The Champagne Sparkles
The Champagne sparkles
The Champagne region, in northeast France, offered the world’s first renowned bubbly.Yet, the fact that this wine “bubbled” was initially and for years considered a hazard.
Back in the 16th century, when this wine was produced and transported in barrels, the winemakers felt confounded that their wine “foamed.”
During the 17th century, when this wine was stored in bottles, ’twas a veritable time bomb. It inevitably eventually pushed the corks out, or worse, caused bottles to explode.
Winemakers of the region began experimentation for ways to keep their wine still. A monk named Dom Perignon was a leader in this endeavor.
He didn’t succeed in that, yet he did begin the tradition of securing the cork to the bottle to prevent it from suddenly popping out. He used hemp rope. Later, wire was used.
Dom Perignon’s biggest feat was making this white wine by combining white grapes and black grapes of the region. He favored using the Pinot Noir grape.
Champagne became known, and desired among European nobility as a wine for elegance and for celebration. Its popularity later spread across the Atlantic, to titilate the North American well-to-do.
As a middle-class burgoened, they also raised their glasses for Champagne.
This foaming wine, this bubbling wine, grew so beloved, winemakers in other regions across France and other countries produced their own versions of it.
In 1908 the appellation of Champagne was officially established, delimiting the boundaries of the northeast France Champagne region.
In 1927, a law was enacted to further specify the Champagne appellation by determining grape growing, harvesting and winemaking techniques.
This all to protect the integrity of the wine, to encompass its history, to assert that this specific region’s grapes are perfect to continue the tradition that makes true Champagne.
It became illegal for winemakers to put “champagne” on their labels unless their wine was made in Champagne, France and the winemaking techniques followed the Champagne regulations.
Yet it took generations for other regions to follow suit. Slowly, more and more of them referred to their bubblies as “sparkling wines.” Because they sparkled like Champagne, and they used a similar fermenting process to cause the bubbles.
What separates Champagne from other sparkling wines? An integrity guarded by the region.
When you buy a bottle of Champagne, says Sonia Smith, director of the Champagne Bureau, USA, you know that it is upheld to the Champagne, France traditions, including specifications on where it was cellared, which grapes are in it, when they were grown, how the wine was blended.
“It is an authentic wine that can be traced back to a unique region of France, near Paris, which cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world,” she says.
The romance of Champagne
Among the diverse history of winemaking, Champagne is not necessarily the world’s first bubbling wine, yet ’twas a monk in the French Champagne region that successfully captured it in a bottle.
From there, this wine could reach nobles across Europe, and allow them to fall in love with it as a wine that signified elegance and celebration. When a middle class developed, this wine equally pleased them.
Champagne began the first international giddiness over wine that sparkled.
It’s a wine for celebration. When poured, bubbles rise like confetti.
And lovers may love it for their private celebrations.
For more information, visit Champagne Bureau USA.
*photos by Jacquée T.
* First presented in Summer 2010. As of summer 2015, the information and links are up to date.