“I only drink champagne 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 am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” ~Madame Lily Bollinger
Madame Bollinger would know the best time to drink champagne. As one of the greatest women to work in the champagne industry in the house whose name she bears, Mme. Bollinger brought champagne through the Great Depression and World War Two. She promoted a style of champagne that changed the industry, moving it from the sweeter side of the spectrum to the dry the British always seem to favor. She was the face of the Bollinger brand, an unusual position for a woman in 1941, and through her efforts, helped the city of Ay, after the war, while earning several honors from both Great Britain and France. She continued the tradition of providing the royalty of England with champagne for all of their events, but more importantly creating champagne so iconic that even James Bond drinks it.
Champagne is a drink of celebration, and is there a better time to be celebrating than on Valentine’s Day? Love is in the air, chocolates and flowers are roaming through offices and homes around the world, so why not bring out that bottle of champagne you were saving for a special occasion? And while you are enjoying your wine, enjoy some interesting facts, trivia, and quotes about this bubbly beauty.
- Dom Perignon, considered the father of champagne, was not trying to create a sparkling drink. He was trying to
prevent it. The bubbles in champagne were a flaw caused by secondary fermentation. Cold stops the fermentation process, and can leave some sugar in the bottle. When spring comes back and the weather warms up, the fermentation starts up, and creates the fizz. Dom Perignon was the father of blending grapes before pressing them.
- The grapes blended to make champagne in the modern era are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
- Modern champagne tastes were determined by the British. Champagne was first deliberately created by a man named Christopher Merret in the mid 17th century. They liked the carbonation in their wine, though it was the French king that Louis XIV made it popular with the nobility. It was much sweeter at the time. It was the British again that demanded drier and drier champagne, giving us the general range of sweetness we enjoy today.
- Uncorking a bottle of champagne is serious business. Before the glass was strong enough, the secondary fermentation caused bottles to explode. All of that gas with no outlet builds up pressure. It can be up to 90 PSI, just under three times what is recommended in a car tire. Plenty of pressure and a little neck, when put together, create a weapon that can shoot the cork at speeds of up to 50 MPH. That could put your eye out. Ain’t nobody got time for that on Valentine’s Day.
- If you are going for distance, not speed, you are going to have to shoot your cork over 178 feet to break the world record, set by an American in 1988.
- The bubbles are crucial to the enjoyment of the champagne. There is an estimated 49 million bubbles in a bottle. Moet and Chandon, in tandem with Heineken, spent $7 million dollars on special photography that revealed 250 million bubbles were contained in each bottle. To get the most bubbles in your bubbly, cool the bottle to about 45 degrees F. With the bottle at a 45 degree angle, put the bottom of the bottle against your hip or thigh. The first thing you will need to do is remove the foil, then the cage on the cork. Be careful; sometimes the cork is loose, and removing the cage will cause the cork to pop. Take a towel and wrap it around the neck, making sure you cover the cork. Holding tight to the cork, twist it gently until it comes out. The less noise you make, the more bubbles you get to enjoy in your glass.
- Champagne only comes from France by international law. Champagne is part of the larger group of sparkling wines you can find anywhere in the world. If you get it in Italy, it is prosecco , which is becoming very popular. Spain has cava, Germany has sekt, and Portugal has espumante.
- How sweet do you want your champagne? Brut Nature is the driest of the dry, with no sugar, or very little, added to the wine. Extra Brut has some sugar added, but it still very dry. Brut is the most commonly purchased champagne, and is still a little on the dry side. Extra sec has a little more sweetness than Brut, and a little more sugar added. Demi Sec is dessert-level sweet, with quite a bit more sugar added. Sec is a very sweet champagne, definitely served after a meal as a dessert.
- We prefer to drink champagne in a flute, but if you watch older films, you can see them drinking champagne out of a wider glass known as a coupé. It does not hold the bubbles as well, but was the traditional way of drinking champagne. It is also said to be molded from the breast of Marie Antoinette. Let them eat cake indeed…
- Beautiful women have always been linked to champagne. One of the most beautiful women of all time, Marilyn Monroe, is rumored to have taken a bath in over 350 bottles of champagne.
- The tallest champagne flute was revealed at a festival in Italy. It stands seven feet tall and can hold twenty two bottles of champagne. The largest bottle of champagne currently made is called Midas, holding forty regular sized bottles of premium bubbly. Only six were made, at a cost of $100,000 a bottle.
While Valentine’s Day is a special day and calls for a special celebratory beverage, champagne is something that can be enjoyed every day. The season of champagne tastings is usually in December for New Years or Christmas, but many restaurants will sell certain champagnes by the glass if you are looking to try some out. The staff here will let you know when the next tastings or events are. Spend today surrounded by friends and loved ones, and celebrate with a drink that has a little more sparkle.