Champagne is a special effervescent beverage produced exclusively in the region of Champagne, France (if it’s not from Champagne, it’s sparkling wine!) Today, we’re pleased to have Winederlusting contributor Alyse Mizia – Moët Hennessy’s Champagne Specialist – breakdown some surprisingly unknown facts, along with tips for how to properly drink Champagne.
In 1848, Joseph Krug founded one of the most prestigious Champagne maisons, Krug, in Reims, Champagne. His life’s work revolved around his philosophy that the purpose of Champagne is to experience pure pleasure.
To me, this is the absolute truth of Champagne. While we can disect it as a wine and agricultural product, talk about the differences in producers and quality levels – and look at the terroir – the ultimate fact is that it is a product we associate with pleasure.
Today we see it drunk in a variety of situations, ranging from fine restaurants and multi-course dinners, to less formal uses in nightlife and Formula One. At the end of the day, it all comes back to the appeal of effervescence.
Throughout history, Champagne has been recognized as a very unique product. Starting in the early 17th century, with the benedictine monks discovering the many processes used to make Champagne, moving to 1729, with the founding of the first Champagne house, Ruinart, and emerging through the war-time relations and dramas between Moet and Napoleon, Madame (“Veuve”) Clicquot with the Russians, and Heidseick and the United States.
In lieu of my own philosophy for Champagne as a year-round beverage (…and why not?!), here a few lesser known facts on the product itself:
6 Reliable Tips & Facts About Champagne
1. Enjoy the effervescence, it takes a lot of work to create! Bubbles in champagne come from a second fermentation, where yeast is added to a bottle of still white wine and sealed. When the yeast eats the sugar in the wine, carbon dioxide is produced and trapped in the bottle, creating the bubbles.
2. It is recommended to drink champagne from a wine glass instead of the traditional flute, where you are unable to get your nose in the glass to smell the wine. Because your smell and taste receptors are connected, you have to be able to both smell and taste it in order to experience all that champagne has to offer.
3. Bigger is better! Large format bottles of champagne come with more than just great names – such as Balthazar (12L) and Nebuchadnezzar (15L). Champagne actually ages at a slower rate in these larger containers. There’s a smaller surface area ratio of wine to oxygen exposure through the cork.
4. Champagne pairs wonderfully with a variety of foods. Because the wine itself has such a high acidic content (Champagne, France is one of the most Northerly grape growing regions in the world), it works well with foods cooked in oils, as well as fatty meats. Think everything from foie gras to french fries.
5. It’s under immense pressure. The average amount of pressure in a champagne bottle is 70-90 pounds per square inch! That’s three times more than your typical car tire, so be careful where you point that thing!
6. Drink it now! Many people save bottles for special occasions, but in fact, champagne producers have already done the aging for you in France. By law, champagne has to be aged for a minimum of 18 months before release – but most producers go above and beyond that. When champagne arrives to market, it’s ready to drink. In most cases, it will not benefit from any further aging.
With a BS in Viticulture and Enology and a post-graduate degree in Hospitality Management, Alyse has a strong background in technical and industry knowledge. Prior to taking the Champagne Specialist position at Moët Hennessy, Alyse worked with luxury hotels throughout the United States to develop their beverage programs. Additionally, Alyse has completed the WSET Diploma program, and is a current candidate for the Master of Wine.
For more on Champagne, checkout these other great posts on the bubbly: