Champagne History

Champagne is a light sparkling wine produced exclusively in the northeastern French region. It stands out from the rest of the world’s sparkling wines. A wine can only be classified as “Champagne” if it is produced in France’s Champagne area. Furthermore, “Champagne” is manufactured entirely of grapes grown in that region, such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or Chardonnay.

Moreover, unlike any other sparkling wines, authentic Champagne must have gone through the fermentation process twice. Once in barrels to make the actual wine and again in bottles to achieve its characteristic bubbles. However, Champagne can also be produced elsewhere in the world as long as the “methode champenoise” is acknowledged on its label.

Brief Table of Facts

Region of Production In the Champagne region of Northeastern France
Popular as Wine of Kings and King of Wines (Royal wine)
Was used as Holy wine for religious events thirteen centuries ago
Label Tag Methode Champenoise

History and Origins of Champagne

Champagne was used as a “holy wine” for religious events thirteen centuries ago, but during this period the wine looked very different; it was both still and red. After completing the magnificent gothic cathedral in Reims, Champagne’s capital, it became the Church used for coronations and royal mass.

Consequently, Champagne’s wine was consumed by visiting royals, leading the wine to become “Royal Wine,” and local abbeys who made the wines were granted the honor of becoming royal vintners. Imagine the King and all aristocracy traveling all the way from Paris to visit the Reims Cathedral for a royal mass! For these festive events, the monarchy relied on the nearby abbeys to supply the wine. Imagine the pressure on the monks to produce a royal drink that the King and his court would love! This scenario explains why Champagne became known as the “wine of kings and the king of wines” hundreds of years later.

However, the wine made in the region known as “Champagne” was not well-known then. Even though it was red, Champagne was lighter in color than most other French red wines, and it had other quality issues.

clear drinking glass with brown liquid

Champagne Folklores and Traditions

  1. Champagne Bottle Sabering: If you cannot get a stubborn cork out of a bottle of fine Champagne, do as the “Hussards” (French mounted troops of the Napoleonic Era) did when they broke bottle’s neck with the reverse edge of their saber. Consequently, the French phrase “sabrer la bouteille” (literally “know the bottle“) became prominent. Obviously, it’s rare to see people open a bottle of Champagne with a saber today, but if you have a tough cork, you can always use a tool called “the Champagne Opener” to easily open a bottle rather than a saber.
  2. Taking the Wire out of a Cork: Experts say that if you can unclasp the wire in five and a half twists, you are on your way to opening a high-end bottle—”the real thing.” The wire does not need to be removed in order to remove the cork. Simply untie the wire and use “the Champagne Opener” to hold the cork’s head, then gently twist it back and forth.
  3. Serving Champagne: Champagne and sparkling wines should be served in a tall fluted glass to allow the bubbles to circulate, according to all Champagne and sparkling wine experts. Counter to this advise, Champagne is often served out of a “coupe” (a wide, shallow goblet),  said to be a French invention perfect for serving sparkling wine. According to some experts, the shallow, bowl-shaped Champagne “coupe” was modeled after Marie Antoinette’s breast. Others claim it was made to honor the breast of Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis the Fifteenth. Nonetheless, all the experts agree that these shallow drinking glasses are not the best choice for Champagne or any other sparkling wine, regardless of whose breast inspired it. Save it for sorbet or ice cream. If you have good crystal, make sure to utilize it: the flaws in this lovely glass keep the bubbles alive longer.
  4. Champagne and Meals: Champagne and sparkling wines are extremely adaptable, as they can be served at any time of the day or during a meal. The driest pairs well with sophisticated appetizers like oysters and caviar. Furthermore, many other options like brunch, lunch, salads and several evening entrees are all good matches for the semi-dry sparkling wines. Similarly, desserts are always paired with sweeter sparkling wines.
  5. When Champagne should be Consumed: Champagne is a customary wine for every celebration, but notably for the launching of ships, hot air balloons, and the New Year, due to its relationship with monarchy and ceremonies. You have joined the world’s bon vivant in choosing this beverage regardless of what or even if you are celebrating, or if like Napoleon, you are comforting yourself after a defeat. Enjoy the effervescence that originated many centuries ago in a wine cellar in an abbey. You made an excellent decision by using “the Champagne Opener” to help you relish the bubbly with ease. Without feeling any discomfort, shame, or injury, you will still hear the exhilarating “pop” of the cork. There will be no need to “sabre la bouteille.” A vote for health! Before you take your first sip, remember to make a toast to something or someone!

Here is an exhilarating passage about Champagne written by Madame Bollinger:

When I’m pleased, I drink it, and when I’m sad, I drink it. When I’m alone, I like to drink it. It’s something I feel obligated to do when I have company. If I’m not hungry, I play with it, and if I am, I drink it; otherwise, I never touch it unless I’m thirsty.” – Madame Bollinger, one of Champagne’s “great dames” (1884-1977).

clear glass goblet filled by liquor

Common Mistakes Made by People while Handling Champagne

This is according to the “Encyclopédie des Vignes au Plaisir,” and it can be classified into two, namely;

  1. DON’TS while chilling Champagne
  • DON’T overchill the Champagne. Although it should never be warm, it is far worse if it is frosty or virtually frozen.
  • DON’T fill the ice bucket halfway as his will only cool half the bottle. Add cold water to ice cubes to ensure the bottle is fully submerged and this will also facilitate to return the bottle to the bucket.
  • DON’T attempt to cool two bottles in one ice bucket. Instead, always place the second bottle in the refrigerator to cool.
  • DON’T freeze the glasses prior to filling them with ice cubes or crushed ice. It will have a negative impact on Champagne’s release of bubbles and fragrance.
  1. DON’TS while handling Champagne bottles
  • DON’T conceal the label with a cloth and wrap the bottle like you would a newborn baby. This heinous practice started in Parisian nightclubs as a technique to hide the label of a cheap Champagne to trick the buyers, so that they do not realize they were being charged for a more expensive bottle. However, when you remove the bottle from the ice bucket, you might still need a napkin or cloth to wipe away any excess water.
  • DON’T place the empty Champagne bottle upside-down in the ice bucket. It demonstrates a lack of respect for both the beverage you have just consumed, and those you consumed it with.
  • DON’T swirl the Champagne in the glass like a snobby wine aficionado! Swirling the the glass will destroy the bubbles in the wine, the French call this “Champagne Battering.”
  • DON’T be a Champagne batterer in the locker room! Don’t be a winning athlete who rattles the bottle aimlessly in order to squander its contents by spraying it on to your fellow athletes instead of consuming it.

people holding clear glass bottles during daytime

Champagne Drinking Instructions

Don’t sip your Champagne too quickly, as Colette, the French writer (and creator of Gigi), advises. If you drink it too rapidly, according to Janis Lightner of the Miramonte Winery in Temecula, California, all the bubbles will enter your bloodstream too quickly, resulting in a headache.

To avoid this, take short sips and wait for the bubbles to dissipate in your mouth before swallowing. Give it a go. You’ll relish it more, and you’ll feel a lot better the next day!

Interesting Facts about Champagne

  • One bottle of Champagne has around 58 million bubbles.
  • A bottle of Champagne has a pressure of 90 pounds per square inch (psi), which is roughly three times that of a car tire.
  • A flying cork can attain speeds of up to 50 mph and cause irreversible eye injury.
  • In 2000, California produced 59 million bottles of sparkling wine.
  • In 2000, 327 million bottles of Champagne were produced.
  • In 2000, Washington, D.C., had the highest per capita adult consumption of Champagne in the US, with approximately 2.4 bottles per adult.
  • In 2000, each adult in Hawaii and Illinois consumed roughly 1.7 bottles.
  • In 2000, each adult in California drank roughly 1.4 bottles.

Famous Champagne Quotes

QUOTE BY
Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector“. Graham Greene, British writer. (1904 – 1991)
Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right. Mark Twain, American humorist and novelist

(1835 – 1910)

“He who doesn’t risk never gets to drink champagne.” An old Russian proverb
“Champagne is the only wine that enhances a woman’s beauty.”

 

Madame Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV.

(1721 – 1764)

“Champagne! In victory, one deserves it; in defeat, one needs it” Napoleon Bonaparte, 18th-century French conqueror (1769 – 1873)
“Champagne is the one thing that gives me zest when I feel tired.” Brigitte Bardot, French actress (1934 – living). Said six months after her 60th birthday
“Come quickly . . . I’m tasting stars!” Dom Pierre Perignon, French Benedictine Monk, (1638 – 1715) when he first tasted his newly created Champagne.
“My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne.” John Maynard Keynes, American writer

(1883 – 1946)

“Before I was born my mother was in great agony of spirit and in a tragic situation. She could take no food except iced oysters and Champagne. If people ask me when I began to dance, I reply, In my mother’s womb, probably as a result of the oysters and Champagne, the food of Aphrodite.” Isadora Duncan, an American dancer

(1878 – 1927)

“Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for; it’s Champagne!” Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain

(1874 – 1965)

“Three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content, and sufficient champagne.” Dorothy Parker, American poet, and short story writer

(1893 – 1967)

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes, I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it if I am; otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” Madame Bollinger, one of the “grande dames” of French champagne (1884 – 1977)
“There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.” Bette Davis, American actress (1908 – 1989) in the 1943 film “Old Acquaintance
“Champagne and orange juice is a great drink. The orange improves the Champagne, and the Champagne definitely improves the orange.” Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

(1921 – living)

” Le Champagne ne se boit pas, il se déguste. Il ne faut pas l’avaler goulûment. On doit le déguster avec mesure dans des verres étroits, à gorgées espacées et réfléchies”. Translation: “Champagne should not be drunk, it should be tasted. One should not swallow it greedily. One should taste it slowly in narrow glasses, in well-spaced, thoughtful sips” Colette, French author, (1873 – 1954)
“Gentlemen, in the little moment that remains to us between the crisis and the catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of Champagne.” Paul Claudel, French poet, playwright, and diplomat

(1868 – 1955)

“I had taken two finger-bowls of Champagne, and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental, and profound.”

 

F. Scott Fitzgerald, American short-story writer, and novelist – author of “The Great Gatsby” (1896 – 1940)
“{Champagne} “…it gives you the impression that every day is Sunday.” Marlena Dietrich German actress

(1901 – 1992)

“In a perfect world, everyone would have a glass of Champagne every evening.” Willie Gluckstern, wine broker and author of the “Wine Avenger” (born in the 20th century – his age is a secret)
“Here’s to Champagne, the drink divine that makes us forget all our troubles; It’s made of a dollar’s worth of wine and three dollars’ worth of bubbles.” Anonymous

 Want to read more about Champagne? Try out these books!

Champagne, Champagne HistoryChampagne, Champagne HistoryChampagne, Champagne HistoryChampagne, Champagne History

REFERENCES

  1. “Champagne Official Website.” 2021. Champagne.fr. 2021. https://www.champagne.fr/en/homepage.
  2. “Champagne Trivia.” 2021. Web.archive.org. November 12, 2021. http://web.archive.org/web/20211112014452/https://thechampagneopener.com/trivia.html.
  3. “Encyclopédies – Union Des Maisons de Champagne.” n.d. Maisons-Champagne.com. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://maisons-champagne.com/fr/encyclopedies/.
  4. “Food Quotes: Champagne and Food Quotes.” n.d. Www.foodreference.com. Accessed August 17, 2022. http://www.foodreference.com/html/qchampagne.html.
  5. “How to Open a Champagne Bottle When the Cork Is Stuck – ChampagneMagic.com.” n.d. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.champagnemagic.com/articles/how-to-open-a-champagne-bottle-when-the-cork-is-stuck/.
  6. “TheWineTaster.com – California Wine.” n.d. Www.manick.com. Accessed August 17, 2022. http://www.manick.com/Wine/WineQuotes.html. 

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