This time of year always calls for a glass of Champagne to celebrate, especially on New Year's Eve, so we thought we'd answer some questions so you know a little more about the famous bubbly!
In 1668, in the village of Hautvillers, the monk turned cellar master, Dom Pérignon, is said to have discovered how to make sparkling wine. While the same technique is used all over the world today, the region of Champagne continues to make some of the finest.
Where is the Champagne region?
Champagne is the most northerly wine region in France and is situated north-east of Paris. There are three main vineyard areas: Côte des Blancs, Vallée de la Marne and Montagne de Reims. In Champagne there are around 15,000 growers and 290 Champagne houses.
What makes a Champagne sparkle?
Adding a solution of sugar and yeast to a still wine starts another fermentation in the bottle, which creates the bubbles. Once the yeasts have done their job, a sediment known as ‘lees’ collects on the side of the bottle. Contact with this deposit during maturation gives the wine its characteristic flavours of freshly-baked bread, toast and biscuit.
What grapes make up Champagne?
Pinot Noir It is the Pinot Noir that adds backbone and body to the blend, producing wines with distinctive aromas of red berries and good structure. Pinot Meunier The meunier adds roundness to the blend, producing supple, fruity wines that tend to age more quickly than wines made with the other two varieties. Chardonnay The chardonnay is king on the Côte des Blancs, yielding delicately fragrant wines with characteristic notes of flowers, citrus and sometimes minerals.
What are the styles of Champagne?
Made exclusively from grapes grown in a single year, this is produced only in the best years, and is released at about six years of age.
Most of the Champagne produced today is non-vintage, which is a blend of grapes from multiple vintages.
Typically light in colour, rosé Champagne is produced either by leaving the clear juice of black grapes to macerate on its skins for a brief time or by adding a small amount of Pinot Noir red wine to the sparkling wine cuvée.
Luxury (Prestige) Cuvée
Top of the range, this is vintage-dated. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Laurent-Perrier's Grand Siècle, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, Duval-Leroy's Cuvée Femme and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
Fun facts for New Year's Eve celebrations!
1. The classic Champagne coupe was adapted from a wax mold made from the breast of Marie Antoinette!
2. Actress Marilyn Monroe took a bath in 350 bottles of Champagne. We are sure it was not at the proper temperature for drinking, however.
3. The longest recorded flight of a Champagne cork is over 54 meters.
4. A Champagne riddler can turn as many as 50,000 bottles in a single day. And you thought toilet cleaning was tedious!
5. The largest bottle size for Champagne is called a Melchizedek and is equal to 40 standard bottles or 30 liters.