From the cork popping out of the bottle to that swaying effervescence forming when the wine hits the glass before you can finally take a sip – every step brings a magical value to it.
What are we talking about ? Champagne, of course ! But while the famous sparkling wine is synonymous of celebration all around the world, few people really know about it.
Today, let us reveal 8 secrets that make Champagne so special !
Champagne was invented by accident
At the end of the 17th century, the region of Champagne, located in the northeast of France, was exporting still white wines to England. In the merchant ships, the temperature would rise and a second fermentation would start, making the wines sparkling upon arrival.
During at least 15 months, champagne ages « on lees »
The English aristocracy fell in love with that slight fizz and started to ask for more. The Champagne winemakers eventually found a way to control that second « bottle fermentation » and the « traditional method » of making a sparkling wine was born.
Champagne has always had a royal connection
A painting from 1735 featuring oysters and champagne was hanged in Louis XV’s dining room
Starting in 496 with Clovis, the First King of the Franks, and until 1825, a total of 25 French monarchs were crowned in Reims, the main city in the Champagne region, On the night of each celebration, a massive amount of champagne was consumed.
Champagne is made using black grapes
In Champagne, the three main grape varieties are chardonnay, a white grape, and pinot noir and pinot meunier, which are two black grape varieties. To avoid extracting color from the skins, winemakers remove them before fermentation begins, to produce a white wine.
Most champagne are blends from different years
Champagne’s climate is one of the coolest in the wine world and on some years, the extreme weather conditions might wipe out the entire yearly crop. To combat this issue and to ensure consistency of quality, champagne houses store wines from previous years and blend them to produce most of their output.
On exceptional years, the ideal weather allows the production of an outstanding, single-harvest wine, called « Vintage champagne ». These wines are rare, extremely complex and should be reserved for special occasions, as they call for higher budgets.
The champagne flute is not suitable for tasting
Champagne flutes were designed to preserve the bubbles as long as possible. Although they look very elegant and are part of an « art de vivre », they are too narrow to appreciate the wine aromas. It is better to use a regular wine glass to fully enjoy the champagne’s unique complexity.
Rosé champagne is a blend of white and red wines
While this practice is forbidden everywhere else in France, it is common in Champagne to add about 15% of local still red wine to the blend to produce a rosé sparkling wine. However, an increasing amount of rosé champagne now uses skin maceration – also known as the « saignée » method – to extract color.
Most champagne contain some sugar
At the end of its production process, each bottle is topped up with « liqueur d’expédition », a mixture of wine and sugar, which defines the style of the champagne. Most are « Brut » champagnes and contain up to 12 grams of sugar per liter of wine.
Serving champagne warm can be dangerous
Champagne should always be chilled around 8°C before served since you lose less CO2 as its temperature falls. If the wine is warm, you get more turbulence in the bottle as it’s poured, forcing the CO2 to escape more rapidly and possibly get your guests or table cloth all wet !
You want to learn more about Champagne ?
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