Updated: Jul 31, 2020
Synonymous with celebration, Champagne has probably been there for your biggest moments. But why? How did this bubbly beverage earn a spot at all our parties?
We break it down here.
What is Champagne?
It's a sparkling wine from France. In conversation, many people refer to sparkling wines generally as Champagne. To be labeled and classified as Champagne, your bubbly must come from the Champagne wine region of France (about 90 minutes from Paris), and follow its specific process for grape sourcing, pressing & fermentation.
Champagne was actually discovered by accident. Wine growers were trying to recreate the Burgundy wines, but due to the colder temperatures in Champagne, the fermentation stopped and then the yeast woke up again in the spring and started fermenting again (making it bubbly).
Champagne is most commonly made from Pinot Noir, Pinot meunier and Chardonnay grapes, however there are several other varieties that are also approved (and grown in the Champagne region) that may be used.
What's the (his)Story?
Champagne was initially considered "flawed" because of its bubbly properties. It wasn't until the late 1600s, that Champagne became popularized. The fizzy beverage was embraced in Georgian England some time before it became popular in the courts of France.
In 1740, the English began producing stronger bottles and corks that "fit" in the bottles, so that the fizz could be contained. Around this time, Champagne began to show up in courts around Europe.
And yes, the creme de la creme of Champagne is in fact named after a real person. Perignon was a monk who worked as a cellar master at an abbey in the 17th and 18th centuries. Wine production was in its early stages, and he helped to standardize the methods. There were a lot of issues with temperature controls in the cellars, which led to fermentation starting again, and when one bottle would explode it would lead to a chain reaction! Sometimes up to 90% of the bottles would explode, giving it the nick name "Devils Wine". Dom helped to fix these issues and added thicker glass, and a rope snare that held the corks on.
In 1815, a Champagne producer known as Widow Cliquot, realized that you could ferment the bottles upside down, and let the yeast settle in the neck of the bottle (which they then froze and removed, leaving the clear bubbly champagne).
Champagne's popularity soared in the mid 19th century, but France was frequently at war and exporting became challenging. The rise in popularity led to champagne being "cheaply" made, and spurred the regulations that are in place today around grapes and production (and region).
Champagne became the drink of choice in Hollywood (pre-depression), and has remained a staple of celebration to this day.
Click here for some easy tea-based spritzes and champagne cocktails. Bottoms up!