkling wines being made in the US. Here are some of her favorites:
- Macari “Horses” 2017 North Fork, New York ($26)
- Caraccioli Cellars Brut 2013 California ($52)
- Ultramarine Blanc De Blancs 2015 California ($199)
- Cruse 2019 Ricci Sparkling California ($32)
- Soter 2015 Mineral Springs Brut Rosé Oregon ($65)
- Mellen Meyer Willamette Valley Brut Oregon ($30)
- Under the Wire Alder Springs Vineyard 2015 California ($62)
Arce’s restaurants are selling and delivering the bottles from their lists (and more information can be found on Arce’s Instagram). To do more, there’s also a GoFundMe supporting the employees of her restaurants, which you can find here.