No matter the occasion, whenever it is time to celebrate, we are always quick to raise a toast, our glasses filled with a bubbly wine commonly referred to as Champagne. With a resounding ‘pop’ of the cork being released, drinks quickly start to pour. But why do we choose to celebrate with Champagne?
Champagne is a sparkling wine produced from the Champagne region grapes grown in France: black Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, and white Chardonnay. In order to create carbonation, the wine in the bottle must undergo secondary fermentation. This process involves bottling the wine with a mixture of yeast and fresh sugar. This produces carbon dioxide, which is contained in the bottle instead of being released as it would have been during regular fermentation. This results in the bubbles.
Many attribute the discovery of sparkling wine to Dom Perignon (1638-1715), a French Benedictine monk. While he made important contributions to the production of Champagne, sparkling wine was actually created by accident. When the weather cooled off during the autumn season, the cold temperatures would keep the sugars in the wine from converting to alcohol, shutting down the fermentation process. Winemakers would still bottle the wine, not realizing what was happening. When the weather warmed up again in the spring, the temperature in the cellars also increased, fermentation would start back up again, causing the yeast in the wine to begin generating carbon dioxide. The gas produced would eventually push the cork out of the bottle, even causing the glass bottle to explode, which in turn, caused other nearby wine bottles to explode. This proved to be a huge problem for winemakers, as it was a hazard to that production for the year.
So why do we drink Champagne on special occasions? Champagne is historically associated with luxury. In 1789, the royal courts of Europe began the tradition of drinking champagne during times of celebration. Many began to view it as a status symbol. Marketing and propaganda pushed the bubbly drink into popularity. Merchants could only afford to drink Champagne on special occasions, causing it be adopted as the celebratory drink.
Should we refer to all sparkling wine as Champagne? In short, no. Champagne is actually not the name of a winemaking style, as many believe. It is merely a geographical location. In reality, a sparkling wine should only be called Champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, France. Champagne is a sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne.
As with most wines, Champagne and other sparkling wines indicate their level of sweetness on the label. Certain key words to look for are:
Brut: A very dry wine, there is not a hint of sweetness in Brut. Because of the low sugar content and bright acidity, this type of sparkling wine actually pairs well with food.
Extra Dry: Surprisingly, this wine is actually slightly sweet. Of course, to a sweet wine drink, it might not be a huge difference from Brut. It has just enough residual sugar to be considered slightly sweet.
Sec: A French word for “dry,” Sec is slightly more sweet than Extra Dry.
Demi-Sec: Finally, you have a fully sweet sparkling wine. This type often pairs well with desserts.
As mentioned previously, this is made from black Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier, and white Chardonnay.
The phrase literally translates to “white of whites,” meaning that this wine is made from white grapes. To be called Champagne, it would have to be made from white Chardonnay grapes from said region. Outside of the region, any white grape can be used.
The phrase translates to “White of blacks,” which means this is a wine made entirely of black grapes, such as, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or a combination of the two. During the winemaking process, the grapes are crushed, the skin is removed, and the clear juices retain a little of the grapes’ color, commonly golden yellow or salmon pink.
These wines are great pairings for meals. They can be made by the same process as the Blanc de Noirs or by adding still red wine to a sparkling white wine. The color is typically a rosy pink, hence the name.
Whether you’re raising your glass of bubbly or settling in with a glass of top-shelf bourbon, you can enjoy the sights and sounds from one of our fantastic locations here at the BLEND Bar • Cigar® We have some excellent Champagne options available to try.
BLEND Bar • Cigar with Davidoff Cigars® is Indianapolis and Nashville’s premier cocktail lounge and cigar bar. BLEND’s selection of premium cigars is second to none, and our walk-in humidor is one of the largest in the US. BLEND is the only appointed merchant for Davidoff cigars in Indiana, so cigar aficionados are sure to find what they are looking for.