Questions: 1. Why is Pinot Noir considered a finicky grape? 2. What are the principal wine grapes grown in the French Champagne region? 3. What determines the varying sweetness levels in Champagne? Answers: 1. Pinot Noir is different from many other varietals in that it is especially difficult to grow, it's sensitive to soil types, weather, moisture, and sun, and it bruises easily, which often requires hand harvesting. The thin skin of Pinot makes it especially fragile and tricky for winemakers to handle and work with, which explains its "high-maintenance" reputation. What this translates to for the consumer is that it is difficult to make good quality Pinot Noir, and its even more challenging to make good quality Pinot Noir that is also affordable. 2. The principal wine grapes grown in the Champagne region include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These three varieties share certain characteristics such as early ripening, speed of maturation, musts that are high in sugar content, and lifted bouquets of great finesse. When blended together for Champagne sparkling wines, Chardonnay gives life, acidity, freshness and aging potential; Pinot Noir adds depth, complexity, backbone, strength and fullness, and Pinot Meunier is desired for its hardiness and its forward development, making it very useful for non-vintage blends. 3. The dosage (or amount of sugar) added after the second fermentation and aging determines the sweetness level of Champagne. Here are the guidelines for following the Champagne sweetness levels from driest to sweetest: Brut (dry), Extra Dry (semidry), Sec (semisweet), and Demi-sec (sweet). It's recommended to serve Bruts and Extra Dry as aperitifs, or throughout the meal, whiles Secs and Demi-secs pair best with desserts. Cheers!