I recently gave my best friend a Champagne lesson on a road trip to Orlando. She had no idea about true Champagne; her impression was that it was just a sparkling wine you could get anywhere. Well, for starters, I explained sparkling wines have extra carbon dioxide, which makes them fizzier. This is the very reason we bring it out to mark special occasions; it is simply more fun to drink. There is just something decadent about the bubbles. Champagne’s arrival is credited to a French monk who promptly declared he was drinking the stars. That monk was Dom Perignon, a holy man who made strides in white wines when France was still predominantly a red wine producer. A monk? Yes, back then the monks could make wines and drink all day.
Champagne can only be considered true Champagne when it is produced in its namesake region in France. Otherwise, it is considered low quality. The cheap bottles in the drugstore cannot be considered anything other than blasphemy to oenophiles. Secondly, since it is a wine it comes from grapes. These grapes must be from the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or Chardonnay grapes, which are native. The name Champagne carries a lot of weight because it is high quality, almost like carrying a Hermes Birkin bag.
The last element to true Champagne production is it has to have gotten the famous bubbles by enduring the fermentation process twice: once in barrels and again in bottles. Other sparkling wines can call themselves Champagne as long as they credit the process. The most visible types of Champagne are Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé.
Blanc de Blanc is also known as white Champagne. By law, white Champagne has to be made with Chardonnay grapes. This is a single grape production. Mostly this type of Champagne is paired with light fare such as seafood. It also makes an excellent apéritif.
Blanc de noirs are white Champagnes made only from the black grape varieties of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These sparkling wines are known to be full-bodied and deeper yellow-gold in color. Ideally, they should be paired with full-flavored foods, including meats and cheeses.
Rosé Champagnes are produced by one of two methods. The classic method centers on the addition of a measured amount of Pinot Noir still wine to the base wine just before the second fermentation. The skin contact method, involves the pressing of skins soaking with the juice of the grapes prior to fermentation. Rose, or pink Champagne, has moments of high and waning popularity. The color hue lends itself to romance, but can be overused by desperate men. It is paired well with someone by whom you want to be romanced.
If you think there are too many strict rules with Champagne, here is another one: as each year lapses into another one, producers of Champagne must hold on to least twenty percent of their wine for use in future non-Vintage Champagne. Vintage Champagne has a cache that a bottle of Andre cannot touch.
There is quite a bit that goes into a bottle of Champagne. Inside the dark glass lurks three times the air pressure of a car tire. If anyone has been accidently hit with a Champagne cork like I have (long story), you know that the uncorking is a reason to cover your face. The longest recorded flight of a Champagne cork is over 177 feet. There are actually contests to see who can get the cork farthest. Once you go through the opening whether it be dramatic by letting the cork fly or more European where it is simply a polite pop, Champagne is tricky to drink. It is a sipping wine as the alcohol content is so high, drinking it too quickly can cause a headache. This is ironic given Marilyn Monroe only drank Champagne to avoid a hangover headache.
Ever notice how Champagne bottles seems denser than other wine bottles? Well, this sparkling wine is more sensitive to temperature and light. Too much light and temperature fluctuation can affect the taste. Chilling Champagne consistently between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature.
The movies might have gotten something right about Champagne. The traditional way to chill a bottle of Champagne is to place it in an ice bucket, half filled with ice, half with water, for 20 minutes. We ended the road trip with a celebratory glass of Champagne and made sure to savor every delicious bubble.