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Monday, January 2, 2012

10 Tidbits About Champagne

Everyone should have a few bits of information to share at a cocktail party or when surrounded by total strangers (like at wedding?)--these ten tidbits about champagne fill the bill nicely.  Most of us have had champagne at a variety of celebrations in our lives but many of us know little about it.  So to fill those awkward seconds when you don't have anything to say... some information to share about champagne. 

1.  While you probably already knew that sparkling wine can't be called champagne unless it's from the Champagne region of France, did you know it takes the entire yield of a single vine to make just one bottle of Champagne? This means that as you and five other guests raise their champagne flutes to toast the bride and groom you are consuming the yield from 1 entire vine. 

2.  While you know the Champagne region is famous for the bubbly wine you're drinking, did you know they are also famous for sauerkraut? Odd combination! Hopefully they aren't serving both at the wedding you're attending!

3.  Although most champagne is white, two of the grapes used in it's production are actually red.  A Pinot Noir and a Pinot Meunier.  The white grape used is a simple, but critical white Chardonnay. While there are Blanc de blanc and rosé Champagnes the blanc de noir are the most prevalent.

4. The terms brut and extra brut as often seen on bottles of Champagne.  The term simply means how much sugar there is per liter.  Brut means the wine contains less than 12 grams of sugar in each liter, but extra brut has less than 6 grams of sugar. 

5. If you like sweet sparkling wine try a sec (with 17 to 32 grams of sugar per liter) or a really sugary wine referred to as doux.

6. What's the trick to opening a bottle of champagne? When you are opening a bottle of champagne the trick is to avoid popping the cork.  Start by scoring the foil around the base of the wire cage.  The slowly untwist to loosen the cage, but leave it in place.  Use one hand to enclose the cork and hold the base of the bottle with your other hand. Twist both ends in opposite directions.  As soon as you feel pressure forcing the cork out into your hand, try to push it back into the bottle while twisting gently until the cork is released with a 'sigh.'  No loud pops.  No splashing and foaming wine.  Just a 'sigh.' 

7. What is vintage champagne? Vintage champagne uses all grapes that are harvested in one year.  Each house decides for themselves whether they will produce a vintage champagne each year.  In a very good year only 10-15% of all the Champagne made is Vintage Champagne.  Vintage champagne must be aged at least 3 years.

Non-Vintage Champagne (what most of us drink) is made from grapes from a several different vintages, and not from just one harvest.   Non-vintage champagne is about 85-90% of all champagne and is less expensive than Vintage Champagne.

8. An 1825 bottle of Perrier-Jouët is the oldest champagne opened.  Uncorked in 2009 at the winemaker's cellars in Epernay, the 184 year old wine was found to have aged well.  It was described by wine experts to have notes of "truffles and caramel."

9.  The champagne cork is almost 50% larger then the opening in the bottle before it's inserted.  Take care when uncorking and avoid any 'cork in your eye problems.  You can imagine the compression needed to push that cork into the bottle, so it's going to come out with quite a pop of pressure!

10.  The oldest sparkling wine was not produced by Dom Perignon but by Benedictine monks in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire in 1531. 

Facts from this page, and this one, and this one.


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