This time of year the number one wine on most peoples mind is Champagne. Although Champagne is well known for it’s effervescence, this was originally considered a flaw by the early winemakers in the Champagne region of France. Champagne is a sparkling wine but not all sparkling wine can be called Champagne. Champagne earns its name three ways.
- It is made exclusively in the Champagne region of France
- It is made using the Champagne method of fermentation (méthode champenoise)
- The production process of Champagne is exact and certain rules must be followed of which there are many.(from vine trimming to grapes used etc.)
The origin of Champagne is quite simple and accidental. The people from the Champagne region of France the Champenois wanted to compete with their southern neighbors in the Burgundy region for great quality wine production. The problem that arose from wine production in this area is that due to the colder winter the fermentation of the wine went dormant and resumed after the weather warmed. This second fermentation took place after the bottling process creating pressurized bottles of bubbly wine. Originally this was looked down upon and considered a flaw. Due to the weak French glass bottles used at the time the majority would end up exploded in the cellar creating quite a mess. The final product that was originally sought after after was a still pinkish wine made from Pinot Noir grapes. All other results were considered flaws.
Dom Pérignon a Benedictine monk whose work helped to refine the wine making process for the Champenois, originally spent a lot of time trying to remove those bubbles from Champagne. What Dom Pérignon did accomplish was an elicit set of standards used to produce Champagne. He became on of the foremost experts when it came to blending wines to create the perfect balance for the palate. Remember that white bubbly you drink comes from a large percentage of red grapes. The Champagne house Moët & Chandon produce the well known Dom Pérignon Champagne which is named after the monk due to it’s superior blend, is one of the most popular producers of vintage Champagne.
So how did Champagne become so popular if it was mostly considered a flawed wine? It started when a French Monarch named Hugh Capet was crowned the King of France at a local Champagne Cathedral. This started a tradition that brought future aristocracy to this region to celebrate coronations. The British aristocracy that attended these events are the ones who took a liking to this rare wine and increased its popularity using it at events of importance.
There is more to Champagne than bubbles, so remember this as you tip up that next glass of Champagne to celebrate. You are drinking a very refined wine that has a very long history.