Tiny Bubbles- A love affair with Champagne
I love, love, lovelovelove Champagne. It has become a symbol of celebration, passion, and prestige. It walks hand in hand with toasts and new beginnings, with marriage and even goodbyes. Spraying a bottle after winning a Formula 1 race or *gasp* smashing it against the side of a ship before launch are just some of Champagne’s many uses. I personally just like to drink it.
Famous Champagne Quotes
“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”
~ Dom Perignon
“In victory, deserve it; in defeat, need it”
~Sir Winston Churchill
“Some people wanted champagne and caviar when they should have had beer and hot dogs.”
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”
~ Sir Winston Churchill
“Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends.”
~ Tom Waits
“Opening a bottle of Champagne should sound like the queen farting on a windy day”
~ Unknown but totally awesome (I think Johnny Baldwin told me that one)
A breif history of the Bubbly
Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation. It is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France, from which it takes its name.
The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Through international treaty, national law or quality-control/consumer protection related local regulations, most countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the Champagne appellation. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Other countries, such as the United States, have recognized the exclusive nature of this name, yet maintain a legal structure that allows certain domestic producers of sparkling wine to continue to use the term “champagne” under limited circumstances.The majority of US-produced sparkling wines do not use the term “champagne” on their labels and some states, such as Oregon, ban producers in their states from using the term as it can be confusing to consumers.
Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power in the 17th, 18th and 19th century. The leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging they sought to associate Champagne with high luxury, festivities, and rites of passage. Their efforts coincided with the emergence of a middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility. Source Wikipedia
“Opening a bottle of Champagne should sound like the queen farting on a windy day.” We all love the “pop” of a cork shooting across the room, but Champagne should be slowly (and quietly) opened traditionally. Then, of course, why not do it with deadly weaponry!
Sabrage is a technique for opening a Champagne bottle with a sabre (sword), used for ceremonial occasions. The saber is slid along the body of the bottle toward the neck. The force of the blade hitting the lip breaks the glass to separate the collar from the neck of the bottle. The cork and collar remain together after separating from the neck (HOPEFULLY!).
I have personally Sabred over 500 bottles, using everything and almost anything. I’ve used a putter, 9 iron, snowboard, champagne flute, chef’s knife, Stiletto high heel (that was a fun night), a rock, a lamp… the list goes on. Look for a future “How to” post that will go into details…
Pouring sparkling wine while tilting the glass at an angle and gently sliding in the liquid along the side will preserve the most bubbles, as opposed to poured directly down to create a head of “mousse”. Colder bottle temperatures also result in reduced loss of gas (and REALLY REALLY help with Sabrage).
Champagne can be tricky to pair, BUT when you get it right, it seems as if nothing else could ever compare. My favorites are mild cheeses, seafood appetizers, pastries and desserts. Check out this chart from WineIntro for more ideas.
It’s not Alcoholism, it’s Health Care
In 2007, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published the results of a recent joint study by the University of Reading and University of Cagliari that showed moderate consumptions of Champagne may help the brain cope with the trauma of stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. The research noted that the high amount of the antioxidant polyphenols in sparkling wine can help prevent deterioration of brain cells due to oxidative stress. During the study scientist exposed two groups of mice with blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay composition) and blanc de noir (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier based) and a control group with no exposure to Champagne. All groups were then subjected to high levels of neurotoxicity similar to what the human brain experiences during inflammatory conditions. The study found that the groups pre-treated with exposure to Champagne had a higher level of cell restoration compared to the group that wasn’t.
My Top 3 Mid Range Picks
If you’re looking for a good time, call one of these guys. There are many great Champagnes, but if you want something REALLY tasty that wont completely break your wallet, try one of these.
- Perrier Jouet, Grand Brut – $65.99
- Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Brut – $65.00
- Moet & Chandon, Brut Imperial – $65.00