Bubbles always invite us to celebrate unforgettable moments in life. Champagne, synonymous with luxury and elegance, is the drink of choice for toasting on such occasions. However, how much do we really know about this iconic drink?
Behind the sophistication of a champagne toast, there are curious facts that most people don’t know. Join us in this exploration of its secrets.
1. A French monk and the stars
According to legend, in 1693, a Benedictine monk from the Abbey of Hautvillers named Dom Pierre Perignon, tasted the drink contained in one of the bottles parked in the cellar, and exclaimed: “Come quickly, I’m drinking the stars!”, precisely alluding to the bubbles produced by the fermentation of the wine.
Dom Perignon introduced substantial changes in the traditional method of making this precious nectar, mainly by modifying the cork stopper as we know it today to prevent it from popping and increasing the thickness of the bottles to prevent them from bursting due to the action of fermentation.
2. The exclusivity of champagne
This wine, which takes its generic name from the area where it is produced, is present all over the world as one of the most important references of French gastronomy. The Denomination of Origin (AOC) of Champagne requires that a series of requirements be met to preserve the purity of this drink.
Champagne has a distinctive method of production, the Champenoise method:
- First fermentation: as occurs in the majority of wines, it is fermented in barrels at a temperature of 18 to 20ºC;
- Second fermentation: this is the specificity of Champagne, it is done by adding sugars and yeasts in the bottle and that bottle is placed neck down so the sediments settle in that part.
- The last step is the disgorgement: freezing the neck of the bottle and uncorking to eliminate the sediments, then it is closed again with its characteristic champagne cork.
3. Grape varieties and vintages
Champagne uses in particular the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier grape varieties, although there are four other varieties approved for its production: Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.
A white champagne made only from white grapes is known as “Blanc de Blancs“, while a white Champagne made only from red grapes is known as “Blanc de Noirs”.
Unlike other wines, champagne is not a vintage wine; its quality is kept constant by combining wines from different vintages.
4. Extreme pressure
The pressure in a 750 ml bottle is 5 to 6 atmospheres (higher than the standard pressure of a tire). Because of this, before 1725 the bottles used to explode. For this reason, the producers called this drink the “devil’s wine” and “stopper popper”, as the bottles exploded and the stoppers popped.
It was King Louis XV who authorized bottles designed to withstand it. English glass, resistant to pressure, and a stopper inspired by the cork of Catalan pilgrims’ canteens played a fundamental role in this evolution.
5. Millions of bubbles
There are approximately 1 million bubbles in a glass of champagne and 49 million in a 750 ml bottle, proof of its unparalleled effervescence.
The quality of the bubbles is also a distinguishing factor; the smaller the bubbles, the better the quality of the champagne. They should be fine and persistent, contributing to a smooth, velvety sensation on the palate. This is a product of the second fermentation in bottle, which creates smaller and more refined bubbles compared to other sparkling wines.
6. Musical composition
Surprisingly, according to some studies, music can influence the perception of champagne flavor, which has led to champagne tastings with live music. Music can affect the perception of the rhythm, intensity, and duration of the champagne’s taste, which in turn can influence how its qualities, such as acidity, body and complexity, are perceived.
It is said that during the Napoleonic wars, French soldiers would open bottles of champagne with their sabers to celebrate victory on the battlefield. This tradition has been maintained and is known as sabrage, where a sword or saber is used to open a bottle of champagne in a spectacular way.
The correct way to open a bottle of Champagne must be done carefully, by loosening the metal structure that holds the cork and slowly turning the bottle while holding it by the base. When uncorking the bottle, make sure that the cork does not fly or make any noise. This indicates that it has been properly preserved.
8. Classified dosage
According to its dosage, the classification of champagne is detailed below, from the sweetest to the driest. The classification always appears on the label.
Doux: The sweetest champagne, with a significant amount of residual sugar. It is suitable for desserts.
Demi-Sec: Slightly less sweet than the Doux, but still with a notable level of sweetness. It can be enjoyed with desserts that are not too sweet or at special moments.
Dry: With a moderate level of sweetness, this champagne is versatile and can pair well with a variety of dishes.
Extra Dry: Despite its name, the Extra Dry is actually sweeter than the Brut. It pairs well with appetizers and light dishes.
Brut: The most common and versatile, with a noticeable but not overwhelming touch of sweetness. It is ideal for appetizers and varied dishes.
Extra Brut: Drier Champagne, with a minimum amount of residual sugar. It is perfect to accompany seafood and lighter dishes.
Brut Nature: With no added sugar, this champagne is the driest of all. Its dry profile makes it ideal for seafood and light meals.
9. Classified vineyards and World Heritage Sites
The Champagne region is divided into 5 zones, in which there are 42 communes with vineyards classified as Premier Cru and 17 with vineyards classified as Grand Cru (the highest classification).
It is said that 350 bottles of champagne were used to fill the bathtub in which Marilyn Monroe took a bath, an anecdote that persists in the collective memory. However, what is unquestionable and entirely true is that the vineyards of the Champagne region have been included in the list of World Heritage Sites since 2015. This recognition is neither a myth nor a legend, but a testimony to the significant cultural and viticultural contribution that this region brings to the world.
10. Fast cork
If you ever find yourself in front of a well-shaken bottle of champagne, be prepared for a surprise. When the cork shoots out, it does so at a dizzying speed, reaching up to 40 kilometers per hour. This is more than enough to cause serious damage, and you could even lose an eye if it finds you in its path. Prioritize safety when popping champagne: aim far before removing the cork. Enjoy the thrill without risk. Cheers!
Explore the cradle of Champagne
If you are interested in exploring the cradle of this fascinating drink, at Viavinum we guarantee that the Champagne region offers an unforgettable wine tourism experience. In addition to visiting the most prestigious champagne houses, you can discover picturesque and charming vineyards and important towns in the region such as Reims and Épernay.