CHAMPAGNE has launched thousands of ships, toasted billions of weddings, special occasions, and special moments between two people – Champagne is the wine of celebration. No other wine is associated with joy and festivity. Its meaning is truly universal.
TAKE TIME IN 2010 to share with people you care about in the celebrations of your life with this historically powerful glass of “bubbly love” we call Champagne!
Champagne is a sparking wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation; this is the most important stage of the process. Méthode Champenoise is the traditional method by which Champagne is produced. After primary fermentation and bottling, a second alcoholic fermentation occurs in the bottle. This second fermentation is induced by adding several grams of yeast and several grams of rock sugar. For years where the harvest is exceptional, a millesimé is declared which means it matures for at least 3 years. During this time the Champagne bottle is sealed with a crown cap similar to that used on beer bottles.
Champagne is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France, from which it takes its name. This region has the chalky soil and the overabundance of sun needed to grow the three varieties of grapes, which are: Chardonnay which provides the freshness and elegance; Pinot Meunier brings fruitiness and aromas; and Pinot Noir gives the body and structure. There are five main regions within Champagne where these varieties are grown, and where the houses source these varieties that will influence the quality and style of the final product. The most northerly region Montagne de Reims Pinot Noir is mainly planted. Wines produced here are firm and austere. The Côte des Blancs is the mostly east-facing region and is south of Epernay. Chardonnay is mostly planted here, and produces a wine much less harsh than the Montagne de Reims. The Vallée de la Marne region runs west-east, and is planted with all three grape varieties. Further south is the Côte des Sézanne which is primarily Chardonnay country, and finally the Aube, the southernmost of all five regions where Pinot Noir is mostly planted.
The Champagne Cycle
From winter until August, the gardeners are actively pruning, disbudding, paling-up and trimming. At spring time, gardeners fear late frosts. The grapes are gathered by hand to preserve them. Vintage takes place between June and September, depending on the climate, the Champagne and the vintage.
History and Celebration
Champagne first gained world recognition 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. 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 an emerging middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility. Nowadays, Champagne remains the celebration drink. For special ceremonies, a sabre can be used to open the bottle. Champagne is also associated to sport events such as Tour de France, Formula One, even Sailing, wherein the Champagne bottle is broken to inaugurate or at the end of a race.
They each have their own unique character and each pair with different foods.
Les Champagnes de corps, intense and powerful with some of spices and red fruits. It goes with foie gras, osso- buco or fowl.
Les Champagnes d’esprit, delicate and light, has vegetable and citrus fruits notes. It goes with fish, shellfish, cheese, ice cream and sorbet. It is usually served as an aperitif.
Les Champagnes d’âme, mature and rich contain hints of delicate spices. It goes well with lamb, pies, desserts and also at tea time !
Les Champagnes de coeur, contains scents of cinnamon honey and brioche. They are often rosé or half neat.
Research from the University of Cagliari has shown that moderate consumptions of Champagne will help the brain cope with the trauma of stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. The research further noted that the high amount of the antioxidant polyphenols in sparkling wine can help prevent deterioration of brain cells due to oxidative stress. Good news, isn’t it? Warning: Be careful, Champagne should be consumed in a reasonable manner.
Champagne must be served in a Champagne flute. It is always served cold with drinking temperatures of 7 to 9 °C (43 to 48 °F). Often the bottle is chilled in a bucket of ice before opening for about 20 minutes.
LCBO Champagne prices range from $50.00 to $3,995.00 (1995 Clos D’Ambonnay Champagne from Krug 750 mL).
Why don’t you write us with your 2009 Champagne experiences in how you “indulged in bubbly love”? (published in a future issue).
1oz Orange Juice
In a tall flute glass, first pour the orange juice, then the Champagne. The Champagne is thicker and will mix down into the OJ. The key is not to stir – you don’t want to lose the bubbles.
1 peach, pureed
Puree one fresh peach, and put into a tall flute glass. Note: you can use 3 shots of peach nectar add in Champagne. The key is not to stir – you don’t want to lose the bubbles.
Liz Palmer, wine writer and soon to be author of:
Unique Boutique Champagne Houses