Everything you need to know about Champagne

As a host, the most surefire way to tell your soiree is going strong is that distinctive pop of a champagne cork. It’s the sound of celebration, a mini cherry bomb that signals mirth, merriment, and good times ahead. But, before you lift that glass of bubbly to your lips, read on to find out how to take your shindig-game from sparkling wine novice to champagne connoisseur. Let’s talk about champagne

About Champagne: Glasses of Champagne on gold background with New Year presents

Dispelling the Myth: The Difference Between Champagne and Sparkling Wine 

Long story short, all champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne. 

Does that answer your question? No? 

What if I told you that sparkling wine can only be called champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, France? It’s true; the Treaty of Versailles ensures only producers from this region can legally refer to their wine as champagne.

In case you didn’t know, champagne is a wine-making region in northern France just outside of Paris. All sparkling wines made in champagne are governed by strict regulations, and only certain grapes and production processes are allowed. You see, champagne is a lot like “Band-Aids” and “Q-tips” –  such a historic and famed product that many people call any wine with bubbles “champagne” even though this is a misnomer. In reality, we really should think of champagne in terms of a geographical location as opposed to a wine-making style.

Now that that’s cleared up let’s take a moment to discuss the wine-making style.

Sparkling wine is made by taking the simple formula for fermentation (sugar + yeast = alcohol and CO2) and not allowing the resulting gas to escape. When you ferment wine in a closed or sealed environment and don’t let the gas from the fermentation escape, the carbon dioxide (CO2) returns into the wine, only to be released in the form of tiny bubbles after opening the bottle. 

In layman’s terms, molecules of carbon dioxide gas are what give sparkling wine its fizz.  

Champagne is the result of a two-part fermentation process called the méthode champenoise. The first fermentation produces a flat base wine, which is then bottled with sugar and yeast to undergo a second, in-bottle fermentation that introduces bubbles. This distinguishes it from most Italian Prosecco, which undergoes its second fermentation in a tank.

So, the next time you reach for that bottle on the shelf, ask yourself, “Do I want a champagne that actually comes from Champagne in France, or do I just want a good sparkling wine?”

About Champagne: Single glass of champagne on beige background with New Years decor

Fun Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Champagne

  • Contrary to popular belief, Dom Pérignon didn’t invent champagne. Englishman Christopher Merret documented the process of adding sugar to fully finished wine in order to create bubbles. The oldest record of sparkling wine being made is 1531.
  • Champagne has always been connected to royalty, and it has a long history of being used by royals in all ceremonies, starting with the baptism of the First King of the Franks, Clovis I, in 496.
  • Different Champagnes have different sugar contents. Brut Nature / Brut Zero means there is no added sugar to the champagne. It is anywhere between 0 and 12 grams of added sugar per liter, and this is the style that is most commonly found in the big brands.
    • Sec (which means “dry” in French) is between 17 and 32 grams of added sugar per liter. That is almost a teaspoon of sugar in every glass!
    • Demi-sec (meaning “half-dry”) has 32-50 grams of added sugar per liter.
  • The main three grapes in the Champagne region are chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. Less well known are the other three permitted grapes – pinot blanc, petit messier, and arbane; however, less than 1% of the grapes grown in the region can be found in some blends.
  • The main differences between non-vintage and vintage champagne are grapes and aging. In vintage champagne, grapes can come from any part of the region, as long as they are 100% from the declared vintage, and they have to be aged for 3 years as opposed to 15 months for a non-vintage. 
  • There are about 6 bars of pressure in a bottle of champagne, which is enough to take an eye out. The wire cage keeps the cork in place and makes sure that it doesn’t pop out while it’s sitting on the shelf, so this cage is key for safety.

The Right Way to Drink Champagne

Apparently, there’s a right way to drink champagne, and no, it does not involve sucking it straight from the bottle like a depressed millionairess. According to experts, there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do in order to get the most out of a glass of sparkling wine. So, hurry up and grab that bottle of Brut out of the fridge and throw it in a cupboard because the first order of business is storage.

Champagne should keep it in a cool, dry place — I said COOL, not cold. Thirty minutes before serving, you can then put the champagne into an ice bucket or for a quick blitz in the fridge so it’s nice and cool. A good rule of thumb: aim for a serving temperature of 9-11 degrees.

Speaking of serving, Champagne flutes aren’t just pretty stemware. The skinny shape ensures the champagne stays as bubbly as possible, as any glass with a wider rim means the bubbles on the surface of the beverage are more likely to disappear. But don’t pour an entire glass in one go. Instead, fill a few glasses up to an inch or so, and then return to fill them a little more once the foam has settled, holding glasses at an angle to preserve bubbles as you pour. A quick tip: if your champagne glass has bubbles popping from everywhere around the inside of the glass, it means the glass is dirty.

About Champagne: Bottle of Champagne and a full glass with a muted Christmas background

Our Three Favorite Champagne Cocktails and How to Make Them

Dole Whip Mimosas

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c. sugar for rimming champagne flutes 
  • Pineapple Wedges
  • 1 cup Pineapple Juice
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 bottle of champagne
  • Whipped Topping

Instructions

  1. Pour sugar into a shallow dish. Run a pineapple wedge around 6 champagne flutes and dip the flute in sugar. Set aside.
  2. Stir together pineapple juice and coconut milk in a tall glass until combined.
  3. Pour evenly into champagne flutes
  4. Top each flute with champagne
  5. Garnish each with a pineapple wedge and whipped topping

Moscow Mule Mimosa

Ingredients

  • orange juice
  • 1 bottle Crabbies Ginger Beer I used the Spiced Orange flavor
  • champagne or sparkling wine

Instructions

  1. Pour orange juice 1/3 of the way up a champagne glass. 
  2. Top with another 1/3 of the Crabbies Ginger Beer and then top with champagne or sparkling wine. 
  3. Garnish with limes and orange slices.

Champagne Margaritas 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup agave silver tequila
  • 1 cup Triple Sec or Cointreau
  • 1 bottle (750 mL) champagne (about 3 cups)
  • lime wedges and coarse salt or sugar to rim the glasses
  • optional: additional sweetener such as sugar, honey, agave, etc.

Instructions

  1. Stir the lime juice, tequila, and Triple Sec together to make your margarita base.
  2. Prepare your glasses by running a lime wedge around the rim of the serving glasses, and then dipping the glasses in coarse salt or sugar.
  3. Pour about 1/3 cup of margarita mixture into a champagne glass, and fill the rest of the glass up with champagne. Or, if using a different glass, you need a ratio of about 1/3 cup margarita mixture to 1/2 cup champagne.
  4. If desired, stir in a teaspoon or two of sweetener to sweeten each glass. Enjoy!

No matter how you enjoy your champagne, we promise it tastes just a little bit better shared. Maybe we’re biased, and we’re okay with that. As you say your goodbyes to the year that’s passed and look ahead to your 2022 goals, we raise a glass to you and say, “You got this.”

You’ve learned a ton about champagne. Now what?

 

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