The exploding cork. Endless tiny bubbles floating up and up in the glass. An indulgence. A celebration. A seduction. A triumph. This is the essence of Champagne, isn’t it? But it’s not just bubbles in a glass that makes the wine, or the mystique. Only sparkling wine produced within the boundaries of the Champagne region is truly “Champagne.” At first glance, the region is not an obvious source of romance. Champagne’s history is grim and bloody, swept by war and destruction from Attila the Hun to the filthy trenches of WWI and the Nazi depredations of WWII. The environment for winemaking is desperately hard — northerly latitude, chalky soil, copious rain, frost, rot. Yet it’s these difficulties that help make the wine unique. With renowned wine importer Martine Saunier as our guide, we get a rare glimpse behind the scenes into the real Champagne through six houses, from small independent makers like Champagne Saint-Chamant, where each and every bottle is still turned by hand in the cellars, to the illustrious houses of Gosset and Bollinger which have been instrumental in shaping the image of Champagne around the world.