10 Things You Didn’t Know About Champagne

Posted by Barterhouse on August 17, 2020

Bubbly, fizz, champagne: no matter what you call it, everyone loves to pop the cork to celebrate a new baby, a promotion, or the fact that you made it through a Monday. As far as congratulatory glasses go, champagne is at the top of the list. Personally, we celebrate Fridays with flutes of Frerejean Frères. You know you love it, but here are 10 things you might not know about Champagne.

1. Champagne is very particular about which sparkling wines get to be called champagne… 

Champagne, France, is a city east of Paris and has served as an important agricultural settlement since the time of Charlemagne. Throughout its history, people here have fought with various groups such as the Burgundy to retain their champagne title, and their location on trade and military pathways led to the proliferation of champagne in the world. 

2.  The world’s first bottle of champagne is commonly thought to be made in 1697 by Dom Pierre Perignon, a French monk.  

But in reality, Dom Perignon ends up coming in second place for champagne creation. Researchers have found that the first fizz was actually made in England in 1662 by a man named Christopher Merritt. The champagne of this time was much sweeter than today’s version, and it wasn’t until a woman named Madame Clicquot came on the scene that she created a drier version. 

3. Champagne connoisseurs are very finicky about their grapes, insisting they be picked by hand.  

Grapes that are bruised by a machine picking them are not good enough to be made into champagne.  Even in France today, winegrowers still stick to the by-hand method of harvesting. 

4. There are three main types of grapes used to make champagne. 

Although many people think only white grapes are used in champagne, chardonnay is the only one that is white. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are both red. With the cool climate and soil nutrients in Champagne, France, these grapes have lower sugar content and higher acid content and give champagne its unique flavor. 

5. The process of making champagne is called methode traditionelle and involves a two-step fermentation process. 

First, the 3 types of grapes are turned into alcohol by being fermented in barrels. Then, they undergo a second fermentation in the individual bottle. When yeast is added, with it comes the sugar. The process only nets official champagne if two criteria are met:  the fermentation process needs to take place in the region of Champagne, France and the second bottle where it is fermented has to be the same bottle the champagne is sold in. 

6. Although the yeast is necessary for the fermentation and creation of champagne’s well-known bubbles, cloudy yeast at the bottom of their bottle is not favorable.

Gratitude again goes to  Madame Clicquot who solved that problem by creating a rack to angle the bottles down, and then the yeast would fall into the neck. Legend has it she drilled holes in her kitchen table to create the first prototype. Today champagne houses use a gyropalette to remove the puck of yeast, revealing a clear bottle of bubbly.

7. If you are buying a bottle of champagne, take care to buy it straight from the backroom

Or better yet, buy it from the crate that it got delivered to the store in. Bottles stored in darkness are the best. Once a bottle hits the shelves, the light starts to interact with the fermenting champagne and it quickly loses its flavor.

8. The sugar creates the effervescence that champagne is known for, and with the double fermentation there will be a lot of bubbles. 

So just how many bubbles will rush up your nose while drinking one glass of champagne? Astoundingly, there are at least one million bubbles per glass! 

9. You should drink champagne out of a wine glass

Although champagne flutes are trendy and fashionable, they inhibit your sense of smell as you drink. Since our senses of taste and smell are so closely linked, this will negatively affect your palate. A wine glass allows you to get the most from your senses, and the most from your champagne. 

10. The weather affects the quality of the grapes. 

When it is hot, the grapes ripen beautifully and contain more sugar. If it is dry, the grapes do not get saturated with water, and therefore the flavor will be more concentrated and compact. In years when the weather is extremely cooperative, Champagne releases a special vintage, although you need to age it from 7-10 years before it can be enjoyed!

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