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Champagne 101 
 
by Nancy Berkoff May 24, 2005

Champagne is the beverage of choice for celebrating all of life’s occasions. Champagne’s evolution, as the drink of kings to the bubbles of the stars, has lots of twists and turns. Selecting, storing and serving champagne is an art

"Burgundy makes you think of silly things; Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them." Brillat-Savarin

Seeing Stars

Henry IV was the first to serve Champagne at court in the 1500s. Thank you, King Hank! Henry and his court knew the grapes in the Champagne region made a fine tasting wine. They didn’t quite understand the process, but the cold weather in the region prevented the bottled grapes from finishing their fermentation in the winter. When Spring hit, and the bottled wine began to warm, the fermentation would start again. The bubbles caused by the fermentation were captured in the bottles, and a new beverage was born! Upon tasting champagne, a monk, named Dom Perignon was supposed to have exclaimed, "Come quickly, I’m tasting the stars!"

In the late 1600s British glass blowers made bottles strong enough hold up under the pressure of Champagne bubbles. Dom Perignon, that world-renowned monk and food technologist, did not invent sparkling wine, but perfected the blending of the grapes for a light and bubbly brew. Louis VI passed legislation mandating the use of corks for Champagne bottles. Corks guaranteed the trapping of maximum amounts of bubbles and the prevention of contamination by wild yeast.

In 1825, Antoine Muller, an employee of Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin developed a system to remove the deposits that formed in Champagne bottles after fermentation. This very labor-intensive technique made Champagne more attractive and more expensive. If you like your champagne, you can expect to pay more for it. The smaller the bubbles, the more expensive the champagne.

What’s in a Name?

"There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne" Bette Davis

In America, any sparkling wine can call itself champagne, as long as it’s been bottle fermented and labeled with the region where the grapes were grown. This means that there’s champagne available for everyone’s taste and wallet.

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