10 things you probably didn’t know about Champagne
Champagne is the world’s favourite and most mysterious bubbly drink, invented in France to celebrate special occasions. Ten things you probably didn’t know about Champagne include:
- The origins
Way back in 1668 a Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon was attempting to create the best wine in the world. This resulted in a very sweet, syrupy drink which is much different to the Champagne of today. When Madame Clicquot began exporting her Champagne to England she realised the English preferred a much drier version. She continued to produce her sweeter Champagne and a special ‘gout Anglais’ or English taste version with an orange label similar to the one of today.
- Extracting the yeast
When Madame Clicquot took over her husband’s Champagne house after his death, she invented a riddling rack. Champagne, fermented in barrels was bottled and yeast added. When the yeast eats the sugar the bubbles appear, but a lot of dead yeast was left at the bottom of the bottle. The riddling rack ensured the bottles lay at an angle so the yeast fell to the neck, where it could be easily removed.
- How to drink Champagne
Champagne flutes and coupes are really a fashion statement and to get the most out of the drink it should be drunk from a wine glass. Most tasting sessions are connected to smell and it is hard to inhale the aroma from a narrow flute.
- Bottle from the restocking room
If you intend to buy an expensive bottle of champagne ask for a bottle from the restocking room instead of from a shelf in the shop. The quality of Champagne starts to degrade in quality when exposed to light.
- Don’t keep it too long
Not that it’s ever a problem in our house but don’t keep Champagne too long before serving it. Every bottle that reaches the shops has already been aged to its peak and is perfect to drink as soon as you get it home.
- Don’t store Champagne in the fridge
Although we all love our bubbly cold, don’t store bottles in the fridge for too long as the cork dries out and shrinks so the carbonation is able to escape. At the same time other smells and flavours from the fridge can get in. It is best to chill champagne just before you intend to drink it.
- Warm and dry harvests
A warm and dry summer is perfect for Champagne as heat equals ripeness of the grapes, which in turn will be more concentrated in flavour. During the best harvest years, Champagne Houses will often release special vintages which may be aged up to 10 years.
- Vintage and non-vintage
Just as there are great years for Champagne production there are also plenty of not-so-great years. Champagne makers often create blends from hundreds of vineyards which have reaped successful harvest in the past and only release the vintages when conditions allow them to.
- Champagne and clay
The clay in the soil makes the Champagne region a unique growing region and leads to some of the best growing conditions in the world. Underground cellars maintain a perfect temperature and the Champagne is not disturbed during the aging process.
- The Champagne Houses
Relationships between the great Champagne Houses and growers have existed since the 1700’s. Madame Clicquot for example was the great granddaughter of Nicolas Ruinart. Today some of the best brands, including Dom Perignon, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot and Krug are all owned by the mega-brand, LVMH. If you are planning a trip to the Champagne region, book a wine tour, a gastronomic tour or a cultural tour before you leave home and make the most of this stunning region.