There is simply no escaping the festive-celebratory-congratulatory nature of Champagne. The word alone is adequate to prompt a smile. Champagne! is a place and a global brand and the one-time fad-drink of the warped royals of pre-revolutionary France and you can drink it. And YOU can drink it.
For all practical purposes, every bottle of Champagne is made by hand. The process is baroque in its length and complexity requiring two separate fermentations. One to make the wine and the second one–inside the sealed bottle—to get the bubbles in. Bubbles! in a bottle! The putative inventor of Champagne, Dom Perignon, perhaps exclaimed: “I’m drinking stars!” The stuff just puts you in a good mood.
Getting all the yeasty/mucky byproducts of fermentation OUT of the bottle after that second go round involves fun french terms like degorgement and dosage. The process is time consuming and mostly still done by hand. The whole shebang was elaborated in a place called Champagne and perfected by the folks who live there, the Champenois. This makes them pretty possessive about the word.
Nothing in the world should be called champagne except champagne.” Or so say the Champenois. Call it something that makes no one smile. And so they did. Cava from Spain uses the exact method and can produce elegant and expressive sparkling wine and the Italians recently upgraded Prosecco. Both wines pack much more bang for the buck than the original old glory but, in truth, anything not champagne is simply…not champagne.
Shout out to Molly Steinbach next door at medley. She’s been the impetus and guide behind these audio files and is one of my favorite wine companions. Her regular writing informs gently and check out her user-friendly sorting arrangement at the wine shop at Medley.
If you want to get rooted in wine fundamentals, join me at Common Fire during September for our four-part wine course So This is Wine. For tickets and information click on the events tab.